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Formula 1 is the latest sport to jump on to the yearly update bandwagon, much the same as the Madden American football game and the FIFA football game. But is F1 2012 enough of an upgrade to warrant a purchase?
For: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Four and a half stars (out of five)
Formula 1 has rejuvenated itself in the last few years, with rules to encourage passing and more exciting races, and it's been wildly successful. The success has also translated to the latest series of F1 games, with development shifted from Sony's internal studios to racing game aficionados Codemasters, and its popularity has increased directly as a result.
F1 2012 has all the modes you'd expect. A fully fleshed out career mode where you start with the minnow teams and work your way slowly up to lofty heights of Ferrari and McLaren, a quick race mode, as well as up to 16 player multiplayer online.
On top of this, the co-op season feature introduced in F1 2011 carries over, so you and a friend can take on the world together.
However, the majority of time spent playing the game will be in career mode.
Starting with a driver test is a clever way to teach players the basics of the sport while not alienating the hardcore faithful.
But the real question is - how well does the game replicate the sport?
Graphically, it looks outstanding: almost as real as we'll get in this generation of consoles. The handling of the cars has been tweaked, too, and is very good.
While it's no hardcore simulation like Forza or Gran Turismo, it's still an accurate representation of how F1 cars handle. Add in the KERS (speed boost button) and DRS (rear wing), and you have an experience almost identical to the real thing. A new difficulty level adds a real challenge for simulator fans, too; all of a sudden passing cars and winning races becomes a real challenge. This adds to the re-playability and enjoyment, especially compared with the easier and more straightforward prequels.
Just finishing in the points is now a real achievement when in the minnow teams, as opposed to a missed opportunity.
However, there is one significant barrier F1 2012 faces when compared with Madden or FIFA.
Madden and FIFA launch roughly a fortnight before their respective seasons start. F1 2012 launches 75% through the season. This makes it somewhat dated on release as, after a couple of weeks, the 2012 season is over.
That may stop some people from buying it, as the hype that builds prior to a season is almost non-existent by that point. Ideally, the game will tide you over until next season starts, but by then the cars and drivers may already be out of date.
Games that have yearly releases are not always must-buys. They tend to feature refinements rather than adding revolutionary new features, and people are loath to effectively buy the same game twice.
In terms of F1 2012, people who have bought the previous two seasons may think twice about this game, but those who haven't given F1 games a try since the Sony days, will be very pleasantly surprised.
- Simon Bishop