Just like Sebastian Vettel is dominating the 2013 FIA Formula One (F1) World Championship, Codemasters reigns supreme in the genre of racing video games. Their long list of successful titles within the sub-genre are all among the best racing series ever produced. The F1 series is certainly part of that virtual lineage.
F1 2013 is the newly-released version in the series, and its visual excellence has already created a stir. Beauty is just one piece of the puzzle, though. Is F1 2013 just a pretty face with no substance, or the total package?
Graphics and Animation
If you’ve seen any of the images or even video prior to release, you already know how good this game looks. Considering we’re at the end of the life cycle for current-generation systems, F1 2013’s visual achievement is noteworthy.
With Xbox One and Playstation 4 set to release in a little over a month, F1 2013 is perhaps the only sports video game I’ve seen to make a marked improvement in graphics. Part of this is due to the fact that the game renders very few humans on screen for an extended period. We always tend to complicate things.
The human models are good, but not presented in any level of detail you haven’t seen before. The place where F1 2013 excels the most visually is in its lighting and vehicle renders. Contemporary and classic cars like the Ferrari 312T2 couldn’t be recreated more accurately.
Since the cars are the featured attraction, the stars appropriately shine bright. Other highlights of the visual package include beautifully recreated tracks from today, as well as classic courses. As eye candy goes in a video game racing title, F1 2013 can compete with or defeat any other previously released title in the genre—even Gran Turismo 5.
Gameplay and Realism
Gamers who really know and love F1 racing will only have a few things to appreciate in this year’s game. Not much has changed from F1 2012 in the way the game plays, or the way the vehicles handled. Fortunately, gameplay wasn’t a sticking point last year.
One of the newest tweaks to realism is the use of the Drag Reduction System, also known as DRS. During the 2013 season, F1 instituted a rule change that prevents drivers from using DRS as an overtaking aid outside of designated zones in practice and qualifying.
F1 2013 captures this rules change and includes a short video during your Young Drivers Test to explain it. That is one of the cool details that fans of the real-life series should be able to appreciate.
Hardcore fans of the series will likely get more of what they’ve loved, but the difficulty level may still be intimidating for novices. In the series’ defense, it is probably impossible to balance the intricacies of the sport while creating a totally inviting level of playability for someone who is simply a casual fan.
When in doubt, feeding the hardcore fanbase is the best approach. That seems to be the route Codemasters has taken with the series. If you are relatively new to F1 titles, I highly recommend going through a career mode and finishing your Young Driver’s Test.
You can play the other modes without doing this, but chances are you'll pick up a few key tips in this intuitive tutorial.
Sound and Presentation
F1 cars sound different than stock cars, and the F1 series has almost always properly represented their vehicles. With the sound of revving engines being the most-dominant audio feature in gameplay, nailing this is almost half the battle.
However, despite a few changes to make the in-race overlays and readings more attractive, the game still lacks a little bit of personality. F1 is a proud and esteemed racing community whose sport’s details, precision and danger speak for itself. However, in a video game more effort should be put into making the presentation more exciting.
One of the best things about a racing season is the storylines and intense rivalries that play out in a year. This series is still missing the type of presentation that launches gamers into that experience.
Game Modes and Options
The return of Grand Prix mode is welcomed. Customization is always a great thing in any sports game. Allowing gamers to race as any existing driver on the circuit in a customizable season should be a standard feature.
The aforementioned Young Drivers Test has always been a solid tutorial, but in this year’s version it has been expanded to include more of the tasks in the real-life version of the assessment. It also features clear objectives that make it simpler to navigate and ultimately master.
RaceNet also returns to meld fans of the F1 series and other racing titles under the Codemasters umbrella. More matchmaking and community building processes help to strengthen this massive online hub for gamers.
Every year it seems to get bigger. There are RaceNet events and unlockables like the classic 1976 Ferrari to be had from participating. Perhaps best of all, joining RaceNet is free, so there is no real reason not to at least check it out.
By far, the crown jewel of the pre-release hype for F1 2013 was the inclusion of Classics mode. Gamers are able to take the most iconic cars, control the most legendary drivers and compete on the most historic courses from the 1980s and 1990s in this mode.
Racing in split-screen, traditional single player or online in multiplayer is all available. Drivers like Emerson Fittipaldi and Michael Schumacher are at your disposal. Vehicles like the 1986 Lotus 98T can be driven on courses like Spain’s Circuit de Jerez. The star power and surroundings will certainly grab you and keep your attention for a while.
That said, the mode itself lacks direction, rhyme and reason. The cars and courses are obviously rendered beautifully, but there is no real connection from one race to another. This concept would have been better if gamers were challenged to play through great seasons on the F1 circuit, instead of just dropping cars and drivers into the different exhibitions and Grand Prix mode.
It is cool to race a season of sorts with classic cars and drivers, but it would be more fun to recreate the season that made the car and driver legendary.
F1 2013 is beautiful to look at and fun to play, but from a feature set, it doesn’t pack a load of new features. Purists of the series may feel as though F1 2012 suits them just fine—unless they are enamored enough with the idea of racing with legendary cars and drivers.
If this is your indoctrination to the series, it does serve as a quality welcome to the world of F1 on a video game level.
Graphics and Animation: 9
Gameplay and Realism: 8.5
Sound and Presentation: 7
Game Modes and Options: 7
Overall Rating: 7.9
Follow me for musings on sports video games, boxing, MMA, NBA and the WWE.