Now that Codemasters have negotiated continued claim to the Formula 1 license it’s almost needless to say that F1 2012 is warming up its tyres before taking its place on the starting grid sometime in September for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
However, the follow-up to last year’s successful F1 2011, which earned itself the title of best-selling 3rd party racing game of last year, to add to the BAFTA won by it’s younger brother in 2010, is not alone. Indeed, when we spoke with creative director Stephen Hood recently, he confirmed that F1 2012 was but one of three F1 titles being readied to leave Codemasters' paddock this year.
First to the track is a free and online F1 management game creatively dubbed F1 Online: The Game, set to feature top-down racing but with a heavy focus on making the decisions before and after the race as much as those during it to allow fans to implement tactics, engineering changes, the obligatory tyre choices and much more.
Less details were forthcoming about the possible third F1-branded release this year, but it was hinted that it would be aimed at younger players, possibly positioned as a 'gateway drug' to the big and loud world of Formula 1 racing, perhaps aimed at the casual gamer audience and possibly appearing on the Wii U when it launches later this year.
Codemasters see their multi-year F1 licence as a way to aggressively grow the brand, offering varied products to several different markets in order to get their value for money, as well as raise the overall profile of their company. Clever stuff.
Returning to the main attraction however, the Noel Gallagher-soundtracked trailer we saw of F1 2012 was still in its early stages, though we were able to admire some of the solid car models and fluid frame rates that fans have come to expect.
Of course the devil is in the detail, and assets from the competing 2012 teams are yet to be implemented fully. No doubt discerning race fans will analyse each stepped-nose design and rear-spoiler advert as closely as possible, with Codemasters promising to implement the strictest quality controls.
'We know there’s more we can play on with the history, the logos, the teams, the look of the cars – we’re changing the user interface dramatically for this season', said Hood, citing EA’s experience and mastery of brand integration and user interfaces as their benchmark.
We were told of a focus on the integration of the training mode with the actual career mode, forcing you to play the young drivers test – introductory races where you are led through the racing process from start to finish, learning basics such as camera control, racing lines and presumably, how to throw a mighty strop when your teammate disobeys team orders.
There was also exciting talk of career mode being extended beyond a single title, allowing gamers to port their careers into the next game, much like many RPG fans did with Commander Shepard in subsequent Mass Effect games. In this regard, the long licence agreement Codemasters put in place with good old Bernie seems like a stroke of genius, allowing them to build a solid relationship both with the sport and its fans.