Most of us will never know what it feels like to sit in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car, screaming across the start/finish line towards the first corner at 300 kmph, knowing that even the minutest of miscalculations will have you helplessly careening towards the tire wall with an uncomfortably lightweight chassis the only protection from certain death. But after spending a few hours with F1 2010, you get a sense that this is how it must feel.

Some may argue that Formula 1 is a dull sport. Just fast cars following each other around a track for hours on end with very little overtaking, they say. But the fans know that there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s about fearlessly hitting the apex on a flat-out corner and getting two wheels on the grass at the exit to gain just a few fractions of a second on the car ahead of you. It’s about going for broke on a near-empty tank and worn tires to make up time while your competitors pit in for fuel. It’s about approaching a hairpin at top speed side-by-side with an opponent in a game of chicken to see who can brake later to gain the advantage.

F1 2010 has been designed to be playable by just about anyone with a passing interest in the sport, but only if you understand the importance of these little nuances of Formula 1 will you truly be able to appreciate the attention to detail that has been put into it. Past developers have all done commendable jobs with their respective F1 games, but the racing experts at Codemasters have pushed the genre just a little bit further. It isn’t quite the dramatic change from the last F1 game, Sony’s Formula 1 Championship Edition, but it’s an impressive progression nevertheless, and like any great game, the longer you play, the better it gets.

The career mode is at the center of everything F1 2010, and there’s a clear focus on putting the player in the role of an F1 driver. Formula 1 is a high-profile sport, and the drivers are constantly under media scrutiny. This has also been reflected in the game. You’re often required to answer questions from journalists regarding your race performance, whether it’s an interview in the paddocks after a disastrous result or the post-race media briefing after a podium finish. It’s a great way to expose the player to a side of an F1 driver’s job that we often overlook, but the presentation is lacking and the questions and answers are pretty boring and generic. More importantly, what you say to the media has no real effect on your career, so it’s a lot less effective than it looks.

Dealing with the media, though, is just a distraction. Once you get into the cockpit, there’s really very little to find fault with. As you would expect, this is as authentic as an F1 game can get; all 12 teams, all 24 drivers, and all 19 circuits accurately recreated and just as you remember them from TV. If you’d just like to get out there and lay rubber on tarmac, you can skip the car set-up options and let your team pick the ideal one for you. But for those who know what they’re doing, there are plenty of tabs and sliders to tinker around with to set up your car to your liking. There’s a middle ground too. Six presets for car set up are available to you during practice sessions, qualifying, and before the race, so if you don’t like the setting that’s been chosen for you, you can try out another preset without having to go through the technicalities of adjusting individual settings.

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