With less than a month ‘til the launch of F1 2014, I had the chance this weekend to race around in a preview build of the latest F1 title from Codemasters.

Having missed out on F1 2013, it felt great to jump back in and feel like I was playing an upgraded F1 2012 – with some very noticeable changes. The first change I experienced, and enjoyed, was the Driver Evaluation Test – a revamped method of determining the skill of the player before setting them free in the racing world. It was simple enough, a one lap race around Monza which, upon completion, suggested the gameplay difficulty I should choose.

I heeded the difficulty suggestion and soon found out from a few races that perhaps the difficulty was a little low. It seems appropriate to judge skills and recommend a difficulty before letting anyone loose, but having not played an F1 game for a while I was admittedly rusty and this perhaps resulted in my “medium” difficulty suggestion. After a few hours of gameplay I was settled and maybe this is something the Driver Evaluation Test has no way of predicting. Also, it is to be expected that difficulty balancing will be fine-tuned for release.

We can’t go much further without talking about how Codemasters have expertly matched this latest title to fit in with the new regulations in Formula One. The new engine changes have distinctly altered the sound of F1 – a sound replicated in F1 2014. Admittedly, as with in real life, it takes a little time to get used to the sound of F1 2014. The hum of the new hybrids engine is aided by the inclusion of ERS, a system that allows energy to be recovered each lap to provide a massive boost to power. Replacing KERS, this new system does not require activation and operates automatically based on the throttle usage and other technical aspects of racing we won’t dive into here. I must confess that I did not really notice whether ERS was affecting my racing at all – which is stark contrast to KERS which was player activated and saw a massive boost of acceleration upon use.

Fuel management was one area that required attention, a change for me from my 2012 experiences. Not only was I having to intelligently manage my fuel mix to either save fuel or use it to be aggressive, but there was also a lot of radio chat from the race engineer about the implications of my current fuel mix and the mix of drivers around me. This emphasis is a good mirror to Formula One in real life, with no fuelling at pit stops and drivers have to smartly control their fuel usage.

All in all I found myself once more glued to a Codemasters F1 title. Without playing the career mode I can’t fully appreciate the game, and I’m still secretly hoping for a lot more than previous career modes have offered us. We can take solace in the knowledge that, so far, Codemasters have done everything right for this game – they have teased us with new tracks and drivers and stayed true to a simpler approach to gameplay, having ditched the classic content from F1 2013. The only disappointment for many has been the decision not to take F1 2014 to next-gen consoles, but other than that the future is bright for this racing series.

There was a lot for me to experience and there is a lot more to come for the release – a refined career mode, RaceNet powered multiplayer and an expanded scenario mode. F1 2014 will be available for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on the 17th of October.