When it comes to iterative sports titles, the year one game on a new generation of consoles is usually terrible. In the rush to get a new game on to the latest consoles, developers lop off features or break gameplay. F1 2015 from Codemasters was not an exception to the rule.
Last year’s edition was roundly panned and deservedly so. There was a dearth of modes and the AI was notably sloppy. However, the graphics were wonderful and it did feature a new control system that won some over and created loathing in others.
With a year to sort things out, Codemasters is hoping to bring some prestige back to their F1 series which they’ve produced since 2009. If you’re a fan of F1 racing, we have to admit F1 2016 brings shine and polish to the racing genre and is well worth your time.
Let’s get this out of the way from the start, if you’re not a fan of F1 racing and are looking for a casual introduction to European racing, then you should skip F1 2016.
This is a game that is not friendly to newcomers, and in our opinion, is not a game to be played with a standard controller. We put F1 2015 away pretty quickly, so we needed a refresher course on some of the controls. F1 2016 is not the most open and welcoming game, however. The few tutorials felt stiff and a little unnatural to the actual driving without providing a lot of context to some of the requested moves and buttons that are put on the screen. It took a day or so for us to really find a good groove.
We played on a PlayStation 4 with a code provided by Codemasters.
While we did test the game out with a basic DualShock 4 controller, it’s highly recommended that you pick up some kind of racing wheel. The controller worked fairly well and once figured out, the controls play nicely, but this game felt like it was built for a wheel (and maybe a couple of pedals).
Otherwise, F1 2016 provides as much nuanced and nitpicky gameplay as a racing a simulator possibly could.
Racers can get as in-depth into their cars and racing styles as they want from the handling based on which tires you’ve chosen to the acceleration based on what engine parts are in place.
That said, if you just want to race, the game is set up for that as well with a bevy of modes to choose from including time trials, quick races, and Championship Season which lets fans drive their favorite racers through a season for the title.
The biggest addition, and one that 2015 was sorely lacking, is a new career mode. Trust us, career mode is in-depth.
Players build a racer, with fairly simple looks (this isn’t NBA 2K here), pick a team and get started. There’s a surprising amount of off-track action in the game.
In between races, you can tinker with your car on your laptop in what amounts to a very nice bar. There you interact with various members of your team from technicians to PR people. It’s surprisingly immersive. Before a race or practice session, you can finalize with your car’s set up on your driver’s tablet.
On the laptop or the tablet, racers can utilize resource points that earned via racing and sessions letting you choose what kind of upgrades you want.
Within the actual racing, you can do full immersion or scale it down how you see fit. You can opt for the full weekend experience with three long practice sessions, followed up with a qualifying and 100% of a true race length race. Or scale it down to Short Weekend where the race is only 25% of a true race and the practice sessions are shorter.
For those on a time crunch, you can set up a Custom Weekend and race how you see fit. For those who want to immerse themselves in their vehicles and get a feel for how certain tracks feel, we loved the practice sessions.
They provide plenty of options from driving through a series of gates to learn your best racing line to helping racers find best way to manage their tires. Completing practice sessions goals successfully rewards resource points, which does make them pretty obligatory, something of a bummer if you just want to race.
F1 2015 was very pretty to look at last year, and 2016 is no different. Is it the best looking game out there? No. Forza on Xbox One has that pretty much locked down. Still, the TV-style presentation adds to the look and feel of the game.
That said, we noticed that there were some graphical hiccups on the PS4 and it doesn’t seem to be just us as others online had experienced similar problems. At times, the game did feel a little flat, and we were less than impressed by the announcers and some of the other career mode voice acting.
Still, these weren’t issues that were so distracting that it took us out of the game. In fact there are some nice visual flourishes like pit stop boards that waved and removed as drivers flash by. It’s a nice touch that does add to the immersive feeling of the game.
For fans of Formula One racing, this is the best, most comprehensive representation of F1 racing out there. With the addition of the jam-packed career mode, Codemasters has managed to make us forget that F1 2015 even existed. From track to laptop to paddock, F1 2016 is about as immersive a racing simulator as you’ll find.
F1 2016 is a complete turnaround and we’re excited to see how they top it next year. Outside of graphical fidelity, the big suggestion we’d have is adding a way for casual fans or the merely curious to step into the F1 world. It’s not friendly, but it is technically impressive.