After a false start in 2009 - ably covered by stand-in Sumo Digital with its enjoyable F1 2009 for Wii - Codemasters' new Birmingham studio has finally got its first Formula One game off the grid. If you've read our review, you'll already know that it was worth the wait.
The developer's plans for the prestigious motorsport's return to the gaming scene were always very ambitious, though, and perhaps it's no surprise that some parts of the game are more successful than others. F1 2010's motto is "Be the Driver, Live the Life": Be the Driver referring to the superb on-track experience, Live the Life to Codemasters' novel idea of having you participate in media interviews and contract negotiations as you pick your way through a multi-season career.
We felt that Live the Life didn't realise its potential, so we took a recent opportunity to sit down with senior producer Paul Jeal and lead designer Stephen Hood to ask what went wrong, what went right, and what their plans are for F1 2011.
Eurogamer: F1 2010 seems quite tough. For hardcore racing gamers, that won't be a problem, but do you feel you've pitched the difficulty right for a casual F1 fan?
Stephen Hood: It depends what you mean by the difficulty, because it could mean so many different things. It could mean, for example, the AI are too aggressive, or they're too fast, or there's too big a gap in the different difficulty levels.
At the moment I would say that on some circuits they can be too quick, and it would have been nicer if we were able to wind some of the AI behaviours back for the easier difficulty levels, so they leave a bigger gap.
Paul Jeal: I think the game rewards track knowledge and consistency... Also, in Career mode, it's not just about winning, you know? We don't want you to be able to win in a Lotus or an HRT. Actually, finishing 16th for them is going to be very rewarding, it's going to get you recognised in front of the other teams, it's going to get you media recognition, it's going to do your reputation good.
Last time I played the previous Formula One game, I started in a Toro Rosso, got a podium in my first race and then won the second race, which certainly for F1 fans is not what it's about.
Eurogamer: How about balancing the driving aids? One problem we came across was the braking aid, which helps a novice player stay on the track, but actually makes it very hard to overtake because you can't brake late into corners.
Stephen Hood: Yeah, I think it's awkward to do that, because the braking aid is running under AI as well, so it's braking at the same points. I reckon... as players get into the tracks, that's the critical thing to turn off. But our goal there is to just try and keep the player on the circuit.
Paul Jeal: Driving aids is a difficult one, really, because we've played games before where driving aids do everything for you and it just nullifies the experience completely. So, for example, with traction control, we've tried to work it so it doesn't take all the play out of the back of the car. There's still that element of fun, it's just you've got a bigger window to catch it.
Stephen Hood: Each of the driving aids, we try to make them more intelligent than they have been before. The traction control, for example, if you've got that turned on and you're facing the wrong way, then it disengages itself, then it reapplies when you're facing the right way again. So you can do those mini-donuts, you can do a 180 and get back on the track. Traction control I think a lot of people will be using, so we've put a bit of love into that.