As a Formula 1 fan, it's easy to forget how rapidly development pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the sport. Although the engine power is continuously being cut down, the lap times stay almost the same because the car's modern aerodynamics allow drivers to take turns with much higher speed. The cars are exploiting braking energy to charge up a battery which they can use for turbo boosts, and so they run even longer than ever before on the allocated tires.
The biggest development is one that often gets overlooked. With speeds of more than 300km/h it goes without saying that accidents are prone to happen. The Danish racing driver and Formula 1 commentator, Nicolas Kiesa, has previously said that it indeed does not require much more than a stray thought like: "Did I put my toothbrush in the mug in the morning?" for it to go horribly wrong when you siting in a Formula 1 racer. Yet today we see fewer accidents with catastrophic consequences than ever before.
These were almost a regular part of the sport back in the 80s, and you know why when you try the new Classic mode in Codemasters' F1 2013. All the electronics that modern Formula 1 cars use to stay on the road were not even the subject of a science-fiction film 30 years ago. Instead the drivers were equipped with something that to a large degree reminded us of a professional soapbox car, with an engine deadset on taking them on a hellish ride.
While I was driving around the first laps in the new game, I get asked by a friendly PR person if I had expected Classic to appear in the new version, and to his surprise I say yes. For now let's just be honest and note that it is not exactly terrific inventiveness on offer this time around. Nevertheless, many Formula 1 fans, including myself, find it hard to hide the excitement of, for example, being able to force the classic Williams FW14b around the corners of Silverstone.
After talking with some of the creative forces behind the new game, it is unfortunately clear that it will not be possible to relive all the seasons from the 80s or 90s. In the same way, it will not be possible to run a race with the old cars against the new ones, even if it seems to be possible to duel on lap times with cars from different decades.
The code we are trying is not done yet and it shows. While the classic Williams racers resemble the originals in impressive fashion, they are still too controlled and calm on the track. In fact, it all seems a bit disappointing until I get my hands on a Lotus 100T, from the era when the turbo-charged engines were beginning to find their way to the sport. As in reality, the turbo takes a little more than a second to turn on, every time I come out on the long side. When the turbo first wakes up, it is like getting a kick in the groin, and subsequently being thrown into battle with a wild lion; here represented by an almost uncontrollable power. The beast screams, kicks and does not want to be tamed, which only makes the race more entertaining.
However, it is fortunately not only the new Classic mode that has stolen all the attention of the team, and the British developer promises that the rest of the package has also received lots of improvements. The sophisticated artificial intelligence, where cars will more actively fight for placement, was repeatedly stressed as a highlight. Unfortunately we are only given the opportunity to run time trials, with no other cars on the track, and therefore can not tell whether there actually is something to it.
Elsewhere the impressive Ego graphics engine that Codemasters uses for all their car racing games should have more space to flex its muscles this time, but besides a few new fancy lighting effects, it is also difficult to spot a huge difference yet.
It's clear that we only got to try an early version of F1 2013, and yet it seems as if Codemasters has been able to maintain the focus that, in my opinion, made 2012 iteration of the series best title to date. Still to add there is plenty of content, polishing, and above all the ferocity of the classic cars, but playability is already there and when combined with the great potential in Classic mode it may very well end up making Codemasters' newest game another must buy title for fans of Formula 1.