Formula 1 has changed an awful lot since I was a lad. Back then it was all about the skill of the driver, and there were many, more than the car. It was about Murray Walker getting over excited over the slightest manouever and it was about the relaxing, familiar tones from Fleetwood Mac before you started watching it on the TV. But for a long time now, it has always been linked to a Codemasters release of it, and that is no different here.
My first real experience of a Formula 1 game started on the Amiga, with Microprose Grand Prix, by the legenary Geoff Crammond as is widely regarded as one of the best simulations of the sport, but Codemasters are old hats in the racing genre these days, which is handy since it is now their speciality, but they have previous here with F1 , having handled the official game for the last few years.
This is a faithful recreation of F1, but that is not to say it is perfect. From the start you are prompted to create your driver, ready for career mode, and then you are propelled to the main menu of which there are many options. You can quick race to get straight into the action, or you can choose a Grand Prix, in which you can emulate any existing driver on any current track, all of which are present and faithfully represented here. But the real substance of the game is in the career mode, which will see your rookie having to test for a team, and then push yourself on throughout the nineteen tracks in order to become the drivers champion. How realistically you doo this is down to you, and you can customise many things including the number of laps, damage, tyre wear, weather and even mechanical failure, but curiously enough, not fuel.
I remember playing the Nintendo 64 version back in the late 1990s and even they represented the amound of fuel on board. Now this can come across as picky, but I suppose it all depends on what you expect, if you are looking for something a little more simulation based you may be disappointed with this, but there is still an awful lot of customising and tinkering to be had.the game does also feature rule changes such as DRS, KERS and apparently the Safety Car, but in my experience I have yet to see it, although on the console versions it was tied to the race length.
A typical weekend can be started by just jumping into the race, which will see you set back in 24th at the tail of the grid, or you can do it the long way and participate in all the qualifying sessions. In your first season, you may want to do this if you like collecting trophies. This though serves the purpose of the career mode, and will be your regular routine on the way to the end of the season. Should you win, you are treated to no ceremony celebrating this. It’s all a little disapponting really, you would expect something with the official licence to have made a big deal about this. Winning just feels empty without it.
Visually the game is acceptable, the vehicles and tracks all do a very functional job, although the post race render of the car leaves a lot to be desired. If you have played some other Vita games, especially Uncharted or WipEout, you may feel a little let down here. The audio is also a little lacking, some of these races can go on for a while, and prolonged exposure of the game will hurt your ears as your only companions here are your race team radio with very infrequent lap communication on events, and the grunt of the engine. Perhaps it’s a little too much to ask, but I’d love a running commentary from good old Ben Edwards and David Coulthard, hell I’d even love a little nostalgia from Murray. Perhaps it’s just me, but you wouldn’t want to play FIFA with just the punts of the ball and grunts from the Manager, surely?
The game handles quite well, and feels very responsive. The slight changes you make in the tuning room do make a difference, as do the right tires for the right weather. But the right weather isn’t right, if you choose to have weather on, it rains or it doesn’t. whilst it looks ok, and you handle like you are on a pool of water, it doesn’t collect like it would. Nor does a downpour appear during a race to mess the flow of the strategies.
Also in the game are a series on ten challenges, which see you completeing various tasks, be it over taking a number of cars, speeding around corners, driving through gates or facing off against an exisiting F1 star among others, ultimately leading to a face off with Sebastian Vettel. This does mix up the game a little and will see you playing long after you have lifted the world championship.
Of course, if you get more competetive than the AI may give you, or want something a little more unpredicatable, you would look to multiplayer, and F1 won’t let you down, with online and AD-Hoc available. It’s not the best racer on the Vita by any means, but you will find some good fun here, and must be a must for any F1 fan.