F1 2012

Polished racing and new gameplay modes ensure this F1 racer steals pole position

Arcade racers are ten a penny on consoles, but it's a very different matter when it comes to genuine driving simulations. Like flight sims, these have primarily been the preserve of the PC gamer. That said, there are a couple of notable exceptions, the most obvious of which is Codemasters' official Foruma One series. Ever since it took over the license, starting with the excellent F1 2010, the develeper has been tailoring its games for hardcore racing fans. In the process it has created a one of the most authentic feeling racing experiences ever to grace a games console.

As with its two predecessors, F1 2012's authentically twitchy controls mean that it cries out to be played with a steering wheel rather than gamepad. However, Codemasters has made it slightly more accessible for those of you stuck with the latter control scheme this time around, with slightly more stable handling (thanks to improved suspension and downforce mechanics, apparently) and the introduction of a driver's test at the start of a career mode. A tutorial in all but name, this additional adds nothing for experienced players, but will be a huge boon for newcomers and those who previously struggled to get to grips with the fracnhise's rather sensitive controls.

As you'd expect from an annual iteration of an established gaming franchise, the changes in F1 2012 are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. But they do all work to improve the experience. Even something as simple as an overhaul of the hub/menu interface during career mode has resulted in a much smoother and more intuitive game.

That said, outside of the career there are a couple of new game modes for players to enjoy this time around. The slightly more arcadey Season Challenge squeezes the season down to just ten races and makes you nominate a rival to beat in order to nab his superior car. Then there's the Champions Mode, which pits you against the six former F1 champions on the grid this year in a series of driver specific challenges (such as catching Vettel at Hockenheim and setting the fastest lap in the process).

Multiplayer has also had a bit of a boost, with the potential for up to 16 players pitting their wits against one another (an another eight computer-controlled cars) on the track. And Codemasters' superior Racenet system ensures that finding other drivers to compete against is an absolute doddle.

So there you have it. Once again Codemasters has delivered an extremely slick and polished Foruma One simulation for consoles that will absolutely delight the franchise's legions of fans. But this time the developer has takent the time to not just refine the game engine and graphics - it has also made it this lastest F1 game more inviting and enjoyable than ever for newcomers. The best really has got that little bit better.

Codemasters, Xbox 360/PS3/PC, £50 approx, On sale now