It’s the day of World Driver’s Championship, whoever takes first place will be crowned the world champion, and that’s something I’d like very much. I managed to place high during the qualification lap, I’m fifth on the starting grid. The countdown started, I shook my head to clear my mind in preparation, and we were off. I managed to snatch the leading position away from Sebastian Vettel somewhat early-on. The means by which I did this may not have been particularly gentlemanly, but the officials didn’t challenge my maneuver, so I didn’t think twice about it. Once I achieved first place, I kept it and managed to keep a pretty satisfactory gap between the competition and myself. But on the final lap, I hit a turn wrong. It was a turn that hadn’t given me trouble before, and I immediately ridiculed myself for making the mistake that would likely cost me the race. I managed to get myself back into my groove and continue along the raceway, but not before my then-rival, Mark Webber, took the lead. I was able to catch up to him on a DRS (drag reduction system)-enabled straight-way, the final stretch to the finish line. It was close, there wasn’t really any telling who would manage to cross first, but in the end, it was I who was crowned world champion.
Both real-world and digital Formula 1 racing is at its best in similar scenarios, where neck-and-neck action is abound. As many followers of F1 know, the real-world races have been mostly bankrupt of this close competition as of late, with Sebastian Vettel dominating heavily in most every race he’s taken part in. Luckily, the races in F1 2013 more often than not prove to be less lopsided than their real-life counterparts.
Players new to the Formula 1 simulation scene had best start with the Young Driver’s test, which is made up of a dozen or-so challenges, paired with somewhat thorough tutorials that effectively ease you into the intricacies of racing these incredibly fast vehicles. Alternatively, if you aren’t looking for a particularly deep simulation, and would prefer to dive-in and start racing, there are a number of options (from assisted braking to more merciful traction when going around turns) that allow the experience to be tuned accordingly. If you start-out with the realism toned down a bit, though, just know that it’ll prove difficult to adjust to heightened amounts of simulation should you decide to opt-into them at a later time. As at that point, you may have grown accustom to lower setting’s hand-holding.
The game’s modes are mostly what you’d expect with a few additions. There’s the aforementioned Young Driver’s test, Time Attack and Time Trial which are exactly what they sound like, and Scenario Mode. Scenario mode puts you through, well, scenarios. It gives you objectives to complete during a race. There is also the Career mode which allows you to build a five year-long career, but he Season Challenge mode may be enticing for those with time constraints. The Season Challenge mode is very similar to Career mode, but rather than being rather long and drawn-out, is a career compressed into ten relatively short races. There’s also a Classics mode, which allows you to drive a number of cars from the eighties and nineties.
Over the course of Season Challenge mode, you’ll be asked to select anyone on the F1 roster as your rival. You will then be tasked with finishing above your rival in several races before being crowned victor in the rivalry, and ultimately be offered to take his place on whichever team he belonged to. For instance, I beat Mark Webber and was offered to join Red Bull. The regular Career mode offers no similar hook, and I was less interested in it as a result. But for those looking for an authentically long F1 season, the traditional career mode shouldn’t disappoint.
Zooming over banks and whizzing around corners feels stupendous to say the least, while the gorgeous visuals presented aid the grand sense of speed conveyed within the game. The satisfaction of making the perfect turn and over-taking one of your foes is simply hard to beat. But throughout the game, there was one resounding issues that kept me from performing at the level I felt I could.
In the game’s Challenge Season mode, you run a qualification lap before each race. The speed at which you run this lap informs your position on the starting grid. This is all fine and dandy, but during the qualification lap, you’ll see the ghost of another racer running through the lap at what seems like an incredibly exaggerated pace. Not only is it disheartening to see the ghost zoom past you at a straightaway where you feel you’re going as fast as you possibly can, but it’s awfully distracting. Rather than focusing on the curves in the raceway, my eye would automatically track my ghoulish opponent. This interference is intensified if the qualification lap takes place in the rain, because the ghost’s back wheels will kick-up droplets of water. This impairs your vision, and further hinders your performance. While they can be disabled when running time-trials and the like, there’s no way to turn off these raceway-phantoms during qualification laps, and I never managed to start a race at pole position as a result. Thankfully, as everything works great mechanically, that’s the only glaring issue.
Though it doesn’t navigate through every hairpin turn with perfection, F1 2013 still manages to cross the finish line with an impressive lead on its competition. With gorgeous visuals and exciting racing action, it’s a wholly enjoyable and supremely satisfying Formula One experience. There’s always the chance that some hardcore players will feel more at home with something more focused on strict simulation, but this is a marvelously high-octane experience for F1 newcomers and veterans alike.
Version Reviewed: PC