It probably sounds scarcely credible now, but there was a time when Formula One titles were gaming's hottest ticket.
Back in the halcyon days of the mid nineties when Damon Hill was being roughed up by a petulant young Michael Schumacher on a weekly basis, it was a thrilling spectacle, and the huge sales of games like Psygnosis' Formula 1 and Geoff Crammond's awesome Grand Prix 2 reflected that.
Yet despite the huge advancements in technology that followed, gamers' disinterest in the games mirrored the depressing decline in the sport. By the time of Sony's F1 swansong in 2007 most of us had had our fill.
But being put out to pasture could well have been the best thing to happen. With the various rule changes and the emergence of exciting contenders like Lewis Hamilton in recent years, there's a genuine buzz around the sport again - something of which Codemasters is perfectly placed to take advantage.
With its superb recent track record in racing games, and its ever-improving EGO engine providing an excellent foundation, there's growing optimism that it can put Formula 1 games back at gaming's top table.
Playing a near-finished build of F1 2010 this week, first impressions go some way to justifying the hype, with a visual representation of the sport that's head and shoulders above anything we've seen.
By far the most impressive aspect of the demonstration is the astonishingly realistic dynamic weather effects - an area that, up to now, developers have struggled badly to adequately simulate.
Heading out in murky conditions, we watch the whole scope of the race change as the heavens open. From a few spots on the lens, soon the camera is awash with a dancing procession of water droplets buffeted by the wind, obscuring our vision in an uncannily authentic manner.
Once the storm really starts to lash down, a palpable fear creeps into your driving. Squinting through the mass of mist and spray being kicked up in front of you, an intimate knowledge of the track layout becomes all-important as you slam into a hairpin turn.
Of course, track conditions will have a much more realistic bearing on how you perform, with the degree of grip affected by real-life variables, such as overhanging trees, bridges and wind.
Transitioning between wet and dry parts of the track, you'll immediately notice the car handling differently - especially if you're controlling the game with a swish racing wheel.
Joypad paupers needn't feel left out, though, according to Codies' rep Andy Gray: "We've been working on the balancing on the pad for the last six or seven weeks, getting that as tight as we can, so that you do feel little nuances like the feel of understeer and oversteer."
From our brief practice session in Monaco and at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi, the sense that Codemasters has nailed the overall feel you look for in an F1 game is overwhelmingly apparent.
Despite the presence of 24 cars battling it out on the track at once, the frame-rate will, we're assured, be locked at a super-smooth 30; in fact, even in its unfinished state there's an instant, responsive conviction in both the look and feel.
Whether your careering down the straights in dogged pursuit, or gingerly threading your car through a tight chicane, it marries a twitch-gaming feel with a quite beautifully detailed degree of realism that instantly distances it from the rank and file racing game.
What surprises me most is how great the game looks from each of the five camera angles. Whether locked on bumper cam, in the awesome cockpit mode or positioned just behind your ride, the sense of speed and sheer unfettered playability makes it hard to decide which is best. Usually they all do a great job of transmitting not only all the information you need, but a fantastic sense of speed.
It's an oft-overlooked area of the overall experience, but the game's roaring audio promises to add that finishing touch to an already uncannily realistic experience, with the overall 'feedback' from the sound of your car playing a crucial part in the 'feel' of the game, according to Gray.
"For example, a little bit of tyre squeal when you feel like you're understeering can actually see your car kind of drift a little bit - that's the kind of feedback that really helps," he says.
As you might expect, Codemasters has to walk a tightrope between making F1 2010 appealing to the more casually minded racing gamer while also keeping the passionate, purist 'tinkerers' happy.
For those who just want to get out there on the track and race with the minimum of fuss, you'll be well catered for, with Forza Motorsport-style colour-coded racing lines and, of course, the controversial rewind feature.
Likely to cause a few of the F1 hardcore to spray coffee over their keyboard in righteous indignation, this GRID-style ability adds a new level of accessibility to F1, allowing players quickly skip back a few seconds before they fouled up.
It might not please the purists, but it's a necessary step, argues Gray. "It can be quite frustrating if you've spent a long, long time racing, and then all of a sudden you've messed up on one corner and that's put you from, say, third down to eighth, or it's put yourself out of the race. It just gives you that ability to rewind very quickly."
Crucially, though, for the purposes of posting times to the online leaderboads, players will have to rely on raw skill alone, with rewinding not an option.
As for pre-race engine set-ups, Codemasters has taken a three-pronged approach in an attempt to cover all bases. The default setups will be ready-tuned to the specific demands of any given track, and "depending on which team you're with, you'll be able to race, and be competitive within that race," says Gray.
"Alternatively you can see the race engineer," he says. "He's got a quick car setup option, so you can say you want your car to be more aggressive, more balanced, or more adaptable, because you can change things on the fly, like your wing settings, or your engine settings.
"But if you're really into your F1, you can go in and do those little fine changes of the aero, brake balances, gear ratios, ride heights, and all those tiny settings that people always like to tinker with." Such changes, though, are likely to only gain you "10s of a second - probably 100ths," so don't get too carried away, eh?
The traditional excitable commentary system that we're used to over the past 15 years has been consigned to the past, with Codemasters adopting a driver-centric approach to everything you see, hear and do
"Everything you hear during the race is from the race engineer rather than from a commentary stance," Gray notes. "He'll be feeding you information about tyres, brakes and about your engine," with strategic updates and advice piped through your helmet over the course of a race.
In fact, over the course of a season, the race engineer will arguably be the most crucial point of contact, and someone to whom you'll need to pay close attention. With eight engines to last you an entire season, keeping an eye on your driving style will be key.
"If you're absolutely nailing your engine, it's going to wear out and start to become a bit sluggish, so you'll be getting loads of advice," says Gray. Likewise, if you're too hard on the brakes, or wearing out your tyres too quickly, you're going to get the hairdryer treatment.
Another element that will play a significant role in the game's career mode is R&D. Just like in real life, you only get to call the shots on the team's direction if you're performing better than your team-mate and picking up more points.
"Once you're in control of your team, you're able to influence the direction the R&D takes," we're told, and you'll be able to pick the individual areas that get the most attention from an R&D perspective, such are aerodynamics or downforce.
You'll also be able to stop developing your current season's car and start work early on getting the next season's model up to speed.
"If you're a low to middling team, you can choose to do that and maybe get an extra performance boost in the next season. It is completely possible over a series of seasons to take, say, Lotus over five or six years to a championship battling team."
The blessed media will also be playing a key part in the whole F1 'experience', with opportunistic types shoving microphones under your nose, as well as more formal press conferences alongside your bitter rival/beloved team-mate. You can, of course, slag off your contemporaries and generally make a nuisance of yourself, but whether it'll be wise to do so or not remains to be seen.
Just as crucial to the nuances of handling, car setup, dynamic weather and playing nicely with the media scrum will be the player AI and driving personalties - something Codemasters reckons will be very apparent in F1 2010.
"We're aiming to have the AI so it's reflective of the driver in real life, so you will have Button, who's very smooth, and Hamilton, who's quite aggressive, Vettel, who's genuinely very smooth, but perhaps not an aggressive overtaker, and hangs back a little bit more," says Gray.
"It's about having those different driver personalities in the AI, so if you see in your mirrors that Lewis Hamilton is behind you, you know he might try something that you might not expect, whereas other drivers [might] just wait for their little opportunity when you make a mistake."
But the real question, of course, is who's going to be crowned World Champion this year. "That's a bloody good question! I think it's going to be between Hamilton and Vettel. I think Alonso's struggling just to get their Ferrari working for him at the minute. Button's got that knack of just ticking away, without necessarily doing anything spectacular, he just keeps picking up points, but I'd like to see Hamilton win again."
F1 2010 will be released on the 24th September 2010 on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 and will be published by Codemasters.