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Certainly the first thing you notice in the playable demo of this year’s entry in to the brilliant Codies F1 series is the subtle, but highly effective, change in aesthetic. While it’s anything but an overhaul, the style is far more fitting to the sleek and sexy nature of actual F1 racing. From the revolving F1 car in the background to the swooping and swishing key prompts, even from the start Codemasters have nailed the mood of F1 racing, at least off the track. You might say that menus aren’t important, but in a game focused on a sport that’s often half presentation, it becomes a way of suspending your disbelief; you are the newest F1 star.
Even in this (albeit rather generous) demo, the sense of being an actual driver is very much present and it’s something that Codemasters have gradually built upon over the past few years. Developing a sense of ownership over your character this year is the new “Young Driver Test” which sees the player taking on various challenges before the actual race season starts. Going by the demo, this isn’t really much more than a glorified tutorial; but there’s certainly room for a bit of dedicated time beating fun to be had.
Unsurprisingly, it took until the actual 24 car race for F1 2012 to really nail it; and boy does it do the job. There’s no denying that Codemasters have been more than successful in converting the adrenalin pumping, nail biting style of F1 to a game pad. There are few racing titles that can match the unadulterated brilliance of weaving your way through a huge pack of speed machines, fearing the slightest bump yet pushing the car to dangerous limits at the same time. The inclusion of DRS and the return of KERS only adds to the tactical element of a race and again this is a concept that has been finely tuned. While racers today often aren’t lacking in pure action, they often miss the strategic factor that plays in to real racing. Of course, with F1 being the most tactical of all it’s only apt that drafting, use of KERS, driving lines and all the other details of the world’s fastest sport take pride of place within the game. This year more than ever the dedication and research Codies put in to each vehicle is clearly felt when on the track.
While the graphics are somewhat lacking compared to the final product (this being a demo build after all), the vehicles themselves still look brilliant. The only real drawback is the terrible texture work on almost everything other than the vehicles and the track, again though this may be improved when the final product swings by later this month.
The F1 2012 demo can be played now on the PlayStation Store, XBLA and Steam. The full game launches Sep. 18-21. Be sure to check back at Player Affinity for more coverage on the title.