Went into this expecting the worst and I was pleasantly surprised.
The presentation and menus are all just stunning - Codemasters have been getting better and better at this and its just amazing here. DiRT 2 was good, this is just in another league.
Graphics are stunning too, Singapore at night just looks real and the weather effects are really nice too. Rain droplets landing and runnign down the car, the camera having droplets on it, spray, its all there. Spa in the wet was just quality - puddles everywhere reflecting things properly, great job Codies. The animations are also great, watching the team push either your car or someone else's into the pits and jack it up is just epic. Pit crew looks great too, along with the paddock and the pit garage stuff. Only issues I have are the brake glow and backfires. The brake glow looks like its out of a bad rFactor mod and the backfires just look like a blue cloud - usually timed wrong too. Small niggles though in an overall great package.
Sounds are up to the usual standard too, DiRT 2 had a VERY impressive sound engine and this is just as good. I cant really explain it well, you just have to listen to it. Only issue I have is that the outside sounds aren't that close to the real thing, but its alright.
The tracks are alright, there are some glaringly obvious issues with some tracks where the layout is just plain wrong or the inclines are wrong but they are pretty good. Some are better than others and Korea has some issues - mainly because it isn't finished, or at least wasn't when they made the game.
To go into more depth, Silverstone on the whole isn't great, after going there a few weeks ago for the LeMans Series you can easily see where Codemasters have got it wrong. Also the corners that haven't changed from the old layout which are present in the iRacing version are completely different. Spa also has some problems - I haven't been there since 2005 so I cant comment on the new bus stop/front straight but the other bits that are the same aren't that great either. Also looking at HÃ¤kkinen's onboard DTM lap from 2005 shows the tracks issues. Korea wasn't finished so they had to work from plans I'd assume. I hope that explains the inconsistent runoff areas and lack of exit curbing. Some areas are tarmac runoff and others are just a bit of grass then a wall - I doubt it would pass the FIA inspection if the runoff at the end of a 170MPH+ straight was just a bit of grass. The curbs are also very high on the inside of corners but more about that later. I haven't been to quite a few of the tracks and from watching on TV they look pretty good. Abu Dhabi looks quite nice when I compare it to onboard footage from the FIA GT race. The others vary between good and distinctly average. However they haven't done a bad job for not laser scanning - its not up there with some of Simbin's efforts, nor some rFactor modders, but its not bad.
However this next bit will make people angry
The game falls completely flat on its backside when you actually drive the cars for a while. The physics are not even believably realistic. I wasn't expecting a sim after watching some preview videos but I wasn't expecting central pivot physics either. It seems as if the physics engine was not designed in any way for these cars and has 2 minds of what it wants to do. Sometimes it'll act in a reasonably believable manner - the car will ride bumps properly and will lock the inside front into a corner realistically. It'll also go over curbs like the real F1 cars do. The rest of the time it spins up the inside wheel through corners, randomly spins and just handles nothing like a car should. Also braking to correct every slide is just completely stupid. You can go way past 90 degrees sideways and just brake and it'll sort itself out, if you use a touch of opposite lock it'll either have no effect or it'll make the car go sideways in the other direction by the same amount, all pivoting around the centre of the car. Curbs usually turn the car 90 degrees sideways until you brake to correct it. I actually managed to opposite lock it so I held the slide but it just kept going like I was in a 70's police chase until I braked. Interestingly this usually occurs when you use a curb properly, if you launch the car over it, maybe getting some air, it'll be fine on the other side of the corner, even at full throttle in 1st or 2nd gear. This became a huge issue at Barcelona where the AI was able to drive over some curbs in the last chicane but whatever I did to my driving style or the car ended with me going sideways. I also tried the 'tyre simulation' option, this basically acted like a grip switch - which was now very much in the off position. Even with brand new tyres in Q1 which were at the perfect temperature I could only manage a 1:41 at Malaysia. Turned that option off and ended up running a low 1:35 which was right on the pace of the AI. They also made a huge deal about the wet tyres overheating but 5 laps of total abuse in the dry on a hot day didn't even get them near overheating - they should have been destroyed with the way I treated them. The FFB is terrible too, its basically just a centring spring and the wheel support as a whole seemed like an afterthought - so I used my Xbox controller instead.
With that all said, the physics aren't that
bad some of the time, I just wish Codemasters had spent a little more time on them. Didn't need to be a sim but something like Race 07 with a bit more grip and decent FFB would have appealed to arcade racers, would have been drivable on the keyboard (for those who wanted) and would have kept people like myself happy.
There are a few other issues I had, such as the AI only being quick around Barcelona, Monaco and Valencia. Barcelona is being they cut the chicane and a few other corners without the curbs upsetting the car and the other two are because whatever you do they can accelerate out of the corners faster. Monaco seemed to have some interesting wall collisions too, a tiny brush either did noting or caused the car to bounce off with such a force it would have destroyed the car, but I escaped with no damage. Also on a couple of corners you can hit the wall without hitting it - I checked the replay many times and I wasn't in contact with the wall at any point, yet my front wheels and wing exploded off the car. The AI is dimwitted, they'll often block and drive straight out of the pits onto the racing line just as you approach on a qualy lap so you have a humongous accident. They are slow in the wet too, where I was occasionally struggling to beat them in qualy, a wet session saw my Lotus seconds and seconds ahead of them. I had to turn the penalties/rules onto reduced too as I was sick of holding my line and having them hit me, giving me a penalty - that and the horrifically inconsistent cutting rules which penalise you for running wide and losing time, or outbraking yourself into a chicane and cutting it by accident and don't care when I found a way to take a series of corners which gained me around a second or two a lap. Either remove them or have it ask you to give up the gained time - if you didn't gain any it ignores it. The interviews became repetitive, but because they were short they weren't of any annoyance, even when my mate pointed out the plug sockets were always the UK standards whatever country we were racing in...
Overall its had a lot of strengths, but a lot of weaknesses too. If I rate it against sims it does incredibly badly and a lot of people tried to call it a sim, including Codemasters. However if I look past that its a great arcade racer, although I'd really like them to sort some things:
1. Give us some differential settings, the constant inside wheelspin is just ridiculous as 95% of the time it does it, then next time it doesn't and you get massive oversteer.
2. Sort the cars out over curbs, some are fine, lots just instantly spin the car. Some runoff does this too which is just stupid.
3. Remove the superslowdowntarmacofdoom that's in quite a few runoff areas - worst is Abu Dhabi, up the back straight if you put a tiny bit of the tyre on or past the white line the car slows down by a lot.
4. Speed the AI cars up in the wet, not by much, but sometimes they are just TOO slow.
5. Remove/change the cutting rules to the method I explained earlier.
6. Stop the AI from cutting the track.
7. Remove the stupid randomised punctures. I had 14 punctures in 19 races. I also had quite a few after a few corners in qualy. That just doesn't happen. Also make the tyre flex the right way and disintegrate when you do have one. I did 200MPH on a flat tyre with no issues.
8. Stop the engine saying its overheating all the time. Usually happens in the wet because of the inside tyre wheelspin and the only way to stop it is to short shift which slows you down a load. I really doubt the engine will overheat a lot of a wet, cold, British day.
9. Cockpit view, please allow us to turn off the vibration/camera shake and allow us to either move the view point or adjust the FOV as it currently makes me sick after about 5 seconds.
10. Just a suggestion, but for career mode an option to randomise the schedule for the seasons after the first would really be a nice touch. Driving 19 tracks in the same order season after season is going to get dull.
Not bad by Codemasters, not quite as much fun as DiRT 2 was but the attention to detail and weather effects go some way to make up for that. Few changes and they'll have a top end arcade racer.