Good racing is also highly dependent on the quality of the AI cars that the offline player will be racing against. AI drivers that are too fast, too slow, or too stupid are no fun to race with. “Too fast” and “too slow” can be managed with granular enough difficulty settings, but “too stupid” can't be fixed. There's a life lesson there.
Less critical yet still important is the fidelity of the game's modeling of the rules of the racing series in question. When it comes to the pinnacle of motor sports, whether that be Nascar's Sprint Cup or Formula 1, the rules begin to have every bit as much affect on the outcome of a race (or season championship, for that matter) as the performance of the car or driver. Many a race has been lost when a driver has run afoul of a picayune rule. When it comes to finicky rules that can make or break a team's season, Formula 1 stands in the shadow of no other type of racing in the world. Subjectively enforced violations are the cause of thousands of heated debates nearly every week of the season. Similar to the question of driving physics, a too rigid modeling of the racing rules can be every bit as damaging to the fun factor of a game as a too loose enforcement policy would be.
The optimal setting for these factors is, as you would expect, very much a matter of personal preference. It is for this reason that the configuration screens of a sophisticated racing game typically offer a daunting number of configurable options. Here to there is often a predictable level of configuration control that differs by platform. Consoles tend towards fewer settings, while the more complex PC racing games allow very granular control over all facets of the game.
F1 2010 lives in a gray area between console and PC. While it was undoubtedly developed primarily for the game consoles, Codemasters has also ported it to the PC platform. As such, it should come as no surprise that it falls closer to the console style than the PC style when it comes to the balancing act required to satisfy the demands of both types of gamer. It starts at the driving physics level. The cars in the Xbox version are borderline twitchy. They can be driven smoothly if you have a light and deft touch on the controls, but you won't do too horribly even if you throw the car around with relatively large control inputs. A smooth touch will be rewarded, of course, but the game remains playable even for ham-fisted curmudgeons such as myself.
This generous forgiveness level transfers over to the PC in the form of cars that are very close to being too easy to drive, at least when the driver is using a decent controller. Note that this isn't necessarily a bad thing; if pressed to be perfectly honest, I'd probably have to admit that it's nice to be able to concentrate a little more on race strategy rather that having to devote every single synaptic firing to the task of simply keeping the car on the track. Stark realism suffers, naturally, but I suspect that at the end of the day this easier (not to be confused with “easy”) control of the car creates a more realistic simulation of what it would be like to race one of these cars if you actually were imbued with the native talents of a Sebastian Vetel or Michael Schumacher.
The AI racers are so-so. Oddly enough, even when racing them on the PC they seem twitchy, almost as if the console controller type of driving was being modeled in the AI. That's just a visual quirk and doesn't affect the racing too much. They seem to be able to adapt to events around them on the track, which is to say that there does, in fact, seem to be some real AI in the design as opposed to them simply working their way around the track on rails. On a number of occasions I have gotten inside of an AI driver going into a corner only to have him re-pass me on the exit as he responds to my attack by going to the outside of the turn. They're pretty good about not running into me, although there have been a number of times when I've been punted off the track. Those typically happen when I brake too early, or at least earlier than they expected. It's hard to get a good balance between them being too fast and too slow, however. There are only four difficulty settings to control their level of skill and the differences between each of the settings are pretty broad.
Page 2 of 3