• F1 2010 review

How to be Lewis Hamilton

Laurence Edmondson September 16, 2010
Play as your heroes on F1 2010 © Codemasters
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There comes a point in every motorsport fan's life when they admit to themselves that they will never be a Formula One driver. The realisation usually occurs in the teens and, although obvious to the outside world, is a bitter pill to swallow.

Luckily, there is another option and it will only cost you £34.99 rather than the countless millions to progress up the motorsport ladder. F1 2010 is the latest officially-licensed Formula One game and has been eagerly awaited since the last one in 2006.

The good news is that it was worth the wait. Renowned software company Codemasters is behind it and, to make sure it's as close to the real thing as possible, it recruited ex-F1 driver Anthony Davidson to help develop it.

So, can it replicate the feeling of being strapped into a 750bhp F1 car?

"No," Davidson says in all honesty, "because you can never replicate a) G-force and b) fear. So those are the two things you can never reproduce in a game."

But the truth is that that doesn't matter. The point of the game is not to teach you how to become an F1 driver but to allow you to experience the life of one.

"Nobody would jump in a real F1 car at Silverstone without any experience and be able to set it up, put on full throttle and dump the clutch. It's just not possible," adds Davidson. "You'd be too scared to start with. The sound of 18,000rpm behind your head and the feeling of the vibrations in the car is enough to put you off. And it's a £2 million machine you're sitting in. You're never going to abuse it until you get up to a certain level."

And that's what makes F1 2010 so enjoyable. It's a virtual deity that bestows you with the talent to drive an F1 car, but without any of the hard work or hard bucks needed to do it in real life.

But that's not to say it's easy. With the game taken off easy mode (dubbed Yamamoto mode by Davidson) so that the player is controlling the brakes, the gear changes and most-importantly the throttle unaided, the car does act as one might expect.

Game play is realistic but not impossible © Codemasters
Too late on the brakes and you lock up, too hasty with the throttle and you're facing the wrong direction, hit the rev limiter too many times and you cook the engine. The game is multilayered, and as an F1 simulator there is nothing that comes close.

The car slides in slow corners, but when it's at speed and downforce is being generated, it sticks to the track like ... well, an F1 car. And if you come off the throttle at the end of a straight you get 1G of braking force from the car's drag, even before you hit the brakes.

"It teaches you to brake quite early," explains Davidson, "you've got to focus on not upsetting the car mid-corner, but still carry momentum and get your foot down early enough without getting wheel spin for the exits. You can't take the Mickey over curbs and you can't just go cutting off the track, you get penalised for that. And you have to be careful over bumps on the surface. Like with Monaco, when you get into a rhythm around Monaco it's just like the same relentless trance that you get into as a driver in real life."

So it's got the driving side covered: Not too difficult that you give up after an hour, but challenging enough to keep you coming back.

But there's more, and this is where it gets a bit weird. The game has a virtual BBC 5 Live commentary team that follows you around the F1 calendar, acting as journalists at each venue. Lead commentator David 'Crofty' Croft is the most forward with his questions and quizzes you on your most recent performances or the quality of your rivals.

"When I first met the Codemasters guys they were talking about all the extras in the game and how they wanted it to be just like the life of a racing driver," explains Crofty. "You know, your agent to deal with, your engineer to deal with and I said, what about the press? A couple of weeks later I get a phone call saying they'd like me to be a paddock interviewer. I said absolutely and was delighted because I got to be part of a computer game. My teenage boy will actually talk to me at last, I've finally got some street cred'."

All 19 F1 circuits have been recreated in detail © Codemasters
Crofty ended up recording 1,600 individual questions, each one tailored to a different driver in a different situation. The player then gets a selection of answers that will alter the way he is treated in the game by engineers, the media and other teams. But is there scope to be a maverick; a James Hunt in a world of Lewis Hamiltons?

"If you're flippant, you've got to justify your flippancy on track," says Crofty. "It kind of puts the pressure on you. But remember, F1's a team sport. Without your team, you're nothing. So if you want these guys to help you, if you want to get the car set up right, you've got to give them a bit of credit as well. It's not just about you. I'm looking forward to my career moment of going through that. At last, there is a Formula One game that tries to capture real life."

So Crofty and Davidson are signed up members of the gaming community, but will F1 2010 spark any interest among the current crop of F1 drivers?

"Oh yeah, they will all play it," says Davidson, "because of one thing as well: Korea."

Indeed, the game has all 19 of the current F1 race tracks, including the all-new Korean International Circuit, planned out in stunning detail. Enough detail, Crofty reckons, to turn the head of Lewis Hamilton.

"There are only two drivers to go round that circuit so far, Ant on the game and Karun out on track. The track is still being built in the game, they've still got cranes - it looks fantastic. But I like the fact that Codemasters have actually managed to complete the circuit before the circuit has actually been completed itself. Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen are big gamers. And according to Lewis, Adrian Sutil wears his racing gloves when he drives on these games."

So, if it's good enough for them, the chances are it's good enough for you. Besides, you have no choice; it's between F1 2010 and stumping up several million for an HRT drive.

Title: F1 2010
Published by: Codemasters
Price: £34.99
Avaliable: September 24
Formats: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC