Inquire about the best modern Formula One game on any virtual auto racing message board, and the answer is almost unanimous: F1 2013 had the most cars, the most tracks, the most amount of things to do, and most importantly, the least amount of bugs. Four hours of driving into Career Mode, I’m hooked. I live in a timezone where watching any Formula One races live is damned near impossible, but F1 2013 is doing a great job at making up for it.
After F1 2015 was every bit as bad as the initial reviews led me to believe, I picked up the Classic Edition of 2013 on Steam for the discounted price of $12, though the standard retail price is still a bargain sitting at $25. I expected something only marginally less shitty than 2014, fully aware that I would probably discard the game after a session or two, never playing it again.
Instead, I’m approaching the halfway point of my first season in Career Mode driving for perennial backmarker Toro Rosso. Fatigue is the only legitimate reason I can list as to why I’m not even further into the 2013 calendar. Allowing for a fully customizable offline campaign mode, the ten minute qualifying sessions, followed by races lasting an average of half an hour against Legend AI, it takes a fair bit out of you. For once, it’s nice to actually play and progress through a game, rather than endlessly search for mods, graphical tweaks, or like-minded users to race with in private servers. You click the icon, you drive in an F1 race, and it means something within the virtual world in which you’re participating.
Notorious for buggy launches and other goofy hiccups affecting on-track penalty logic, Codemasters has at least stabilized F1 2013 for those who continue to play it. I still recall playing co-op campaign in F1 2011 with my buddy from down the street, and restarting races upwards of five times thanks to unwarranted collision penalties due to AI drivers crashing into us. Bullshit penalties are a thing of the past, as not once but seven times I’ve made it through the first lap of a Grand Prix without requiring a restart. The only penalty I’ve been dealt all season was due my own desperation; aggressively attempting to hold off Mark Webber on extremely worn tires in Barcelona for fifth place.
Unlike F1 2014, where I noted that there was some serious sorcery going on among the AI drivers – sometimes gaining ridiculous speed or drastically falling off pace with no real explanation, the behavior of my opponents directly reflects the reports I receive from my race engineer. While tailing Nico Rosberg in Montreal, I was told the Mercedes driver had cranked up his fuel flow to a rich mixture. Within a lap or two, my lowly Toro Rosso couldn’t keep up. Frustrating as a driver, but for all the right reasons. The game wasn’t conspiring against me as it had done in F1 2014, I was simply the victim of being the second driver for a shitty team.
When it rained at Monaco during qualifying, AI drivers lap times were still tangible enough where I muscled myself into the top 10 on sheer driving skill. A sixth place finish in the race itself was not due to the AI woefully off pace in one corner allowing me to catch up, a phenomenon EmptyBox has dubbed as “that one corner syndrome”, but because I drove a near flawless race and got the setup right.
Of course, it’s not a simulator. It’s hard to take a firm stance on this, because as a hardcore sim guy, it’s almost blasphemy to say I don’t think any tweaks need to be made to the handling model in F1 2013. It’s not a simulation by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s nearly impossible to say this is somehow an arcade game. Thinking back to the glory days of rFactor in the late 2000’s, F1 2013 reminds me of some of the Formula One mods that came out and were discarded by the community as being too easy to drive, only seeing use in leagues with a handful of participants. It’s FSOne 2007, but a click or two more planted to the tarmac.
And it’s not entirely a bad thing given the audience F1 2013 is intended for, and the overall focus of the game. The simplified physics mean I don’t have to invest a solid hour of practice laps into learning the shift and braking points for each track, something that would artificially extend my playtime by several hours and drag me away from the most important part of the game: racing. Instead, I can jump right into a qualifying session at Montreal and post a lap time that puts me in the middle of the grid. I can keep up with the AI at Bahrain despite never touching the track in any Stock Car Extreme league. You can’t get away with driving like a total knob, but F1 2013 doesn’t punish you for not dedicating your life to racing sims.
Does it have its oddities? Of course. Under power, the car skates around in an extremely unnatural manner when the rear end breaks traction, but this is soon rectified once rubber builds up on the racing surface – something you’d think was reserved for the hardcore sims like rFactor or iRacing. The Force Feedback effects are also firmly stuck in the past, prior to Codemasters’ awakening with the excellent DiRT Rally. To complicate the vague force feedback sliders that require some advanced tweaking with your resident Logitech profiler to feel acceptable, V-Sync is somehow tied into the way the game sends FFB signals to your wheel. That one generated a lot of laughs on Teamspeak when we all found it.
Of course, all of these issues can be permanently rectified just by fiddling around in the options menu as any smart racer should before diving into what F1 2013 has to offer. You are never battling a different type of Force Feedback each week, nor does the framerate jump around with each update. Personally, I’d like the game to tell me somewhere to set my profiler’s wheel rotation to 300 degrees – some people might not know that about F1 cars – but there is indeed an end to working out all the little quirks left over after Codemasters moved on to next year’s title.
The biggest immersion breaking bug so far has not been on-track, but within the emails and news clippings making up some of the secondary information screens in Career Mode. I had a killer qualifying lap at Bahrain, but I’m driving for Toro Rosso, and fell back to eighth by the end of the race. Regardless, my team manager had already fired off the congratulatory email to me, and the post race recap also believed I’d stood atop the podium.
For $12, or $25 for those who weren’t around for the Codemasters discount weekend on Steam, there are significantly more positive aspects to the Classic Edition of F1 2013 than there are negatives. My experience with the title so far has primarily been with the game’s expansive Career Mode, although there are many other elements of the game I haven’t touched a whole lot yet. Three decades of classic cars and a handful of classic tracks are a throwback to when older PS2 titles offered neat little goodies for those who chased after some of the more elusive achievements, and the functionality to run a full online co-op season as teammates with your buddy is there. Several other bite-sized challenge modes give those without several hours to dedicate to a lengthy career mode something to do, and for the rather small amount of money Codemasters asks for this title, there’s certainly a lot to do.
Again, as a sim guy who physically isn’t able to stay awake and catch many Formula One races as they happen, F1 2013 is a title I shouldn’t have sank more than an hour or two into because it doesn’t meet any of my interests. Instead, I find myself really enjoying what Codemasters has offered for a solid price, and wish many of the hardcore titles we’ve got to choose from gave me this many reasons to keep playing.