Simulation games are some of the most cost-effective titles that a gamer can buy. They have almost infinite replay value. This is especially true with games like F1 2012, which features hours worth of entertainment in a handful of different game modes.
When you first start F1 2012, you are taken to the “Young Driver Test” — a two-day session at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit. The first day introduces you to the controls of F1 2012. Day Two consists of a series of driving tests to help you hone your skills before you move onto the other game modes.
You may be tempted to skip this section of the game. I recommend you don’t.
In the realm of simulation games, there is a broad range of realism. On the one hand, you have games such as Wii Sports that can be fun in their own right but have very little technical similarity with the games they are simulating. F1 2012 is squarely on the other end of the spectrum. Just like real F1 racing, F1 2012 requires focus, consistency, and precision. There is a bit of a learning curve because of this, and if you don’t take the time to acquire the skills in the Young Driver Test before you jump into a competitive race in the other game modes, odds are you won’t do well.
After you finish the Young Driver Test, you have a wide selection of F1 2012 game modes to choose from.
If you just have time for one race, you can do a Quick Race. This can be done either solo; against AI competitors; or multiplayer through split-screen, system link, or online.
For an even shorter jaunt on the track, you can head to the Proving Grounds to try and beat your best times in Time Trial or Time Attack modes. The Proving Grounds mode also gives you the ability to jump into pre-defined scenarios of famous F1 drivers. Your objective in these scenarios varies and could be to maintain the lead in a race or to come back from behind to finish in a better position or to win.
The longest game modes are in the Career section. Here you can do a Season Challenge or a Full Career. The Season Challenge emphasizes the concept of rivals in F1. Before your first race, you choose a rival driver. Your objective then, is to finish before your rival over the next three races. If you are able to do this, the rival team offers you a contract to join their team. Then you choose a new rival and repeat the process over a 10-race season. Before each race in the Season Challenge there is a qualifying session to determine your starting position and then the actual race session.
This process is much longer in the regular, full, Career mode. In this option, the seasons span 20 races. Each race begins with a practice session and multiple qualifying rounds to determine the starting position. After qualifying, the actual races last for 15 laps. Because of the length of these races, your pit crew will periodically call you back to refuel and get new tires before sending you back to the track to complete your objective for that race.
In all of the game modes in F1 2012, the mood is consistent. This is a serious game. Unlike other racing games, there is no music while you’re on the track. The sounds of the engine revving, your tires on the track, (hopefully) infrequent collisions, and the voices of your pit crew are the only audio you get while racing. There is no humor. There is no violence. This game is all about racing.
F1 2012 is not a casual game. Lap times and finishes are decided by thousandths of a second. A minor distraction can break your focus and cause you to mistime a hairpin turn, sending you off the track into a wall before you can recover. Too much gas when accelerating at low speeds can cause a spinout and an equally frustrating collision. Mistakes like this can cost you the race.
To dampen the difficulty of F1 2012, there are several driving assists that can be toggled to modify the experience. You can turn on racing lines, limit the racing lines to just the curves, or turn them off altogether. You can change the transmission of the cars to automatic, assisted manual, or full manual. Antilock brakes are optional, and you can even adjust the level of communication with your pit crew.
Despite these options and the “easy” game mode (which sets the AI skill level at amateur), F1 2012 is not easy by any means. This is why I encourage everyone to complete the Young Driver Test before you hit the track competitively. There is a pretty steep learning curve. For most casual gamers, this will be too much. But for hardcore F1 fans or gamers who love racing, this level of realism is probably as close as you can come to the intensity of F1 racing without being behind the wheel.
All in all, F1 2012 is an excellent game. Even after hours of play in each of the various game modes, I have never experienced any technical glitches. The graphics are stunning, and the experience is rich with intensity. Serious F1 fans will love its realism. But this realism is a double-edged sword, and the difficulty of F1 racing makes the beauty of F1 2012 inaccessible for casual gamers.
F1 2012 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: Windows PC and PS3.