Sports games are a little different from other video game franchises. Giant companies like Electronic Arts and Activision pay increasingly large amounts of money to secure the rights to the names and likenesses of players and venues. The only way to make this worthwhile is to release a new iteration every year like clockwork, and that usually also means that innovation between one year and the next is limited to adding a few characters or stadiums to reflect real-world changes.

That’s not been the case with the Formula One (F1) games being released by Codemasters though. The studio had already made a name for itself in the racing genre when it released F1 2009 five years ago, and while that game did not get the best reception, each yearly release has consistently improved on the earlier versions.

With F1 2013, the developers have created the definitive version of the game, with stunning graphics, excellent audio design, improved car handling, and new modes, including our new favourite, “F1 Classics", which lets you race in cars from the 1980s and 1990s (only a few of these are available in the base game, with more available as paid downloads, or packaged into the Classic Edition of the game).

F1 2013 gives you an amazing reproduction of the cars, both in terms of visual design, and also in the way they handle on the track. This will, of course, be satisfying to the purist fans who want the most accurate representation of the sport on their video game console, but you come to realize how much F1 has changed over the years as well when you start to play the Classic tracks.

The cars are the real stars of the game, with amazing handling which is a lot easier to get used to compared to the earlier editions. This isn’t an arcade racer though—don’t expect to play this the way you would Need for Speed. The controls are a lot simpler to learn than they used to be, allowing for a fair amount of driver error, but clearly, you are expected to learn the controls.

The “Career Mode" of the game, which is the meat of it, starts with something called the “Young Driver’s Test". That part is boring, repetitive and essential; try and jump into the game without having played it or the earlier versions before, and you will spin out of control and end up last more often than not.

Visually, the previous iteration of the game was already excellent—this latest version is a minor upgrade. With next-generation consoles like the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One around the corner now, it’s safe to say that F1 2014 will feature a big jump in the graphics department.

The game also supports local multiplayer, aside from online play. Two players can play the game at the same time on the same television using split-screen, which is a feature more and more games are sadly dropping.

But most of all, it’s the inclusion of classic cars that really makes this edition of the game stand out. While Codemasters deserves kudos for a game that’s been made with skill and care, their business leads deserve praise for bringing in the famous cars and drivers of F1 Classics, which make the game a must have for any F1 fan.

F1 2013 is available for purchase, online and offline both, on the PC for 1,499, and for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at 3,299.