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Video Crack: Codemaster's Formula1 2010

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On: Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 1:01PM | By: John Welch

Video Crack: Codemaster's Formula1 2010

My Christmas was, how shall I put this, uhm, interesting. Time was spent with family and friends, but it was a very small amount of visiting when viewed next to my other Yule-tide preoccupations. Namely: mouth surgery and Formula1 2010. The former began on Friday, the 24th, with a follow-up wisdom tooth removal on Monday, the 26th. I have never had so much surgery at once and am understandably incoherent because of it. That being said, this review may be clouded by my love of top-tier motorsport and my drooling, mostly invalid condition.

Christmas came between the multiple trips to the dentist's chair, and with it came the best present of the season. Not socks, (though i did get some awesome socks) not jackets or candy or Legos or a new bike; not even the all-conquering Gran Turismo 5. No, I received Codemaster's Formula1 2010, originally released way back in September, and it has replaced every other racing game, or game, period, in my tiny mind. This is F1-Dork Nirvana.

Many a coworker of mine has spent entire weekends in front of their PC, throwing lightning bolts and dispatching of monsters and generally dorking up the place while gaining weight at an alarming pace. I never understood it. Not that I haven't spent a weekend playing one video game, I have. Forza, Forza 2, and Forza 3 all required 48 hours of attention when first I purchased them, as well as various Gran Turismo titles—2 and 4 mostly. The thing is, MMO players don't spend one weekend with their games, they spend every weekend with their games. My racing game attention span usually lasts the original 48 hours, then peters out over the course of the next few weeks. Almost never am I playing a game much beyond a month of ownership. I just lose interest.

I don't think this phenomenon will happen so quickly with F1 2010. The way the game is set up, the structure of your racing season, is so well thought out that you honestly feel the pressure of every pass, every mistake, every lost tenth. The graphics are stunning (to be expected I suppose) and the only real gripe I have is with the sometimes inconvenient replay camera angles. So, not really a serious gripe at all. The game can be tailored to meet the skills of any faux-driver, from GT veterans to the totally uninitiated. The difficulty levels can be increased and decreased along several different parameters, making for a completely customizable experience. In my pain-pill stupor I didn't feel quite up to driving without any traction control, but I was more than able to tackle realistic weather, shifting, and opponent AI. All of which are programmed to perfection in this game.

Codemaster's epic Grand Prix masterpiece has also, quite unexpectedly, produced some new-found respect for Formula One drivers themselves. There are many views you can choose from while racing; from the usual "behind the car" third person view to the track-level gopher view. One view perfectly simulates the driving position of the actual driver while seated in the car. The word 'view', when used to describe this position, is misleading. An F1 driver is able to 'view' almost nothing from his cockpit. Like, zero visibility. If it's raining, mark that zero a negative. The pontoon nose of a modern F1 car rises so high, the driver cocoon so all encompassing, that the driver is able to see the sky, the grandstands, the very tip-tops of his front tires and the radio antennae jutting from the nose of his vessel. He see's nothing else. The racing line? Nope. The next corner? Forget it. Other cars on track? I wish. That these fellahs are able to perform, in real life, at 180 mph, under these conditions, is absolutely astounding to me. I have been a little cloudy headed lately, but I don't think I'm over-stating anything here.

So, how does it play? Fantastic, simply fantastic. The nuances of a Formula 1 car and engine are all there. The peaky power delivery, the insane noise, the unexpected thrust above 14,000 RPM. The cars are modeled perfectly, though you can spot first-gen wings and appendages that saw change over the course of the actual F1 season. Speaking of which, you have a choice of career length at the beginning of your F1 foray: three, five or seven seasons. Though seven seemed a little long to begin with, I selected three and found the difficulty set up a little too easy. Progress is on the fast track when selecting only three season, and I wanted the opportunity to fight for a back marker team, impress the paddock, and move on to more lofty competitors. After a few hours with this game you realize the importance placed on digital public relations. Insult your team or car in the media and the entire paddock takes notice. There is a press conference after every win, and a lone reporter waiting for you by your team hauler after every loss.

I'm 16 races into the 19-race season. My first car is the Virgin Racing VR01 Cosworth, and my updates over the course of this simulated season have increased lap times by 9-tenths. A considerably better season than Virgin actually had. Between each race I have collected a troupe of admirers, from Toro Rosso who are offering me $10,000,000 a season to be their number 1 driver, to Williams who are "impressed by the way I handle the media." It's all very business-like and cordial, until you spin on the last lap at the Singapore GP and ruin your chances with a team like Williams. Of all the realism injected into this game, the pressure to perform is the aspect that makes it feel the most like real life. I love love LOVE this game. If you have a few spare days to kill, and don't mind the occasional glitch, (competitors sometimes make miraculous 90-degree turns to enter the pits) this game will replace more complicated simulators as well as role-playing games, your pets feeding schedule, your wife, your kids, your job . . . it is really that addictive.

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