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This week sees the release of F1 2012, the latest Formula One game from Codemasters. It's the fourth in the series which started back in 2009, and the third for the leading gaming platforms. Pitpass received an advanced copy to review and while it didn't disappoint, it hardly inspired either.
Last year we reviewed F1 2011, concluding the game was a confused hybrid stranded somewhere between racing simulation and something the casual fan can pick up and play. It was an improvement over F1 2010, the first of Codemasters titles to appear on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, but it was a tricky game that was likely to appeal only to the most hardened of Formula One fans.
That was seemingly reflected in the sales figures. Codemasters sold 2.05 million copies for F1 2010 across all platforms worldwide, while F1 2011 managed just 1.88 million despite additional releases on both the Ninentdo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.
The trouble F1 2011 faced, and that which the latest edition will also battle, is that not a great deal has changed in Formula One over the last few seasons. When F1 2010 was released there hadn't been a new Formula One game title in years, and with a host of new teams there was a novelty factor about it.
The drop in sales suggests some of that novelty has worn off. While 2011 featured Pirelli, DRS and KERS, not to mention the standard driver changes and new circuits, the game was fundamentally the same. It was an evolution, not a revolution.
It's the same story this time around. F1 2012 builds on the foundations of the previous two titles and tightens things up, but as a result it's more confused than last year's title. The learning curve for new players has been eased, with players welcomed to the game via the all-new Young Driver Test, a series of simple tests which give players an understanding of the game, and, to a lesser extent, the sport.
Many of those who purchase F1 2012 will be veterans of at least one of the previous two games. As such the Young Driver Test, while a novel idea, is a wasted concept. But the game has to cater for the lowest common denominator, and experienced players will breeze through the opening sequence before quickly changing the settings to meet their skills level.
The in-game graphics have not changed from F1 2011 and while the cars have all been remodelled at a glance one would do well to pick the difference. The audio is a clue, it's more crisp and realistic than last year, but only by playing the two games back to back would you be able to notice.
What you will notice is the heavily revised menu system. Historically the game has been driven from the players' motorhome, with options cast about the room. F1 2012 features are more traditional navigation system which is far simpler, though it does get frustrating as an instruction isn't always clear or intuitive with far too many buttons to press before the game gets going.
The aggressive car dynamics which either made of blighted F1 2011, depending on your penchant for realism, have been blunted. The cars are no longer likely to snap under acceleration or dance around under braking by default. Settings can be tweaked to encourage that behaviour, switching off ABS and traction control for instance, but by default the controls are far more straight forward.
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