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F1 2012 Review: A Morality Tale Of Youth, Despair And Death

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According to most relevant national statistics, driving a Ford Fiesta four miles to the shops and back without killing yourself is a non-trivial task, and so it is hardly surprising that safely hurling a Formula One racing vehicle weighing less than a bag of aerated flower at 200MPH around a burning hot track in the Valencian sun is also quite diffuclt.

So it proves in F1 2012, Codemasters' latest and indisputedly best Formula One racing game for Xbox 360, PC and PS3.

And therin lies our nightmare.

To start with the basics, F1 2012 is an extremely detailed simulation of Formula One racing which features spectacularly well-rendered graphics, accurately modelled tracks and cars, and the full F1 license for every driver, team and location on the F1 tour (at least at the time the game was made. Sorry, Mercedes fans).

It also comes with new and useful tutorials (the 'Young Driver Test' mode), season and career championships, extensive multiplayer options (including split-screen) and a set of 'challenge' modes designed to pit you against the seven current world champions amid various stages of long-odds abandon.

The game improves on its predecessors in a number of areas. The graphics are given as much of a spit-polish as this current ageing generation of consoles can feasibly sustain, and in particular the rain-mud-splash-ness of the wet races really is very muddy indeed. The AI of your competing drivers is tightened, the engine simulation is tuned, and you'll also get to race around the brand-new track in Texas, set to feature at the end of this year's season.

But to return to the theme at the start of this review, the game is not easy.

In fact, for the inadequate and over-sensitive player, F1 2012 is basically a nightmarish lesson in hopelessness and woe.

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Yes, things started started fine. After a few practice modes with all the driving aids (of which there are many) turned on, we quickly showed our promise. As a Young Driver put through his paces by the McLaren team, we proved ourselves to be a solid and quick-witted talent. And while some would say the warning signs were there - we needed to use the miracle of Time-Travel four times (via the handy 'mulligan' replay feature) just to hit the apex of a relatively simple corner - within minutes we were whisked away by the Force India team to take our place among the F1 elite.

So far so good.

But once on the track for real, things took a dark turn for the worse. For this is a relentless and unforgiving racing game, with twitchy controls, miserably hard corners and aggressive drivers just waiting to send you home in tears, or in a box - whatever's less damaging for the sport.

As a result, in the qualifying round of our first Grand Prix we managed half a lap on a dry Melbourne Circuit in Australia before very slightly missing a troublesome apex, spinning the car and crashing out on fifty feet of gravel.

Beginners jitters? We thought so. And while we started at the back of the grid, judicious use of the KERS booster (and a terrifyingly reckless racing line) saw us jump ten places on the first straight.

Glory! Or so we thought, before diving terrified into the first sharp right-hander, smashing headfirst into the back of Mark Webber's Red Bull, crumpling the front wing and ending the Grand Prixs of at least four other drivers.

And this, more or less, was the pattern of our season.

In an inexplicably wet race around Bahrain we managed four laps before careering into a wall near the pits and breaking the bones of both our driver and several nearby spectators (probably, though not literally since the game does not feature the ability to injure innocents). In Monaco we lasted a lap before forgetting to brake at that tricky bit - you know the one - and spinning wildly out of control and into oblivion. And the less said about Singapore, the better. We're sorry. We just didn't see it.

The result by about mid-season was that we had to retire in ignominy and despair. And while F1 2012's career mode features a good amount of Football Manager-stlye emails, news reports and other contextual info, even it was not quite flexible enough to tell the true horrific tale of the worst, most reckless and intensifely criminal driver ever to afflict the sport of Formula One: myself.

I ruined F1. Me.

With all that said, it is not impossible to enjoy F1 2012 if you're not an expert driver. The aforementioned Driving Aids give even the worst drivers a chance to make it around a circuit, and on the easiest modes the AI really isn't that tough.

But like the sport itself, F1 2012 is a game crying out to be played on only the hardest level by the very best drivers. Anything else feels like cheating.

And while that makes for a very complete, engaging simulation, if you're not up to scratch it will lead to nothing except about 900 horsepowers of brain-hurting, heart-pounding, tears streaming down the sides of your crash helmet guilt, regret, agony and pain.