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How slick is F1 2010?

Codies' racer gets sent around the test track

F1 2010 has already begun to cause a bit of a stir in the gaming and racing communities thanks to early reviews applauding Codemasters' attention to detail and ability to create a truly intense racer.

But is it really worth all the hype? XBox World 360 gets behind the wheel to see what it's all about:

Mark Webber spinning through the air using the rear end of a Lotus as a launchpad! Red Bull team-mates taking each other out of the race with a reckless overtake manoeuvre!

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Massa burning out of the paddock with the refuelling nozzle and half of his pit crew still attached! Formula One is brilliant!

Except of course that these spectacular moments only occur when something's gone very, very wrong. The true brilliance of F1 is rather more subtle - and the true brilliance of F1 2010, the game, is that it recognises where the real drama lies.

"It's not Wipeout," says Paul Jeal, F1 2010's senior producer. "We don't want players burning around at a thousand miles an hour all the time. We want them to think like an F1 driver - always considering the tyre wear, the track conditions, the best places to overtake."

And in Formula One nothing's more worthy of your consideration than the heavens above. A mid-race spurt of rain can have a dramatic effect on the track performance, and F1 2010 emulates this beautifully.

A sudden downpour not only reduces visibility, but it also affects grip on the track, making previously routine corners a 200mph collision waiting to happen. But since you'll be kicking off your seven-year career with a pub team such as Hispania or Virgin Racing, the weather can also be a great equaliser.

"Adverse weather really reigns in performance difference between the cars," adds chief designer Steven Hood. "Teams such as McLaren can't fully exploit their straight line speed advantage, so this is your opportunity to climb a few places up the grid and make a name for yourself."

TWISTED VETTEL
We've spent 20 years lapping Michael Schumacher in our little digitised Minardis, but this will no longer be the case. Hop into a Lotus and it'll be a dog to drive, but the team will be sympathetic - drag a top ten position out of it and you'll be heralded a racing god by your engineer.

Bring money into your team and you can use your influence to direct the funds into your preferred area of technical research - but only if you're the team's primary driver. Hence, your first goal should be to outperform your team-mate. Your second is to schmooze with the media and turn their spin to your advantage.

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The 'Live the Life' management sim is one of its most intriguing aspects. Although you start off as an unknown raw talent, you can play a political game with the press to boost your presence, put pressure on a team mate or rival (which may lead to increased mistakes during a race), or to fan the flames for a move to a classier racing outfit. You can discuss tactics with your engineer, make last minute tweaks to fit your driving style, or have a chinwag with your agent.

It's an impressive level of immersion that makes you feel like you belong on the grid. If there isn't a code to get a Pussycat Doll girlfriend, we'll feel cheated.

If you don't fancy a two-hour long journey round, let's say, Belgium, race lengths can be shortened to a few laps, but not at the expense of the race day experience. The Advanced Track Technology system monitors and updates track conditions throughout the racing weekend as the weather takes its toll on the asphalt, and accelerates its effects during a shortened event.

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