I love racing games but F1 can be a bit of a tough sub-genre to get into for someone who isn't a fan to begin with.
Here on F1 2013
you can play as any team of this season and drive like one of the legends like Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel. There's also a new Classics mode that delivers nostalgia for those who are old enough to remember the 80s, or a history lesson for those who aren't.
At first look the game has a clean and simple style, but doesn't explain itself too well. There are lots of different game modes but no immediate information about any of them. Time to put the feelers out.
Firstly there's F1 Classics, which is basically 80s mode. In this mode you have access to a load of vehicles and tracks from the 80s and the entire colour palette goes a bit toward the sepia end of the scale to make it look older.
In the Classics section you can play Grand Prix, time trial, time attack or scenario mode (I'll get to these later). I found Classics as challenging as the 2013 stuff but in different ways. The cars don't hug the track like modern ones, making it harder to corner and easier to crash.
At the same time they don't go quite as fast so it's easier to stay in control. Even though it's pretty much the same thing as the 2013 modes, it's a nice extra feature that adds a bit of variety.
The Career and Multiplayer Modes aren't available in the preview but we do have Grand Prix and Proving Grounds to play with. First let's talk about Proving Grounds. In this little section there's Time Trial mode which is just a free run against a ghost version of your own laps, on any track (including the classics).
You pick your team and go drive as many laps as you want - simple. Now, Time Attack is the exact same thing except you're racing against a ghost of bronze, silver and gold preset lap times - I wonder if they're based on real lap times? Then there's Grand Prix, which is just your standard race on the team and track of your choice against lots of AI. There isn't much to be said about it in particular, it's just the most standard vanilla F1 game mode.
The Scenario mode has made a welcome return in which there are many scenarios (obviously) that each pose an unusual challenge for you to overcome. Each one of these is really just a story that masks a simple goal like "overtake everyone and finish 10 seconds ahead of the leader". As simple as it is though, it's a fun part of the game.
After a while I noticed that my car would slow down for corners even though I was sat there with the throttle on full. Eventually it started bugging me since I figured I could take these corners just as successfully at much higher speeds.
So, I found the options to turn all of the unrealistic assists off; like ?Brake Assist" - I mean really, the game is going to brake for me? There might as well be a steering assist and accelerator assist. Just drive for me, alright?
I deactivated all of that nonsense and then jumped back into a race. It was at this point I realised just how challenging the game is! It turns out it's a lot less forgiving than last year's version.
You do get used to it but it takes practice like every skill game should. I started to get used to huge amounts of debris that fills the road every time there's a crash. Then I remembered about Flashbacks and became very grateful of their return. Being able to rewind the clock by a few seconds every time I crashed enabled me to finish races almost. Yes, almost - you only get four of them per race.
When I picked teams/cars, I realised there are no stats to make any of them different from each other. This is where car tuning comes in, because no matter team you go with you can completely customise the performance of your vehicle.
It's definitely worth playing around with after a couple of races. You don't even need to buy parts like on Gran Turismo
- everything is already there and ready for you to mess about with.
My favourite part about tuning is that every slight change you make creates both a good and bad impact on the performance in different ways. This way no setup is too overpowered because it's balanced out in another way.
Larger break pads make braking stronger but add more weight. More downforce means quicker cornering but a slower top speed. You can even save loads of different tuning setups and load one at the start of a race. Brilliant!
It's hard to talk about graphics at the tail end of a console's prime time, but the visuals overall are pleasing. During races everything looks smooth and beautifully blended in together, and you can't really ask for more than that when you're rushing past said visuals at nearly 200mph.
I found loading times annoyingly long though, clocking in at what felt to me like boiling the kettle for one or two cups. That aside, there should be enough content to hook a number of driving fans who don't think they were into F1.