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The nuances of Formula One racing are mostly imperceptible to the layman. It's all angular momentum and downforces; a system of geometry, physics, and engineering in which minute adjustments have outsized effects. As a result, a game like F1 2013—the latest of Codemasters’ annual racing series, brought to Mac by Feral Interactive—tends to require technical precision and strict execution.
F1 2013’s controls are delicate, subtle, and responsive, leading to daring passes and disastrous spinouts in equal measure. Career Mode plops rookie drivers at the beginning of a standard 19-race season, setting them up with both a team and the potential for a more lucrative contract if they perform well enough. This is obviously the centerpiece of F1 2013, and it's where the game's rigid demands are most keenly felt. At best, an ill-taken hairpin turn may add half a second to your time; at worst, you'll earn a blown tire or a 10-second penalty for cutting corners. A perfectly driven curve is highly satisfying in the moment, but these imperfections add up: it's possible to race well—but not perfectly—and still not meet your team's goals at the end of a 22-lap race. Given the effort and time it takes, ho-hum results are frustrating.
It doesn't help that F1 2013's tutorial is a slog, despite not covering enough of Formula One's subtleties and quirks. Good luck sussing out the intricacies of qualifying, or how to best take off after the green flag. Fortunately, Codemasters has packed in a few features to make F1 2013 somewhat more approachable and inviting for newcomers. Opponent A.I. and driver assistance mechanics—including automatic braking and track overlay with optimal course and speed information—are fully customizable, and the Flashback system makes a welcome return: you can effectively "rewind" a race several seconds in order to undo a crash or penalty.
Mid-race saves are a particularly considerate addition to the F1 series: standard races last dozens of laps and can take up to half an hour to complete, following at least another half-hour of qualifying procedures. Other game modes, such as Grand Prix (a customizable 10-race series) and Scenario Mode (a series of specific, in-race challenges) thankfully offer shorter, three-lap races and benefit as a result: these modes are more compact and less punitive, and they cut away a lot of the pre-rendered cut-scenes and filler that make Career Mode so unenergetic. Scenario Mode in particular is punchy and digestible.
Despite the promise of cross-platform online features with the PC version (released five months prior), F1 2013's multiplayer lobbies were almost always empty in our testing. However, one of the game's more pleasant surprises is local split-screen multiplayer action. Having a friend to race against certainly doesn't make the game any easier, especially if you're both relatively new to it, but misery loves company.
The bottom line. Navigating the tension between laser-cut simulation and players' desire to have fun and succeed is an unenviable task, but F1 2013 comes closer than ever to succeeding. For those willing to practice, F1 2013 is technically impressive and robust.
(Editor's Note: We initially tested F1 2013 with OS X 10.9.1 installed, which was the listed minimum and recommended version on Feral's website and launch materials, and experienced occasional mid-race crashes. Feral has updated the minimum spec to 10.9.2 on Steam—as it offers significant performance boosts for video cards—and says that it is updating all storefronts with that information. We played a considerable amount more of the game after updating to 10.9.2 and did not experience any additional crashing issues. While Feral says that F1 2013 is playable on OS X 10.9.1 for most players without problems, we'd recommend updating to take advantage of the performance enhancements and hopefully avoid the crashing issue we first encountered.)
Mac OS X 10.9.2, 2.4Ghz processor, 4GB RAM, 512MB VRAM; AMD 4xxx series, Nvidia 6xx series, Intel HD4000 series (8GB RAM required) or better
Pinpoint controls give cars great handling. Audio and visual design creates a great sense of speed. Formula One diehards will find plenty of nods to the motorsport's history.
Learning controls and racing strategy is arduous for new players. Career Mode is time-consuming and confusing. As of now, online competition is in short supply.