Itâ€™s finally that time of the year again. The F1 calendar is almost coming to a close, which means that Codemasters are due to release a new version of their stunning official F1 videogame. F1 2013 launches on 4 October 2013 on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and I think it might just be the best F1 title in recent years.
Codemasters have definitely not been standing still; not settling simply for a livery refresh and updated driver names. F1 2013 brings a fresh set of tyres to the grid and boy, does it fly. Of course, all 19 circuits of the official FIA Formula One 2013 calendar are included, along with the 11 teams and 22 drivers that took part this year.
But you arenâ€™t limited just to the 2013 calendar, with the inclusion of classic cars from the 1980s and a number of classic tracks - such as Brands Hatch and Jerez. If youâ€™ve pre-ordered and are getting the Classic Edition, you will also have access to a number of cars from the 1990s and extra classic tracks Estoril and Imola. A bonus: Codemasters have announced that registering for RaceNet (Codemasters' social hub) will make the 1976 Ferrari 312 T2 available, which Niki Lauda drove in the movie Rush. I, for one, canâ€™t wait!
The version reviewed was on PC, and Codemasters really need to be commended - it's got a beautifully slick user interface (which will also welcome console fans) and the load times are surprisingly quick. Immediately impressive is the amazing level of detail that has gone into each car. Graphically, the game has improved in a number of ways since 2012. The way the water droplets ripple off the wet-weather tyres, or spray up over the car, for example.
The changeable weather and rain on parts of the track really makes for a daunting drive at times, with water pooling in corners of tracks or wherever there is a slope. Spectacular also is the way that dust and sparks are kicked up across the surface as you tear along at upwards of 300 km/h. When revelling in the imagery it's easy to remember why F1 is considered the pinnacle of motorsport - especially with a smooth frame-rate.
In F1 2013, Grand Prix Mode is back, allowing you to pick a current F1 driver and launch into a full season of racing. Or, you can create a custom season with whichever tracks youâ€™d like. On top of this you can create your own driver, and pass the Young Drivers Test weekend before launching into a full, five-year career with your protege. The Young Drivers Test also acts as a fantastic introduction into KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System - a speed boost) and DRS (Drag Reduction System - for enhanced overtaking), and Formula One in general.
Great news from my earlier preview of F1 2013 is that the AI tweaks have truly taken hold. As I lined up on the grid for the first time, it became evident that I wasnâ€™t going to be in for an easy ride. Firstly, the game allows you to choose from a large range of difficulty settings, and to completely customize the simulation experience. Off the start into the first corner I was in for a battle - as the AI was very quick off the grid. Into the first bend, I was straight into a tussle, and had to be very careful not to damage my vehicle. Fortunately the AI is careful too, and generally able to keep clear of you provided you arenâ€™t being reckless.
The handling model has improved even more from last year, with consistent and clean laps becoming easier to drive than ever before. Granted, I know most F1 tracks better than I do the directions to my own home , but nonetheless, the handling (particularly when riding the curbs) is excellent. Previously, using almost any curb has generally resulted in the car sliding out - and this has been well balanced out. The Classic Cars handle quite differently to a modern F1 car, which is definitely a positive as itâ€™s a blast to take these great rides onto the track
A bonus is that the in-game â€śQuick Setupâ€ť function works really well, allowing you to select from a number of handling setups offered by your race engineers. These are now fairly competitive, and - while you wonâ€™t be as quick as setting up your own car - for people like me who donâ€™t know the difference between toe in and toe out itâ€™s pretty useful.
But by far my favourite new feature in F1 2013 is the ability to save mid-game. We last saw that when SCEE had the exclusive F1 license, and itâ€™s hard to live without for hardcore race fans. Particularly as a full lap race can take upwards of an hour. And itâ€™s easy to see why, a full race gives you so much more opportunity to engage in true F1 racing - the tyre strategies, the accidents, the safety car; itâ€™s all so much more vivid and realistic.
The rewind replay feature is still present, which allows a player to wind back to before they crashed or missed braking-point. While itâ€™s clearly a simulation / arcade compromise, it can be switched off and therefore really adds to the accessibility for all gamers to F1 2013, without impacting heavily on simulation fans.
Unfortunately I wasnâ€™t able to try the multiplayer. Due to the game not yet being released there just isnâ€™t the online community available yet. But Codemasters are getting 16 human controlled players (and another six AI drivers to top-up the grid) online to race against each other - an impressive feat! On top of this you will be able to race your classic cars online, on the classic tracks. You will also be able to jump into a co-op career or co-op scenarios. Thereâ€™s really not much missing from the Codemasters online mode.
If I had to wish for anything further - Iâ€™d suggest Codemasters look at adding a manager mode. But really F1 2013 is progressing very nicely along Codemasters' projected road-map of where they want to take the series. Itâ€™s obvious they are working hard to retain the F1 license and are truly delivering the goods. The addition of classic cars and tracks is great, and though there will always be people who are wanting a particular classic driver or car that isnâ€™t present, itâ€™s great to see a bit of diversity being introduced into the franchise. F1 2013 is easily the best game in the series and it makes me even more hopeful in terms of what Codemasters have in store for us next-gen.