F1 2010 Hands-On Preview

BOOM widget 100675 Considering it surely paid a premium price for the F1 license, Codemasters has shown some patience with its development team. While they pushed to get a Wii version out for the 2009 season (with accordingly mixed results), they took the year off on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, setting their sights on 2010 for the debut of what they hope will be a successful new run.

Some of the extra time was naturally required to work on getting all the cars and tracks ready for high definition, but using the EGO Engine that powered GRiD as a base put Codemasters well on the way to making a pretty game. A good bit of the extra time has gone toward recreating the F1 racing lifestyle and experience, and developing the unique handling model of an F1 racer.

The only way to know how the on-the-track feel is progressing is to play it, and I got my first shot when Codemasters brought an early version of the game around. For sim racing fans, one of the best signs is that the fifteen to twenty minutes I had with the game weren't nearly enough to come to grips with piloting an F1 car well.

The impact of the downforce generated by airflow over the wings at speed came across very strong. In sweeping corners where I could maintain speed the car stayed glued to the ground so long as I didn't flinch. Braking into harder corners, though, there was a noticeable change in traction as the car lost that advantage. The traditional weight transfer to the front resulting from the momentum change helped get some bite but the car became nervous on the cornering line with a very unforgiving limit. BOOM video 4427

Controlling the throttle demanded a precise touch. Along with the lack of downforce starting from a stop or at low speed, the engines generate more power than the tires have grip. I found listening to the engine to be the best cue for when I could get all the way on the gas. There was a moment when I sort of just sensed that the car had settled in--the revs were coming into the heart of the powerband, and the car was good to go.

My almost exclusive reliance on listening to the engine, though, could also be due to the less than perfect sense of the car being connected to the pavement I was getting. The developer explained that audio touches not yet in the game have a lot to do with that but I suspect they still have some tweaks to go for the physics model as well. BOOM video 4847

F1 2010 also takes into account the important role setup plays in such tricky cars. For those only interested in racing, the car will be ready to go in all-around trim suited to match the track being raced. At the other end of the spectrum, hands-on tuners will be able to customize every adjustment imaginable, from suspension settings to engine tuning parameters. But it's the in-between option that's interesting. Your team race engineer will be able to adjust the car to your driving based on whether you want it balanced, adaptable, or aggressive. It will take sitting down with the game for few races to see how well it works but I'm cautiously optimistic.

I should get a chance to do that and check out some of the F1 lifestyle elements intended to create the feeling of living the driver's life-- paparazzi gathering around your trailer to take pictures and get interviews, and other "glamorous" bits--the next time.

F1 2010 is due on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in September.