Codemasters shows us the very meaning of haste.
Regardless of whether you worship at the shrine of Scudiera Ferrari or think F1 cars are little more than multi-million dollar go-karts, the fact remains that if you've played a Codemasters racing game, you've felt their genuine passion for automobiles. It's infectious—admirable even—and it seeps from every pore of F1 2012, their third F1 title since picking up the license in 2010. While it can be unforgiving and even draining at times, few racing sims available today can claim to have as much technical detail, or all-encompassing immersion.
The folks at Codemasters clearly believe there is something magical and beautiful about F1 racing, and right from the opening video of F1 2012, they convince you as much. It's an ode to the pageantry of the sport, and the passion of the people who compete in it. This sense of respect and awe continue to the first menu, where your car is treated to a visual display of such opulence, you would think it was a singular, special being rather than just one of many speed machines. It's a feeling driven home further by the rousing orchestral soundtrack, which is far more memorable than it needs to be, given the genre.
I know I'm emphasizing the presentation, but I think it's an important part of what F1 2012 does right. I've played simulations of all shapes and sizes over the years and while I find them interesting and challenging, they almost always fail to make me truly invest in them. But the sense of drama this game creates made me want to get better, as if something more than progression were at stake. In the same way that a great story can elevate a game with good mechanics to greatness, F1 2012's presentation doesn't simply excel at doing something—it succeeds in making you feel something.
It hooks you early with the Young Driver Test mode, which is actually a useful tutorial for F1 newcomers dressed up to immerse the player in an authentic simulation experience. As you sit in the cockpit listening to your engineer as he runs you through diagnostics (aka: button assignments), you can look around freely at the different personnel around your car. It's just for show at first, but once you start doing actual races, it doubles as the interface through which you'll change tyre compounds, tune your car, and monitor conditions on the track. Once everything is set, you watch your pit crew put on the finishing touches, and you roll out onto the track. Regardless of mode, every race starts this way, making each one feel like an event you're participating in rather than just a game you're playing.
But of course, it is a game and thankfully it's a good one. F1 is an order of magnitude beyond most other forms of racing, requiring an unparalleled level of reflexes and technical proficiency, and that translates over to an intimidating degree here. I'm a Forza and Gran Turismo vet, but my first hours with F1 2012 were downright humbling. Cars turn and bank with a precision and agility more akin to a jet fighter than an automobile, and the margin for error is needlepoint narrow. A generous set of optional driving assists, as well as a limited-use rewind feature fortunately keep it from being too punishing, and when you start nailing apexes and screaming through long, fast corners, the sense of reward is exhilarating.
That exhilaration doesn't only come from the thrill of success either, as the handsome visuals and punchy sound effects do their part as well. Each track is painstakingly recreated from its real-world counterpart, and the new dynamic weather system goes a long way toward making them feel like something that actually exists somewhere. The cars themselves are gorgeously modeled, and sound as good as they look too. The distinctive high-tech whine of an F1 engine is unmistakable, and whether it's coming from your own car or those of your competitors on the other side of a hairpin, it never fails to make hairs stand on end.
Given the quality of the experience, and the generous amount of content in the career and championship modes, it's tough to level many complaints against F1 2012 that wouldn't apply to any good sim. It's intimidating, demanding, and despite some allowances made for newcomers, it doesn't really care if you're having fun or not. But consider that more a warning than a criticism. While F1 die-hards will no doubt spot inaccuracies or missed opportunities, as a casual fan and observer of the sport, I was impressed by it. If you have even a passing interest in Formula One, or happen to be a race sim junkie looking for your next hit, F1 2012 won't steer you wrong (see what I did there!?).