"Corr, the rain doesn't half look good!" my excitable dad says, leaning closer to the screen to check out the water droplets rolling down the helmet's visor. And he's right. The weather effects in F1 2010 are mighty impressive. It's all generated in real-time too, meaning one minute you could be racing under the blazing sun and the next in the midst of a torrential downpour. This means that you'll have to make strategic tyre decisions on the fly and adapt your pit tactics accordingly. Even if you know the track like the back of your hand, you can’t expect to predict what the weather's going to do. It’s an everyday problem for ‘real racing drivers’, my dad assures me.
Something we were both impressed with was the sense of progression during a race. In many racing games, you’ll whiz past the car in front at speeds no sane driver would find himself reaching. Overtaking needs to be challenging; an ongoing struggle where even the smallest advances up the field should take time. In all too many games you can jump from 21st to 1st in a single lap, but F1 2010 faithfully recreates the difficulty of overtaking, the thrill of the chase.
Pressing Triangle at any point during a race will call your pit crew to arms, who will diligently wait outside your garage until you make a stop. There are so many little touches like this that add to the realism of the game - like the fact that there’s no longer a commentator. The only voice you’ll hear is that of the engineer, who’ll let you know where your team mate is, how your engine’s looking and when you should think about pitting.
After a race, journalists – the invasive swines that they are – will make their way to your paddock, shoving a microphone in your face for a few words on the championship. During the first few races of the season, you’ll attract a modest amount of reporters, but as you climb the leaderboard and start making more of a name for yourself, more and more will find their way in. You can even use the media to affect what goes on during a race. Slag off your team mate or rival, for example, and they'll react differently to you on the track, adopting a more aggressive style of driving to thwart your advances.
I've got little to offer this review in terms of criticism. Dad, being the nitpicky racing snob that he is, raised the issue that "it didn't quite get the feeling of acceleration right", but coming from a person that races karts that reach speeds of 150mph mere inches from the tarmac, this isn't much of a complaint. My only real issue is that it takes too long to get into a race. Those not interested in the career stuff will still have to trawl through the paddock and garage 'menus' before they're able to get behind the wheel. Other than this though, it's a hard game to fault.
Dad and I had very different expectations when it came to F1 2010. Me, being more on the casual side of the fence, wanted nice graphics, a rewarding career and a car that wasn't too difficult to handle. Dad, on the other hand, wanted the most faithful recreation of the sport possible, with accurate handling and the same set of rules that real drivers are subject to. Codemasters has successfully created a game that both of us are happy with - a game that has options and sliders to accommodate all types of player. Is this the best F1 game this generation? Without a doubt, and it's the biggest advancement the license has seen for a very long time.