Box art from F1 2010 with a driver climbing out of the car with their arms in the air in front of the Yas Hotel.
Image credit: Codemasters

What Made F1 2010 Special?

F1 22

With F1 23 being revealed 3 May, Codemasters have had plenty of hits and misses during their time holding the official Formula One licence. But did they peak at the very beginning?

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Rewind back to 2010 and life was so much simpler for the F1 fan. The roaring V8s were still singing away, Michael Schumacher and Mercedes made their returns to the sport, but most F1 fans had gone a few years without an officially licenced Formula One game.

Well, sort of. F1 2009 for the Wii and PlayStation Portable released to mixed reviews, but the majority of F1 gamers that would play on a PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 at the time hadn’t had an official game since 2006.

But it wouldn’t take long before that was righted, and F1 2010 – the first of Codemasters’ officially licenced F1 games – made a considerable impact.

F1 2010: The Gameplay

As far as the actual driving goes, F1 2010 may not have been the best but it was by no means the worst. Nowadays, the Codemasters F1 games receive plenty of criticism for their handling model’s lack of nuance and having very little room for error.

Those who play F1 2010 for the first time after getting used to more recent instalments may be left wondering how these games could even be from the same developers. The car feel heavy and requires a more of a ‘point and squirt’ style of driving. If you tried to drive on F1 22 the way F1 2010 asked you to, you would be spinning at every other corner.

There were also some minor discrepancies with the game. For example: all the cars had the same steering wheels, the online multiplayer was capped at 12 players with only one car per team, there weren’t any starting lights on the HUD or even a safety car. 

An in-game shot from F1 2010, on the starting line of Yas Marina racing as Felipe Massa.
F1 2010‘s handling model was stiff but had plenty of feel. Image credit: Codemasters

It was rather crude in many ways. For example, the rev counter on the screen never gave any indication of when was the optimal point to shift up. As a result, if the player used manual transmission and shifted up when reaching the max redline, that was considered over-revving the engine. 

Because of that, the engine graphic will often go red and the car would perhaps go down on power. If that wasn’t the worst bit about F1 2010, the AI were terrible and wouldn’t avoid a stationary car. Moreover, they were easily beaten. The average player could win every race in a Hispania at max difficulty.

For all of its downfalls though, there was just something about this game that worked. Maybe we’re looking at it through rose tinted glasses, either with a level of nostalgia or merely out of frustrations with the current games. But, the one thing that F1 2010 has done that no other title since has ever gotten close to doing is capturing the essence of what it’s like to be an F1 driver.

Immersive & Atmospheric

When you open the game for the first time, you’re immediately thrust into a press conference and are asked questions by then-pit lane reporter Holly Samos. By doing this, you tailor your experience for the career mode you may or may not end up playing. 

After that, you spawn in the paddock and that’s the main menu. There’s a press pen in front of you featuring David Croft, your teammate on the right looking at some data or being interviewed and your own personal motorhome on the left. As you play career mode, the paddock reflects which race you’re at.

Teamed with the very calming music, it evoked a sense of low energy ambience. There’s a reason why so many F1 game content creators still use the soundtrack in their videos. This also includes all of the bits of music that play during the overviews of the circuit.

Not to mention the iconic song that plays when you load up the game, Ian Brown’s F.E.A.R. The soundtrack is the right amount of goosebump-inducing to get you excited, but still calming enough to make you feel at relative ease. It’s not overstimulating like a lot of recent F1 game soundtracks.

There’s something else that stands out in a rather ironic manner. Graphically, its colours are toned down, yielding a grittier look. The colouration is rather muted and, even with brightly coloured cars like the red Ferrari and yellow Renault, it doesn’t leap out at the screen and makes it look more refined.

All of these little and almost insignificant details contribute to F1 2010 feeling worlds apart from many of its successors.

More Than Driving

Being in the paddock area, the calming music and the gritty colouration, it gives the player an assured feeling. Handling models may have improved – debatably – in the more recent instalments, but F1 2010 captured that true feeling of immersion.

The F1 games since have never replicated that. F1 2011 had the menu in the paddock again but the heavily defined colours made it feel like a completely different game. It’s safe to say that most players just want to drive the cars and that’s it, but the bells and whistles are what should set the F1 games apart from any mod on Assetto Corsa.

Driving the cars in a sim or an official F1 game may mean you are driving a Formula One car, but it takes more than that to feel like a Formula One driver.

What was your favourite memory of playing F1 2010? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

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