The full Monté
There was one thing that softened the blow of being beaten by Will - this realisation of Monaco is the best I've ever seen. The feeling of speed as you hurtle up the hill towards Casino Square is sensational. You know you can go flat out, but it's still terrifying. I felt myself holding my breath every time I squeezed the brakes at the top, willing the wheels not to lock up and send me careering into the Armco.
The reason is undoubtedly because the cars feel much less glued to the ground than in past F1 games, most likely due to the new rules on stability management systems. It makes the decent Formula One Championship Edition (the only other current-gen F1 game) seem incredibly sterile and computer-generated in comparison.
The geek in me also noticed that there's no slowdown when you exit the tunnel and look out across the harbour – something that most F1 games trip over constantly. In short, the most processor-intensive track is already running like a dream, which bodes incredibly well for the rest of the game. I wish I could show you pictures, but the approval process for pre-release screenshots means we only have Montreal images to ogle.
Above: The 2010 cars are in and looking just like their real-life counterparts. They come apart nicely too...
Live the life
So what about that fancy new presentation style? The idea is that, unlike the rather matter-of-fact emails and news approach of Formula One Championship Edition on PS3, you'll really get to experience the hustle, bustle and glamour of the greatest motorsport in the world. Imagine the trailer area of DiRT 2, but with more interaction. It's all across the game, too - from the front end menu screens populated with mechanics to the fully-rendered pit crews in every garage down the pit-lane.
It blends into gameplay nicely too. In the time trial mode I tried, you start off sat in your car, looking at the computer monitor like a driver would do. You can scroll through the selections and see sector times for the track. There's a definite feeling of 'calm before the storm'. Then, once you feel the time is right to exit the garage and hit the road, you simply move your driver's head to the right, to where your engineer is standing, and select 'leave garage'.
To be honest, we would have appreciated a simple 'leave garage' button at any point in the pits, as it took a while to realise our mechanic friend would hold the elusive 'go' command. Fortunately, the game doesn't make you sit through the out-lap. Instead, you're given a rolling start approaching the line, and your flying lap begins.
So is it realistic? According to Will, the game looks exactly like real driving. However, he seemed reluctant to say it feels like real driving. He told me that his in-game lap was only a second off Vettel's pole-time lap and smack-bam in the middle of the grid for the day's qualifying session at Silverstone. So there's clear faithfulness in terms of the cars' speed around the tracks.
I'm guessing the experience is still quite far removed from the real thing. Despite force feedback steering wheels, every racing game around feels disconnected from the road in comparison to a real car - it's just one of the limitations of the medium. But as a life-long fan of racing games, and judged in the context of other racing games, F1 2010 plays like a dream. And that's good enough for me.
Above: The colours may look like GRID, but it plays very differently and looks way more realistic in-game
13 Jul, 2010