Since acquiring the license for Formula 1 in 2009, Codemasters has released some really impressive racing games. The games always had would have something holding them back, rather it be bugs, A.I. issues, or graphical problems. Now, after two major releases, they seem to have finally got a masterpiece on their hands. F1 2012 is the complete driving experience that any F1 fan has been looking for.
Some people might feel as if this game lacks in modes, but it's more important to have less modes that you would actually play, rather than fluff modes that you won't. Introduced in 2012 is the Young Drivers Test. This is a skills test designed for you to complete and this helps determine what teams you can start your career out with. You cannot go straight to the top and choose Red Bull or Ferrari, but you do get up to six teams to choose, if you're that good. The Young Drivers Test is a real race event that F1 holds for developmental purposes.
There are a few other modes. Obviously, the career is the bulk. You start on a lower tier team and work your way up to winning championships. There is a season challenge that allows you to do a quick season where the races are only a few laps a piece. No practices or qualifying, straight races and winning. The Champions Mode offers unique one on one objectives with the 6 former champions who are currently in the sport. Couple these things together, and you have little more meat on the bones in comparison to the past.
Graphically, F1 2012 is the best in the series. The PS3 version is finally up to par with the other versions now. In comparison to last year, that version ran at a bad frame rate and the details on the track lacked way behind the other versions. The cars are equisitely beautiful this year, and the detail on the tracks is great. The better framerate has helped to issue in a greater sense of speed that you'll notice immediately. Of course this is something everyone will get use to, but the immediate impact is gratifying and gives a new feeling to the game. Codemasters included six camera views this year along with the best cockpit view in any racing game.
Continuing with the look of the game, the menu has been overhauled. Gone are the days of the paddock and trailers. Now, the menu interface is super glossy and has the look of something straight out of a museum. A few other presentation aspects have improved including an audio pre-race that gives a brief summary of the track, and an improved post-race. The sound in the game has been overhauled as well. The cars sound loud and crisp as Codemasters has redone the sound. The engines on the cars have never sounded better.
I've seen other reviews that claim the car handling is unchanged. This couldn't be less of the case. Codemasters reworked the suspension physics in the game and F1 2012 cars finally give the best representation of the handling of the cars. 2011 overexagerrated a lot of the elements of the handling and it was tough to take normally fast corners without spinning out. The cars are very light and floaty and tough to get a grasp on when entering into a corner. Couple that with the discipline needed to leave the corner, you can gain confidence, rather than randomly spinning out. In case you do spin out, flashbacks do return if you want to go down that road.
The A.I. has improved, along with their lap times. Not everybody runs into each other now on first corners on certain tracks. There seem to be no game killing bugs this year either, such as the computer not pitting. The computer runs at a good pace during the race as well, and it's great to see the A.I. use the DRS against you and see how fast they come up on you and pass you. New this year is dynamic weather, which makes a huge difference when it happens. This involves tire strategy or increased driving ability through the part of the track that's raining.
There are still a few online modes, but they are unchanged. Co-op season championship returns and online races, but that's mostly it. It's time this got an overhaul. Local multiplayer returns too, but you cannot do a co-op championship. They need to look to add that next year along with better support for leagues as these all seem forum based. There are a few race options that have been added, but the online experience needs an update.
Graphics: 9 - The car models and tracks for 2012 are the best in the series. The PS3 version is on par with the others as well.
Presentation: 8 - The menu overhaul worked out sell. It's very beautiful as it seems like something straight out of an F1 museum. Improved touches to pre-race and post-race help as well.
Sound: 9 - The sound was redone in the game and the result is the best sounding engines I have ever heard. Couple that with an excellent soundtrack and voiceovers and the sound is well done.
Gameplay: 9 - The suspension physics were redone and the results are a better feeling car. Mix the improved handling with the new sense of speed and this provides an excellent experience. The A.I. has also improved and there are minimal bugs in the game. The new dynamic weather is a nice touch as well.
Online: 6 - There's still a few modes to choose from, but online is unchanged from last year. This needs an overhaul, but the online modes that are there are still fun.
Replay: 8 - If you're an F1 fan, you're going to keep playing this game until the next one. A few other modes will give you the option to try something else. Add to that, local multiplayer and racing online and there's something to come back to.
Bottom Line: 8.5 - The third time is the charm for Codemasters. F1 2012 does everything right and helps provide the ultimate F1 experience so far. For newbies, there will be a challenge involved and it will seem different, but that has been the case with all the games, and that helps set the bar for the sense of reward involved when you succeed.