When I was asked to review F1 2016, I had mixed feelings about it, there were so many things wrong with the previous releases, and I just wanted them to get right, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable.
I’m a big Formula 1 fan.
Actually, big doesn’t really cover it. I am obsessed with F1. I literally structure my year around the 9 months an F1 season lasts.
I tell friends and family that during an F1 season, they will come second, without hesitation or guilt, if they make me choose between seeing them on Race Sunday or watching the race.
My wife calls herself an F1 Widow and my in-laws now understand that when I choose F1 over seeing them, it’s not that I don’t love them, it’s just I don’t love them as much as I love Formula 1.
Having said that, I really do not like the official Formula 1 games.
I played F1 2012 on PS 2 a few years back and enjoyed racing on the iconic tracks and being able to choose to play one of the legends on the grid. As a racing game, it was fun. Not groundbreaking, not revolutionary, just fun, like so many other racing games out there.
This is ironic because F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. The technology that goes into a modern F1 car rivals that of a fighter jet. It is the bleeding edge of technological development!
So why are the games the digital equivalent of plain yogurt?
They had a degree of racing simulation to them in that you could choose things like aerodynamic configurations and tyre camber and that kind of thing, and it did make a difference to the cars performance, but the options were very limited, and once you’d mastered the circuits, that was pretty much it, no real replay value.
Codemasters know how to make a racing game. The DiRT series are arguably the best rally sim games available, so why, WHY do they insist on doing such a half-baked job of Formula One???
With more than a few preconceptions, I loaded Formula One 2016 and resigned myself to just playing for an hour and then looking online for whatever everyone else had to say about the game and move on with my life.
So I start, and am greeted with a pretty poor rendering of Lewis Hamilton’s face, talking awkwardly with one of his race engineers, or agent, or someone we know isn’t Nico Rosberg because he is smiling.
So more of the same then…
Then I end up in some random hospitality area with a laptop and a whole ton of options, not least of which is choosing which team I would like to join and what will be expected of me. This information is delivered to me by my agent…?
All of a sudden I realise, I’m not in Kansas anymore…
You get the usual options to do training, a short race, or a proper race, but, what’s this…?
Now, I’ll get back to all the other stuff, but I just want to focus a little longer on this…
Firstly, Career Mode was dropped from the F1 franchise in F1 2015, now it’s not only back, it spans 10 seasons! In the past, Career Mode meant you took part in a full season. Now, it spans 10 seasons!
Did I mention, it spans 10 seasons?!!
The tagline is “Create your own Legend”, and now you actually can.
Many people will just opt to jump in a top team and play like that, and that’s fine, the game allows for it, but for someone like me who is passionate about the sport, you have 10 seasons to start a low level team and help develop the car to a point where its moved from the back of the grid to the mid-field, then get your agent to negotiate with a mid-field team to give you a seat based on your achievements, take that mid-field team to the sharp end of the grid and so on.
If what I’ve written above seems like the ramblings of a mad man, what it means is a heavy dose of realism which leads to a totally immersive experience.
Of all the fixes done to the franchise, my opinion is this is the biggest.
Other massive improvements for me are the introduction of the Safety Car. If you screw up and turn your $100 000 000 racing cars into a twisted pile of metal and carbon fiber, the Safety Car will be deployed, and the race effectively gets neutralized till your boo-boo gets cleared off the track.
This can see a huge lead being lost or it can give you an opportunity to get back in touch with the pack if you are way behind.
And even cars driven by the AI get it wrong.
Some may get irritated by the fact you can’t skip to the end of the Safety Car period and just get on with the racing, but let me tell you, when you have been fully focused on keeping your car on track for an hour and 20 minutes, your tyres are way overdue to be replaced and you have a growling pack of raging F1 cars behind you waiting to pounce the second the Safety Car comes in, the adrenaline starts pumping, your senses are razor sharp and the kids avoid you because one made the mistake of asking a question on lap 57…
This is what F1 racing is all about!
To make matters worse, my agent told me at the start of the race that Force India is interested in hiring me and the results of this race will make their decision for them…
There are nice refinements to the training portions where you can focus on track acclimatization, tire management, and a very cool qualifying trim option.
The Qualifying Trim option is really very cool. The development of your car is no longer an option, you have to do it. All the other teams are developing and if you don’t, you just become less and less competitive.
The developmental options are enormous, and Quali Trim is your chance to test them.
There are many many new additions to the game.
There’s the formation lap, where weaving around to get heat in your tyres and hard braking to get your brakes warm actually makes a difference when you get away from the line and throw you 600kg go-kart into the first corner at 200 miles an hour, the option to do manual starts, realistic damage that actually affects the car, all the driver aids you want (or, in the case of purists, don’t want) and a true race weekend experience, 2 Free Practice sessions of 90 (real time) minutes on Friday, 3rd Free Practice of 90 minutes and Qualifying 1,2,and 3 on Saturday and then the 90 minute race on Sunday.
All this, along with a full race calendar in all the historic locations, as well as the latest track in Azerbaijan (21 in total) make this the F1 racing experience I have been praying for.
It is fantastically immersive.
It’s a great racing game, a very thorough racing sim, and it’s a proper career simulator, which as far as I know, is a first.
They have ensured that someone like me has a real motivation to play this game over at least 10 seasons.
It’s not without its flaws though, minor as they may be.
Graphics are left feeling a little 2005, and the environments are a bit drab, but keep your car on track and you’ll hardly have time to notice. The cars a very hard to drive, but that is true of a real F1 car, so I see that as a positive, not a negative.
There is also still no split screen, which I guess I’ll just have to get used to. No racing titles lately have given that option, so I guess that’s a thing of the past.
I love this game. Thank you Codemasters for finally getting it right! Better graphics would be appreciated, but other than that, this is one of the most complete racing games I have played and certainly the best in this titles franchise.