Monday, September 20, 2010

Preview Power: Formula 1 2010

[Part of a series of smaller posts that I'll be doing about various upcoming games. I don't jump on board the hype train too often, but when I do I like to think that there's a pretty significant reason for why, and in this series I will attempt to explain my anticipation for each game.]

F1 2010, the newest Formula 1 game (the last being released early in the PlayStation 3's life cycle) from racing game experts Codemasters is perhaps a strange title to be excited for, its limited offerings seemingly nowhere near as exciting nor important as other, bigger and more well-known games like the just released Halo: Reach, or something like Mafia II or Metroid: Other M. But then, this is me we are talking about here, an avid Motorsport enthusiast who absolutely adores Formula 1 in real life. My love for all things racing has been documented here before -- that won't stop any time soon -- but despite that, there's something different about this F1 game, something that I'm eager to get my hands on later this week.

I'm excited about it because, well, it will be the first Formula 1 game I have played in over a decade. Yes, despite reasonably frequent releases whilst Sony held the licence, I haven't played an F1 game since the Nintendo 64 days, with F-1 World Grand Prix II the last title to satisfy my F1 needs. Such a long time between drinks has been a product of circumstance, with finances preventing me from access to more recent titles, and Sony's ownership of the licence restricting not only games based on the sport to their platforms, but competition from entering the marketplace, particularly on the other consoles. Their exclusivity rights is understandable and I don't feel any disappointment towards them for holding the licence for so long, but it did mean an even more limited audience than the niche licence already attains, particularly with the PS3 release as it came at a time when the PS3 was struggling to find its feet. Having the licence obtained by Codemasters -- a multiplatform developer -- was wonderful news not just because it meant I could play an F1 game again (I own all three consoles now anyway so I wouldn't have missed out anyway) but because it opens the potential userbase for the game, an enticing prospect for a sport that is, while largely considered as the pinnacle of Motorsport, a restrictive brand. Motorsport is incredibly popular on a general, global scale but in the context of Formula 1 alone the potential for success is varied. In Europe and Australasia, Formula 1 is massively popular but in North America, the sport has always had limited appeal and it would be very easy to argue that the majority of Americans don't even know about the sport. Factor in that, as a game, one of F1 2010's biggest markets could be (has to be?) America and you have an intriguing issue pop up: will the game see some success over there?

On a personal level, I'm excited for the game because of the different breed of racing that it will provide. Instead of big, heavy sedans and touring cars that are found in most racing games -- rally games, Nascar, Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, etc. -- Formula 1's vehicles are open-wheeled, extremely close to the ground, fragile instruments, and they rely on technical performance as much as, if not more than driver skill. This key difference will require a different approach to playing a racing game, as braking points and cornering speeds will be quite different to what I am used to. I've played previous F1 games and others that feature open-wheeled cars, but as a simulation F1 2010 may take some getting used to -- a challenge I embrace with open arms. I actually look forward to pushing the absolute limit of a braking point, braking at the absolute last second and still entering the corner perfectly. Likewise, I'm eager to push the cornering limit by finding the ideal places to accelerate early (but not too much lest I spin the wheels and lose control), taking advantage of a Formula 1 car's technical grip to assist my precision and accuracy rather than judicial use of the accelerator as in most other circuit based racing games. It might not sound exciting or something worth caring about, but for someone who has a mentality like drivers do, the change of pace will scratch an itch that has been with me for years.

As far as the actual game is concerned, I'm quite happy to see a dynamic weather system that sounds like it will be unpredictable. As most racing games rely on scripted weather instead -- this race is going to be sunny, that one rainy -- the execution of this could go either way, but I remain optimistic until I see it in action. Even if it isn't well done, just driving in the wet -- also something rarely seen in other games -- is an enticing enough feature to hold my interest, the dynamics a wet track will add to a race hopefully making way for some engrossing moments. Participating in practise and qualifying events will also be nice, the focus of performing over an entire race weekend a nice contrast to the 3-lap, singular affairs that I'm used to. Last but not least, I'm just looking forward to racing on some tracks that I either haven't been able to for years, or have never raced on before. It may only be a small thing but the different tracks will provide some variety that I've lacked in recent years, racing on the same bunch of tracks that have become common in other recent titles.

Overall, I'm excited to play F1 2010 for exactly that: it's a game about Formula 1, in 2010 -- not only does it have the potential to simulate some of my favourite elements from the real sport, it allows me to continue to revel in what has easily been the best season of Formula 1 I have ever seen.

Bring it on.

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