F1 2012 Changes, Demo, and First Impressions
Following the slightly earlier releases to North America and Australia, September 21st brought the third edition of Codemasters Birmingham’s FIA-licensed creation, F1 2012, to the Euro region. Available on disc for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 formats, the PC version is now offered on disc and optionally via the Steam network.
A demo released a week earlier brought out the best and worst behaviour of the racing community, unfortunately seeing the quick-to-judge have the loudest and at times personally insulting on-line voices as a reaction to what was – it has to be said – an incomplete piece of software (i.e. a demo) that due to the way production works, was based on early code. Online Race Driver can confirm that the final product does improve on what is seen in the demo and that it takes time to discover and work with the nuances of this year’s game.
For those that wish to sample the demo, it’s roughly a 1.5GB download and offers a good look at the new front-end, some racing at Monza (new in-race brake balance changing included) and the first day of the Young Driver Test at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit. One example of the track guides new to 2012 is also included, where ex-Formula One and regular Le Mans 24 Hours driver, Anthony Davidson, narrates the course of a Monza lap.
We Fear Change!
Looking directly at the cars of the final release, more experienced racers can expect a re-learning process with this year’s offering. With different slip angle calculations, a modified tyre model and a more ‘planted’ car, vehicle response has changed and many will find that braking distances and even the turn into a corner give new, unexpected and even unwelcome results. If willing to accept those differences and some accompanying frustrations along the path of discovery (including trial-and-error Advanced Wheel Settings changes in particular), it can create a refreshing reassessment of driving techniques. Go barrelling into a bend as if it’s the 2011 game, for example, and there’s a good chance that you’ll go straight on or slow ridiculously early until you find your new braking points and mentally map the sections of the track that offer grip or catch out the unwary.
Two revisions that have already created consternation for some are in Codemasters’ removal of Grand Prix mode and practice in a racing weekend being stripped down to a single session. Some understanding can be found in the decision for the latter alteration as other than a possible sense of ‘realism’ in replicating the journey of the real-world series (very important to many people, as racing forums have shown since these announcements), it can also be argued that historically there had been less to gain in terms of finalising car settings by running the first two sessions (FP1 and FP2) on what as the pros call it, remained quite a ‘green’ track in the earlier games – something that wouldn’t reflect the grip and feel of FP3, the subsequent qualifying run or race.
A third change that again has created an enormous reaction has been the removal of tyre wear scaling when running less than 100% distance races. In a post on Codemasters’ own F1 2012 forum, Creative Director, Steve Hood, explained that this choice had been made as a means to add clarity for the player. It was further given that though a decision that would change player strategies, there would also be a predictability to the tyre behaviour. In other words, it won’t be starting from scratch or being at a loss with each new track due to the scaling no longer changing everything purely down to the distance driven. All being well, time, calmer minds and good competition on the track will show this “refined” tyre model in its best light as the season progresses.
Looking to the lack of Grand Prix mode, it’s easy to particularly understand the feeling of loss. It was an accessible way to run a favourite car or ‘be’ an official Formula One driver for a season – openly giving that much-needed sense of excitement without having to ‘grind’ a path to the desired team. F1 2012′s Quick Race mode now allows such choices, albeit without the ability to run an entire season as before. Championships are now reserved for the Career mode, where the player creates a driver and can compete for five seasons, starting from a choice of teams that are tailored by the difficulty level and earning routes to the top-end teams through success on the track.
What’s new, then?!
Firstly, the game starts with the Young Driver Test – a well-presented and multi-faceted tutorial that could be especially welcome to the new or as the name suggests, young player. This mode introduces Formula One and offers explanations from the basics of following a driving line to functions of the car such as KERS and DRS. Each stage of the test comes with a voice-over given by former BBC Radio 5 Live and current Sky Sports F1 team member, David ‘Crofty’ Croft, helping to welcome the player, provide useful information in what is a complex sport and indeed, add to the authenticity through further presentation by a real-world commentator.
- In-car brake balance
- Champions Mode
- United States Grand Prix (Circuit of the Americas – based in Austin, Texas)
- Return of the German Grand Prix to Hockenheim
- “Love ‘em or hate ‘em!” car designs that opened many an eye at the real team unveiling events early in 2012
- Pre-race fuel load selection
- Parc fermé conditions from Qualifying onwards
Adding to the in-car menu that includes tyre options and the three-position engine mode, brake balance allows the player to move the setting fore and aft. It adds another way to balance the car and could be great for anyone seeking that extra layer of control turn-by-turn or finding themselves needing to respond to locking wheels or varying track conditions. For those that follow Formula One, it could even be a welcome feature for the budding Michael Schumachers! Tweaking, always tweaking…
Introduced with DiRT Showdown and presently described as ‘beta’, RaceNet starts by bringing the player’s game stats to a Web portal. In the case of F1 2012, it offers an overview of race results, a table and graph for lap times on a community and ‘Friends’ basis, along with the same for the weekly RaceNet challenges that are new to this year’s edition.
Champions Mode gives the player the opportunity to challenge the six world champions driving in the FIA Championship this year. A custom situation will come as the player goes head-to-head in series with each of Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso – ending with the ultimate challenge of facing multiple record-holding, seven-time World Champion, Michael Schumacher.
The first challenge takes the player to compete as Kimi’s teammate at the legendary Spa Francorchamps.
As the Codemasters press-release puts it:
The player has just pitted and is on new tyres while the rest of the pack is on worn rubber with three laps to go until the end of the race. In order to complete the scenario the player has to race through the pack and overtake Kimi before the end of the race.
Launching during a season that brought the most unexpected of outcomes in which the first seven races were won by a record-breaking seven drivers from five different teams, Codemasters have released this 2012 edition in what has been called a new golden era. With major car rule changes planned for at least the next two years and talented younger drivers moving to top-tier teams by next season, it will be interesting to see where Codemasters Birmingham can take the series with its now-extended multi-year tenure and even a new generation of hardware.