The F1 racing franchise gained a lot of steam with a stellar 2011 entry that made many aware of the series. It was a top-shelf game in every regard, with impressive graphics and excellent racing action – even if it was hurt by a somewhat sterile presentation. Last year’s game refined what made the highly-polished racing experience even better with a rewind feature to make the demanding gameplay a bit more user-friendly. This 2013 installment doesn’t revolutionize things, but does improve little things here and there to make the overall package better.
The classic mode allows you to play through the ’80s era – complete with graphics that fit the time, although like with the recent WWE 2K14, the sepia-tone filter just looks weird and doesn’t quite evoke memories of watching ’80s TV. It was works a little better here since they also give you a slightly snowy picture, so it’s replicated better. There’s a big difference between the classic racing action and the modern stuff since the newer cars have technology on them that didn’t exist back then – so you have to go without the KERS and DRS assists and rely on pure skill to win.
Handling is quite a bit touchier in the older cars, so even if you do well with the other modes, classic mode requires you to retrain your brain a bit. You’ll definitely want to complete the training mode if you’re new to the series because you need to pay attention to what you’re doing at all times – this is a sim, but one that is a bit forgiving. Still, it’s not as easy to learn as the newer Forza games and does require a feathered touch to do well without assists.
The core racing action is excellent and feels like what a Forza would be with F1 racing, mixed with the PGR franchise’s incredible use of force feedback to aid in racing. There, it would alternate based on the driving surface you were on – so gravel would result in more rumble than being on a traditional road. It was a little thing, but it added a lot to the overall experience. You have that same kind of thing here, only it’s not quite as distracting as it was in that series since the rumble effect could get overbearing at times.
The controls are responsive, although using the PS3’s triggers is far less than optimal – if you’ve got a 360 or high-powered PC, you’re probably better of getting those versions unless you’ve got a trigger-style PS3 pad. Still, it’s easy enough to go exactly where you want to go, but learning the mechanics is key to navigating tough spots – like a large group of cars trying to take a turn at once. If you aren’t careful, you’ll wind up spinning out. Sure, the rewind feature can help you out, but if you don’t learn how to get out of a tricky situation, you’ll eventually run out of rewinds and be stuck having to redo the race anyway. Online play is another great test for your skills since you have no rewinds and will quickly run into trouble if you rush into it before playing enough of the single player game. It’s probably a better learning tool than the single-player stuff though, since it’s actual competition and you can pick up little tips from opponents willing to share them with you – if you can apply them in the race and manage to win, it’s incredibly rewarding.
Visually, F1 2013 doesn’t improve a ton over prior games. Character models are still a massive step down from the beautiful cars and environments – Forza Horizon suffered greatly as a result of using human characters that looked okay, but definitely seemed like slightly better PS2-level models. Here, you only see them in the grand prix mode when you’re in the garage, so they’re not an issue for very long. The on-track visuals are gorgeous with impressive reflection effects on cars and crystal-clear logos. Unlike some games that have some blockiness to on-car sponsor decals, they look perfect here. Tracks look fine as do trackside things like grass that you can interact with and send flying into the air.
There isn’t much to say about the audio outside of the sound effects, which steal the show. Engine roars are powerful and make the machines seem like absolute beasts. When you’re in a crowded pack and surrounded by other cars, you’ll want a quality surround sound system to get the most of the effect – but even with basic speakers, it’ll amaze you. Crashes sound violent, although little scrapes don’t sound as good as they do in other games – to be fair, this could just be due to the vehicles being smaller in size and not having as much surface area to hit. The voiceovers from your crew are fine, but not amazing or anything – they convey information well enough though.
F1 2013 aims to improve the wheel rather than reinvent it. Everything that was great about prior installments is great here, while the driving itself feels a bit more responsive than ever before. The graphics are also incredible despite this being a later-gen game, with only the character models as a negative point. The sound effects are some of the most immersive in racing, and this is one of the few games to actually use rumble to improve the experience for a game. If you’re new to the franchise, you’re better off saving some money and going with an older entry, but if you loved those and have a thirst for F1 racing, give F1 2013 a shot.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a digital copy of F1 2013 for the PlayStation 3 provided by Codemasters.