You can tell by the title of this post that I am impressed. I spent some time with the game last night in the career mode and running some Time Trials.
For career, I started out by picking STR-Ferrari. For my first race I was tasked with qualifying 15th and finishing the race 12th. Of course underneath the covers my primary goal is to be the race suit off of teammate Sebastien Buemi.
I really appreciate that the developers went to lengths to make the game approachable. You can pick 3-4 difficulty settings, or tweak any of the default settings to customize your gaming experience. Likewise, in the garage, you can select several quick car setups. It all makes for a quick, jump in and play experience.
I am not ashamed to say I started off on the beginner mode, with a few custom handling settings, and went with a 3-year career. I went with 20% race distance, which looks to be the shortest stint that can be selected.
The season begins in Bahrain, so that is where I started practice, playing around with the various race settings. One night with the game is hardly enough to form any final conclusions, but I was seriously impressed with how the various car setups effect on track performance. Lap times were noticeable different after making changes, and there is a readily apparent difference between tire types.
I cannot remember where I finished on the timesheets in practice, but I was in front of Buemi, so that was good enough for me. In between Practice and Qualifying I met the media, and was a team player, which my agent said was very much appreciated by the rest of the team. I jumped back into qualifying and ended up 16th, which was a little disappointing, however Buemi end up in 19th, so my first race weekend was going in my favor. Maybe next time I can make it out of Q1.
At the start of the race I decided to go with the Prime tires; I figured everyone else may start on the Options. If I could leg out a long stint until the bottom part of the race, and maintain a decent position, I could get some flying laps at the end. I think this turned out to be a poor decision.
I got off to a decent start, but spun on my first lap. Ouch. One thing I immediately noticed was that the sky was overcast; looks like rain. In the desert? It was apparent that my car was not handling the same as it did in practice and qualifying. That is a nice touch.
I recovered well enough, and managed to pass a few cars. My race engineer called my in on lap four. Things were really going in my favor as the race seemed to come to me. I found myself running in 8th when I saw a rule warning reminding me that I must use a set of the Option tires. What? I assumed that my race engineer would be smart enough to have switched out my tires when he called me in for a pit.
I asked for a pit, and started pressing all the buttons on my Dual Shock trying to find something with pit instructions. Cross Hair D-Pad did the trick. Unfortunately I selected Intermediate tires. Oops. My race was screwed because of the extra stop, and then was beyond repair because I could not select the right tire types.
So I did a restart; putted around a little bit, but finally turned off the PS3 instead of finishing out the race.
Now that I know a little bit about what is what, I will probably start a new career and select Virgin or Lotus.
I am very impressed with the ease and accessibility of the game; I am sure it is tough as nails on the hardest settings with no driving aids or assists enabled. Fun factor in spades; everything you do with the setup and tires makes a difference. The track also seems to have periods of running faster (so said my race engineer).
In that first race, after the panic of spinning, I got into a serious zone. Too bad I did not select the right tire setup. I assume that even if I managed to switch to Options during the first stop, the tires would have degraded rapidly before the end of the race, forcing me into a second stop.
So it is easy to say that I am disappointed in the pit stops; if the race engineer is going to call me in, he damn well better have things sort out. Maybe there is a race strategy setting that I missed? It looks like it was all down to the driver (and my skills with a controller) instead of the race engineer, which seems strange because I think the race engineer should call the race, with the driver having the option to overrule. Now that I know, I will be better sorted for my next race.
Color me please. F1 console action has never been so fun!
As a quick update, earlier this afternoon I gave Bahrain. This time I started on the Prime tires, was in first place after seven laps, pitted on lap eight, this time successfully putting on the Option tires, and running some decent end of race lap. I landed a podium (3rd place) and was really tickled with my progress. I probably need to step up the difficulty level a notch, but man what a fun racing experience!
Toro Rosso in third in the Constructors race after Round 1. Nice. Calvert in third in the drivers Championship. Good stuff!