updated 12:20 am EDT, Wed June 11, 2014
Formula One comes to OS X with adrenaline fueled simulation, challenging gameplay
When gamers have ever wanted to get into the seat of a race car without spending millions of dollars to do it, they've turned to games to get the experience. From NASCAR, dragsters, rally cars and everything in-between, gaming has covered much of the realistic side of racing. What about players, however, that want a game that touches on simulation aspects, but pushes them to gain a little as a tenth of a second each time around the track? Codemasters' F1 2013 is the title that will set the pace for a proper racing experience.
Formula One, while not as big as other racing sports in the United States, takes a more technical approach to racing than many motorsports in the world. Pairing driver skill with precision equipment and high levels of technology, drivers must become one with their cars -- as a second can be the difference between first and last place. F1 2013 captures that experience by giving players control of many of the small details, while they are raced through the full F1 experience. Players will have to put hours into tracks to be able to learn them, raise their skills and shave down times to make the podium.
To be able to play the game properly and get the most out of it, players must use a controller; trying to play without one leads to quick disappointment. In the case of this hands-on, a Playstation Dual Shock 3 controller was used rather than the keyboard-only approach. Playing with the keyboard becomes frustrating, as there is no precision feel when trying to smoothly steer through corners. This is important, because precision is needed at all times in F1 2013.
Even more so, the physics in F1 2013 are top-notch. Players will have to learn to feel out the tracks, learn lines, and anticipate braking and acceleration changes. It's something that doesn't feel natural on a keyboard, nor does it lend itself well to reactions. The controller isn't getting signals to vibrate like it would from the console version, but gravel on the tires or the back end of the car kicking out is still translated into sensory experience. Each bump can affect the car. Players will need to learn when to correct and when to push through. It gives the game a large learning curve that is immensely rewarding once it yields results.
The game features several different modes of play, including Career, Grand Prix, F1 Classics, Proving Grounds and multiplayer. Career offers the greatest simulation of a true Formula One experience, allowing players to create a driver profile, impress sponsors and go from qualifying days to the main races, earning points for the world championship. Grand Prix is a mode that cuts away most of the management, allowing players to pick a favorite race and jump into the action. Proving Grounds gives way for scenarios, time trials and time attacks to help hone driver skills. Multiplayer still exists in the OS X version, but no one was seen in it during our time with the game.
The Career mode is where players will spend most of their time, trying to complete a F1 season and getting the full racing weekend experience. Drivers will be given goals, and pitted against teammates for car upgrades from research and development teams. Sponsored teams will have to be impressed when players first start. A young driver's test is done on a single track over two days, giving players the chance to meet medal goals in order to attract teams like Scuderia Toro Rosso or Caterham F1. Each team will have an expectation of where you will end up for each race, as well as for the season.
Players will have to complete the 19-race season, hitting every qualifier before the main race. Those worried about trying to complete a full race weekend in a single go need not be concerned; F1 2013 has added a mid-session save. Long races can be daunting, but players will get into the mindset of a racer to plan and plot ahead for each pit stop. Even at the lowest mode of difficulty, F1 2013 pushes players to do better with its artificial intelligence. The drivers are quick and always improving, causing players to be both steady and aggressive with their driving. However, when it comes to getting into the mix with players, it falls apart. Corners and late braking become important to success. Those that want a little extra challenge or motivation can run the season challenge mode to pick out a rival to compete with for a season.
The scenario mode brings in the arcade elements of the game, as does the ability to change the race duration before jumping into a Grand Prix race. Scenarios take out most of the challenge and risk of a full blown race, lessening elements such as fuel and tire management. Some management will still need to be addressed in some cases, but players won't be faced with running scrub tires to maximize every tool available.
F1 Classics is an interesting mode that puts players into moments and tracks of F1 racing history in the 1980s. Players can choose to sit in as great racers like Michael Schumacher and drive classic F1 cars from Lotus and Ferrari. While most of these moments are short glimpses into past, they still offer some excitement from the standard career mode. It all boils down to the cars.
Five cars from 1980 to 1988 can be raced on two classic tracks, or the full tracks from the standard mode. Each of these cars handles differently, needing a finer touch to control them. Compared to the cars in the other modes of the games, they seem wilder and require players to work at them more. To give the cars more room to run, the F1 Classics section also has scenarios, time attacks and time trials.
The graphics of F1 2013 are impressive, even on a 2011 MacBook Pro. Feral Interactive, who is responsible for bringing the game to OS X, recommends a 2.4 GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and a video card with at least 512 MB of RAM. Some hiccups were noticed with small lock-ups or screen tearing, but the system specs only barely exceed or meet the video card and RAM requirements.
Everything looks crisp and clean, with top-notch weather effects that can roll in during the middle of a race. Cars are fully detailed, down to the sponsor decals. When rain sweeps onto the track, the game looks even better. Drivers have to compete with small pools of water and rain effects in the camera, not to mention cars that are sliding around the track. The tracks are faithful recreations of the originals, capturing the essence of each one down to the pitch of the corners.
The problem in F1 2013 is that everything seems to lack character. Everything is pristine and somewhat sterile. The game suffers from this in a number of areas, causing it to feel very solitary - even though everything looks good. Gravel or dirt doesn't show up on the tracks. Impacts on the walls or barriers aren't left behind. A meaningful collision system is missing from the game, leaving a lot to be desired when one car runs into another. However, a car can quickly pick up grass or rocks on its tires if things get out of control.
F1 2013 is both a difficult and fun game. Even though it can be hard to play, it is difficult to step away from once a session has been started. Players will need hours at a time to complete a single weekend of racing, but they can also jump into quick races for that "just one more time" moment. Adding in the F1 Classics mode to jump into the seat of some great racing moments, the game has a number of options to keep players at the wheel. From the classic races, the driver challenges or the full F1 season events, F1 2013 is a game worth playing.
F1 2013 is best for: Players that want a realistic, rewarding racing experience with the ability to change over to some arcade elements or relive classic races.
F1 2013 is not for: Players that don't want a difficult game to master or have no appreciation for the nuances of fine control over vehicles.