The new offering from Codemasters has hit the shops – just in time to write those letters to Santa – and we’ve drafted in our regular games expert Nigel Normansell to put it through it’s paces. Here’s his verdict…

It’s another year and it’s time for another instalment of Codemasters’ F1 racing series. This is the company’s third outing with the license, but is it worth your hard earned cash?

The answer? Definitely.

Video games based on sport are cursed with the fact that as the sport doesn’t really change a great deal year on year, tasking developers to make each new instalment fresh and exciting. As an answer to this, Codemasters have added a flurry of new features and game modes to keep players racing until next year comes around.

First up is the Young Drivers Test. As a new player you are jetted off to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit to learn the basics of driving a Formula One car. Choose your team, stroll into the garage and your engineer sets you up with your first time on track. Who said becoming an F1 driver was hard? When out on track your engineer guides you through controls and where you should be hitting apexes and so on. Depending on your skill level you might sail through the Young Drivers Test but as Codemasters are aiming to make 2012 more accessible to a larger audience, it’s a great way for newcomers to swiftly learn what driving some of the fastest cars in the world is all about.

F1 2012 has a brand new slick and clean menu, with sweeping shots of incredible models of the cars in the centre of a fancy showroom that probably actually exists in Ron Dennis’ garage. From here you can fiddle with options, check your stats, start/continue your Career or try out one of the new modes new to this year, Champions Mode.

With 6 world champions on the grid this year, 2012 is a stand-out season of talent. F1 2012 gives the player the chance to become the team mate of each champion, and defeat them in challenges. Each challenge is a different scenario at the end of a long race, you have to catch and pass each champ by the end of the race in order to win.

For example, you firstly take on Kimi Raikkonen. As the game states, The Iceman is always cool under pressure (see what they did there?), so you are thrown into the final 3 laps of Spa-Francorchamps. Kimi is on a worn set of Prime tyres while you are on a fresh set of Options. Your job is to close the 5-second gap and pass him before the chequered flag, maybe even through Eau Rouge a la Kimi’s move on Schumacher this year? These challenges are a fresh new addition to the franchise and really add another level of gameplay.

Photo: Codemasters

Codemasters’ F1 games are renowned for their impressive dynamic weather systems, which has been given an overhaul for this year. Remember Silverstone last year, when the track was bone dry at on the grid and pretty much a lake halfway round? Codemasters have now included localised weather, meaning exactly that. The track won’t just be dry or wet, but can be either depending on which part of the circuit has had the rain, making strategic tyre choices more important than ever in a race.

All of the online modes are back including the Co-op Championship, which lets yourself and a partner team up and challenge each other through the season and try to get that place as number 1 driver. It’s a shame about some of the immature players you find online that think they are playing Destruction Derby, but the penalty system is back and other game modes and custom races easily solve that problem.

Less subtle tweaks like how the cars handle at high speeds, the addition of the offset T-cam and the impressively crisp sounds of the varying engines (even the game starting up is worth NOT skipping just to hear that engine fire up), all make F1 2012 a hugely improved and authentic experience for hardcore Formula 1 buffs as well as more casual gamers just looking for a new racing game.

Appealing to the masses and ticking all the boxes, Codemasters have done it again and proved why they still hold the license to make F1 games after 3 years. Now…where’s that Mercedes contract?