"Punishingly hard, but exceptionally rewarding. Welcome to the world of F1 2013."
Forget everything you know about racing games before playing Codemaster’s latest Formula 1 behemoth. F1 2013 is a vicious, frustrating, and incredibly rewarding racer that doesn’t shy away from confronting anyone who dares to hit the accelerator. This isn’t some focus-tested product designed to appeal to the casual gamer, nor is it something that can be easily played without proper training. Yes, “training.” You have to learn how to play F1 2013 before you can face other drivers. The steep learning curve may either completely turn off gamers or it may be the most welcoming experience in the genre. F1 2013 is hard, painfully hard, ruthlessly hard…but it’s as close to a Formula 1 simulator as you can get.
Talk about a challenge. After every race, my palms were drenched in sweat. To win, you need utter concentration and precision. Codemasters has a knack for crafting challenging AI opponents, but F1 2013 raises the bar to absurd heights. These guys are pros and they don’t care whether you’re a newbie. This is the Demon Souls of racing games and will destroy anybody who doesn’t bring the necessary patience and skills.
"You'll spend a good chunk of time going through trials, but every practice laps makes you a more effective driver."
Before starting, you’re asked to perform various tests to familiarize yourself with Formula’s driving fundamentals. There’s no sliding around corners here and you can forget bumping into other cars and cutting corners. Every tilt of the analog stick impacts your performance, every mistake matters, and every hiccup can be detrimental to success (especially under rainy weather conditions). Much like in Gran Turismo, you can earn medals based on performance and aiming for gold can be nearly impossible in certain tests. But much like the real-life Formula 1 racing, it’s all about shaving off split seconds and mastering each corner.
The early races in F1 2013 are more about surviving than winning. I applaud anyone who’s able to land a podium finish in early championships, especially on higher difficulty settings. But it’s not just about fighting your way through the pack, you’re also asked to select an opponent before each race in addition to trying to pass other drivers. It’s madness. It’s absolute madness.
Luckily, F1 2013 is not unfair. It’s challenging because the opponents are no pushovers like in so many other racers. They drive skillfully, but not always flawlessly. They make realistic mistakes and it’s a matter of finding windows of opportunity to squeeze through. Similarly, they will take advantage of your missteps and leave you in the dust, so things like spinning out generally mean the end. But despite its high difficulty, F1 2013 rewards patience. Memorizing track layouts and knowing exactly when to break and accelerate will make you a better driver. Progressing through the career mode feels like you’re actually becoming a professional driver, it’s exhilarating.
"F1 2013 is not for everyone, but gamers with an affinity for ruthless difficulty levels will love every minute of it."
If you’re brave enough to take on F1 2013, the game will keep you busy for a long time. The Seasonal races and career mode and incredibly deep with endurance races lasting several hours (with save breaks of course) and for Formula aficionados, the game even offers a classic mode in which you race legendary drivers from the 80’s.
In terms of visuals and sound, F1 2013 feels dated and uninspiring. While the cars look shiny and crisp, the tracks look like poorly upscaled renderings from the PS2 era. The horrible screen tearing and oftentimes poor framerate doesn't help the presentation either. It’s a shame that the core experience is so heavily impacted by poor technical shortcomings and lack of polish. The audio department doesn't make up for the shoddy visuals either. While the cars sound adequately authentic, the rest of the audio is just there. Uninteresting and monotonous voice acting, elevator music…it’s a shame that the same energy from the actual racing track hasn’t translated to the rest of the game. Even though the game disappoints from a technical standpoint, the core experience is so rich and engrossing it’s hard not to fall in love. If you feel that racing games have become too easy over the years and are yearning a true test of your skills, F1 2013 will definitely fill that void. It’s a punishing journey that takes time to appreciate, but it’s a time worth taking.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 3