Quick Plays: Previewing Codemasters’ ‘F1 2012,’ ‘F1 Race Stars,’ and ‘GRID 2′
Video game developer Codemasters has captivated me in front of a television screen for countless hours of my life, and I’ve enjoyed nearly every minute of it. Whether I’m tiptoeing my way around a rainy Spa-Francorchamps in “F1 2011″ or cursing at the AI rally drivers in “DiRT 3,” it’s readily apparent the U.K.-based firm is sinking a lot of well-spent time and dinero into its racing franchises. Lucky for my electric utility provider’s billing department, three new titles are on the way.
As a Formula 1 fan: I’ll always be willingly suckered into playing the latest F1 games. In “F1 2012,” it’s neat to see updated driver lineups, cars, and tracks (including the Circuit of the Americas) that match what you see on TV. The negative? Upgrades to other game aspects (graphics, sound, car physics, etc.) are usually incremental, so there’s a familiar vibe and feel, which makes some gamers question dropping money on something so similar to its predecessor. But here’s how “F1 2012″ plans to spice things up.
1) New playable features
Young Driver Test – Like the real-life YDT, you come to grips with an F1 car on a day specially designated for open lapping.
Season Challenge – Programmed to let players complete an entire season in a short period of time, each track on the calendar is finished after one-lap qualifying with a five-lap race.
Champions Mode – Six world driver’s champions on the real-world grid equals six different challenges. You start with a test against Kimi Raikkonen (2007 WDC), and then unlock more facing off against Lewis Hamilton (2008), Jenson Button (2009), Sebastian Vettel (2010, 2011), Fernando Alonso (2005, 2006), and Michael Schumacher (1994, 1995, 2000-2004).
2) More wet weather modeling – The “F1″ series already has an advanced rain system, but it’s now capable of dumping precipitation on just one or two sectors instead of the entire track.
3) Improved sound – Cribbing straight from the source, microphones were put on F1 cars during last year’s YDT.
4) Track lap videos – See how to actually drive around the track, with commentary from actual racing driver/former F1 pilot Anthony Davidson.
Codemasters claims accessibility was a big focus for this game, citing a desire to simplify menu navigation from “F1 2011″ and adjust the difficulty so the game has a broader reach across all player skill levels. Still waiting for an all-inclusive build-your-own-driver or the inclusion of legacy cars and drivers? They won’t be in “F1 2012″ but we hear it’s in the works for future editions.
Release date: September 18 for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360
“F1 Race Stars”
I could spend all day playing “F1 2012″ so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about a less-than-serious approach to what is generally considered the pinnacle of motorsport.
Turns out I may be more excited for “F1 Race Stars” than “F1 2012.”
When I wasn’t studying in college, I played lots of “Mario Kart.” Specifically, I played many multiplayer races against roommates and friends, and looking back on it, those were some good times. “F1 Race Stars” rekindled that dormant competitive spirit, the kind that can only be found with a light-hearted racing game.
Awesomely rendered cartoon versions of current F1 cars and drivers dash around fantastical courses representative of the international community. The tracks have national themes and signifying features, so while they don’t copy formal race circuits, you may catch bits and pieces of F1’s greatest turns. There will be a mirror option as well. I played what’s supposed to be the Germany track; of course it’s filled with castles. The Japan track will have bullet trains whizzing around and the Belgium version will utilize Spa’s celebrated Eau Rouge. Each track has pit lanes (because the cars can be damaged and slowed) and areas to boost KERS. There are all kinds of power-ups and projectile weapons like in “Mario Kart,” though my first playing stint was so brief I couldn’t tell one icon from another. The most infuriating assist I’ve seen so far is the safety car that bunches the pack up, to the detriment of the first car’s lead.
Four-way split-screen will likely be popular and 12-way racing can eventually be found on RaceNet. In order to reach out to casual gamers and not just F1 nerds, non-F1-driver avatars (both male and female) are part of the roster. Expect a variety of single-player modes like career, time trials, and create-your-own-championship (5-6 races).
Release date: November for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360
“GRID 2 will represent Codemasters’ largest ever investment commercially and in terms of [development resources]” reads the “GRID 2″ briefing booklet. This sounds serious.
It’s been four years since “GRID” went on sale and it appears the follow-up will be getting every gaming enhancement available in order to meet hefty internal ambitions. Improvements have been made to the tire modeling data, yet the game will continue to straddle the line between arcade-like and full-on simulation. Driver input was culled from racers like Kris Meeke and Jordan King to develop vehicle handling. The AI can adapt 60 parameters (or “abilities,” as dubbed by the team) per computer car so each opponent can take on a unique driving style. The environments, which will spread across three continents, benefit from a revamped lighting system and impressive visuals. There’s a heavier spotlight on working the camera angles in the game, possibly leaving the door for Hollywood-esque post-race playbacks. Body damage will be more noticeable than ever before.
Racing will take place on the streets and tracks. Codemasters is keeping the cars list close to the chest, but there will be the following four tiers:
- Tier 1: BMW M3 Sport Evo, Ford Mustang Mach 1, etc.
- Tier 2: Chevrolet Camaro SS, Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34), etc.
- Tier 3: BAC Mono, McLaren MP4-12C, etc.
- Tier 4: Koenigsegg Agera R, Pagani Huayra, etc.
Early and brief play time reveals better than expected handling, though getting to do trial runs in a 15,000-GBP D-Box simulation setup probably helped the cause. In two separate races – one with the D-Box and one with a standard controller – with two different cars, it felt like you could do reasonably well as long as you power-oversteered through every turn. Throttle management seemed to matter perceptibly more when playing with a steering wheel and pedals versus with a pad. The worrying scenario to me is if the cars drive, steer, and corner in near-identical manners, with differences in velocity and acceleration rates used to differentiate between the car classes. However, “GRID 2” remains a work-in-progress and I’ll reserve final judgment until I can get my hands on the final release and play it back to back against the racing segment’s heavyweights.
Release date: Summer 2013 for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360
By Benson Kong