It all sounds very technical, and that's before we've even explored the races themselves. If you're the kind of person who obsesses over car performance – and let's face it, if you like F1 you probably are – then there should be plenty here to make you gibber and dribble with excitement. At the top of Codemasters' boast-list is "the most advanced dynamic weather system to ever feature in a racing game." Wet weather is a particularly big deal, since the game carefully re-calculates the grip of your tyres at intervals of 30 virtual centimetres. If you're racing while it's raining cats and dogs, you'll eventually see a "dry line" forming as water on the track as is displaced by the speeding cars. Stick to this path and you'll have an easier time of things, but over-taking will force you to veer back out into the wet. Grip is still a big deal under dry conditions: different tyres have varying levels of traction and resilience, and as a race progresses you'll have to deal with "marbles" – balls of worn-off rubber that start to litter the tracks. Drive over these, and you'll increase the risk of skidding or worse.
I can't say that marbles were a major point of concern for me during my brief test-run at Monza. No, I was too busy trying to make it around corners without speeding into a wall at several hundred miles an hour. I'm happy to admit that I'm not brilliant at racers at the best of times, and for some reason I'm even worse when I'm using a proper steering wheel setup (expect support for all major peripheral brands). Thankfully the AI appeared to be quite toned-down for the pre-alpha build I played; the other drivers were fairly easy going on me – which was quite generous of them, considering that I'm pretty sure I killed Fernando Alonso at one point.
Codemasters is backing away from the whole "arcade vs simulation" argument, but in my admittedly clumsy hands the handling model felt pretty sensitive. The steering certainly seems very precise and responsive, but things get very tricky if you do lose control. On several occasions my lack of skill caused me to overshoot a corner into the gravel, at which point I usually ended up spinning round and round, like a multi-million pound metal dog chasing its tail. Thankfully you can use the replay function to reverse time and un-do your mistakes – although you can only do this a limited number of times per race, depending on the difficulty level. These rewinds won't be a magic get-out clause either, as in the final game there will be some form of XP penalty attached to their use.
F1 2010 won't be out until September, far into the racing calendar. Some might consider that a risk on Codemasters' part, but if the extra development time has allowed them to make a more detailed in-depth game, the gamble could well pay off. If nothing else, the off-track events and media interactions are an expected twist, though it's still too early to tell just how important a role they'll really play in proceedings. It's the racing itself that ultimately matters, but Codemasters has a clear pedigree in the genre, and there's already an impressive level of attention to detail here – both graphically and technically. We'll keep an eye on the game as it shapes up across the year, but if you've been waiting for the definitive F1 experience, you may well be in luck.
F1 2010 will be released in September on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.