The game's exhilarating race model and dynamic weather system make playing the title both exciting and terrifying. Some missteps in the career progression can lead to frustration, but the pure joy of racing makes up for the shortcomings.
It's fair to say that Sony squeezed the life out of the F1 license. Formula One Championship Edition was about as formulaic as a racing game could get; it made the sport surprisingly dull. Not even the gloss of next generation hardware could pull the franchise out of its slumber, and it's telling that F1 2010 marks the first formula one release on PlayStation 3 since Studio Liverpool's effort.
This time it's from Codemasters, already well established with a suite of top-racing titles to its name. Colin McRae: DiRT 2 recently turned heads, but it's with the newly acquired F1 license that Codies' Birmingham studio are gunning for success.
In many ways, the anticipated title doesn't disappoint. Driving a formula one car should be visceral, exciting, even frightening. And F1 2010 nails that; it's genuinely exhilarating bombing into straights and lapping up the sense of downforce, before breaking to a halt and gently feathering around a tight hairpin bend. In all honesty we've never driven a formula one vehicle (we doubt many have), but our imagination takes us somewhere into the realm of what F1 2010 delivers. Exciting, but a tad terrifying.
Of course, the very nature of the game can make it a challenge to learn. The arcade leanings of GRID and DiRT have not rubbed off on F1 2010; though the rewind feature is on-hand to temper the frustration out of the game's more challenging corners. Even then, tracks need to be studied, examined and learned if you insist on setting track records — it's a healthy learning curve that adds longevity. Fans of the sport will lap up the challenge.
Of course, coming from Codemasters, F1 2010 also looks incredible. It uses the studio's staple EGO engine, and while performance isn't quite as silky-smooth as other games in the genre, the level of detail is phenomenal. The car models in particular are brilliantly well crafted and objects of desire — as they should be. It's a bit of a shame that Codies' classic damage engine hasn't made the jump - speedy snogs with the wall amount to little more than a bruised ego - but the sum of the game's visuals are enough to make up for the quirks.
Each of F1 2010's roster of tracks are re-created meticulously, with the standout night-time romp through Singapore the catalogue's unique highlight. Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina is also a sight to behold, with F1 2010's lighting model bringing the setting to life.
Of course, each of the track's is complimented by Codies' brilliant dynamic weather technology. Not only does the weather have a profound affect on the visuals, it also alters car performance. Temperature has a huge impact on the racing conditions, and F1 2010 does a great job making the differences tangible and important. That adds tactics to the gameplay too — changing tires as the heaven's open can make a dramatic difference between winning and losing.
It's outside of F1 2010's core racing experience that the game begins to show signs of weakness. The game's Career mode is padded by some alarmingly flat "culture" sections, in which you'll attend press conferences and answer questions. Sadly, while the presentation is good, the reality is surprisingly limited. There are so few options available at these conferences that the whole thing quickly becomes tiring and repetitive. It's a huge come-down from the excitement of racing. The worst part about it is that it's a cool idea; formula one stars live a priveledged life and it would be cool to explore that in an RPG-esque diversion. But, despite the good intentions of the developer, the execution's just not there in F1 2010. It's something we hope is built on for the inevitable follow-up - who wouldn't want to hit on Nicole Scherzinger? - but right now it's an flat diversion in a stunning package.
Of course, when back on the track F1 2010's career is as deep and layered as you'd expect. Opponents (and team mates) race with real purpose and personality, making the wheel to wheel confrontations extremely satisfying.
F1 2010 is an accomplished package with a stunning race model. The weather system is industry leading (certainly until Gran Turismo 5 arrives), and the depth applied to learning the tracks and utilising race tactics make it a replayable and addictive racing experience. Slight inconsistencies in presentation, and the mis-steps taken in the career mode can lead to some fleeting sensations of frustration; but it's the sheer sensation of excitement that ultimately lift the package beyond its recent contemporaries.