Formula 1 games have, to date, followed one of two paths. There's either the pure arcade titles, stretching all the way back to the venerable Pole Position, or the more dedicated and fiddly simulation titles that appeal to the obsessed types who want to check tyre pressure, suspension balances and engine heat while heading for a corner at 300kph.
F1 2010 attempts to merge both styles of gameplay, at least at first glance, and it pretty much succeeds in doing so. The first time you head out on the track in the game's comprehensive career mode on easy, you'll find it very simple indeed. You'll careen around the tracks in what you think is high speed, not spinning off the track, but not winning too many races, either. That's because at the easiest settings, all the driving assistance tools are automatically on, and that includes some rather punishing braking assistance. You won't spin off, but equally you won't hit top speed much of the time, making the aggressive moves that are at the heart of F1 all but impossible. At the easiest settings, F1 2010 isn't that far from Pole Position, save for the lack of exploding cars. The Flashback feature, which allows you to selectively rewind mistakes a la The Prince Of Persia games, only adds to this arcade feeling.
That's not the point of F1 2010, though, and anyone interested enough in the game to buy it will quickly want to disable at least the braking assistance so you can hoon through the corners properly, slowly dropping driving aids as your skill improves. F1 2010 isn't an easy game to speak of, but then it shouldn't be, as it attempts to offer a realistic simulation of the genuine racing experience. Early on you'll pick up plenty of cornering and crashing penalties, rub plenty of gravel into your tyres and lose lots of races along the way. Patient persistence is the name of the game, and by the time you've put in plenty of laps you'll start to understand racing lines, braking set-ups and race layouts with intimate levels of detail. Then it'll start raining on the track, and you'll have to learn it all again.
F1 2010 breaks the racing action between straight Grand Prix mode, which is exactly what you'd think it is, and the Career mode, where you set up a driver, join a team and race through a number of F1 seasons in the hunt for championship glory. There's some interesting steps here to engage you in practice and qualifying modes, as you're set specific targets to meet. Hit them, and your team research will enable car upgrades that make subsequent races easier. It's a nice inducement to put even more time on the track.
Career mode does add some storyline elements to the F1 experience, and they're easily the weakest part of the whole package. You'll intermittently be interviewed by the racing press and asked to answer some very stock questions with some incredibly clichéd responses. It's a weak part of what is otherwise a great package that relies mostly on the tension between flying down the straights and cornering as late as possible while fending off an increasingly aggressive pack of professional drivers.
Nobody buying an F1 game isn't a fan of the concept, so it feels redundant to say that this is a game that will appeal mostly to F1 fans. The difference with F1 2010 to many recent F1 games is that F1 2010 has a broad scope of appeal. Those who just want high speed thrills can jump into Grand Prix modes and botch about to their heart's content with glee, although we'd strongly advise at least disabling braking assistance to start with. Those who want more detail and precision in their racing lines are catered for with career mode offering increasing levels of technical detail.