2015 gave us the experience of a racing game lacking features and the overall experience of an F1 Gran Prix. A lot of what you’d love to see on PS4/X1 from an F1 game was spent in your own imagination. Given the “filler” package of the 2014/2015 I played a season of each in career and then gave pro season mode a try. I didn’t make it through the whole season because I felt a lot was lacking.
2016 brings a new package of entertainment in something the sport has been missing on home consoles and PC. Thankfully the result of waiting from a lackluster game in 2015 we are given something to spend hours upon hours on. My fingers cramped and hands hurt going to bed many nights wanting to play the next gran prix. So what’s different, is this a better game? As many game series move onto a new generation of consoles there is always a “filler” game and sadly we had 2 fillers in the form of 2014 on 360/PS3 and 2015 on PS4/X1. 2016 is a full game with all the features we’ve been wanting for a while in the series.
Back is the ability to create yourself in the game, to an extent. You can get as close to the face you want, create your number, your first and last name and nationality. At that point you choose the team you want to be on. Are you the racer that wants to start at the bottom and work your way up or are you joining MB Petronas from the start. I chose to play 2 seasons with 2 of the less financed teams. Verstappen is with Red Bull and Haryanto is still with Manor racing, as the game went gold before the driver change. For casual racers I would suggest starting at the Hard difficulty and once you get the hang of the settings you personally set up, move it but be weary of the new “Ultimate” difficulty setting. I found the AI to be either scared to pass, block me or very aggressive at odd moments, they seemed to snake around together in packs which took away from the experience at times.
New to career is the ability to work with your team outside of the pits. Here you’re assigned an agent and are given a cell phone and laptop to make all of your decisions. The only other person you interact with is your R&D representative. Your agent will meet you on big decisions like team offers, but will leave you a voicemail on what your team’s expectations are from everything to qualifying, to the big race and who you rival is. I really enjoyed this feature, regardless of it being a reskin of the team colors and same NPC. It’s how you navigate career menus outside of races. The new rival feature is based on where you’re winning or losing races. Your results from qualifying and races give you points. The first racer to reach the top of the points in the rival battle wins the rivalry. It’s fun but over a season you will jump back and forth between the same rivals.
Weather has evolved nicely from F1 2015, I did however wonder if I was breaking a record for having the wettest season in F1 history. In one season I had light to heavy rain in 14 of my races or qualifying. That being said, I did love how in one race I started on softs, moved to inters, then to wets and the last 5 laps of the race the track had dried up enough for me to go back to softs. I found it immersive to have my pit crew giving advice based on weather and lap times. My main gripe when dealing with weather is that the AI doesn’t react well to it. In many races, the AI drives only on the racing line and rarely makes moves on each other regardless of difficulty. I also found that the moment I was outside of the racing line the car struggled for traction. While this is similar to F1 in real life, I found the water on the track was not dynamic. Stay on the racing line with the appropriate tire and you’re fine, drive outside of it and good luck. I still look forward to a racing game that has dynamic weather on the track.
How do the new features work on F1 2016? The answer is really well, but not for 10 seasons (this is highly advertised). Codemasters has evolved their series really well aside from the two filler games, 2014 and 2015. It was always odd to be buying a game that lost features at full price while the Codemasters team made F1 2016. F1 2012 has been a lot of fans’ favorite F1 game and I don’t blame any of them, as it was the most complete F1 game until now. Almost every new feature is welcomed here. You have hours upon hours to easily fall in love with this game. I really enjoyed creating myself and racing against the rest of the grid. It does however take a bit of time to figure out your personal difficulty settings to get longevity out of the career mode. Make it too easy and you’re beating 2nd place by minutes at a time. Make it too hard and you’ll struggle in every race. My first season in my career I was outpacing my teammate every race and despite getting all the same car upgrades he struggled to ever score a point during the season. The rival system felt like a repeat between 2 racers over and over.
The safety car feature works decent from an immersive standpoint, but was a headache game play wise. The safety car queue would creep to a near standstill at times. Opponents would almost troll at times by brake checking at oddest areas of tracks. I had to replace my front spoiler countless times after learning to just stay away from an opponent ahead of me. Another added addition was AI car issues. In one race I had Kimi on my tail the whole race and then his engine blew. My car, which was on the Manor Racing team, didn’t have 1 mechanical issue the entire season. I was almost hoping something would break. Contracts do come from other teams The question is what happens when you get on the better teams after the first season? How long do you stay at the top to where the game gets boring? The teams don’t really evolve over seasons. MB, Ferrari, and Red Bull stayed at the top as did the drivers race after race. Depending at the length of your races and how many seasons you are interested in, this game has long legs to stand on. You can easily spend hundreds of hours and still have more to do. Challenge yourself in time trials or up the difficulty and push that to the limit in career mode. At the higher difficulties you’re testing yourself just as much as the AI. If you get tired of AI log into multiplayer. My experience with multiplayer was both good and bad and it’s no fault of the developers. I found my experience was based on the people I was racing against. In some races I had clean races. Others I was taken out in lap 1. The best bet here is to set up your own room with your own rules or join/create rooms with everyone in ghost mode.Or find a group of like minded people online and friend them for longer races. I had no issues with lag or online glitches.
Graphics have received a bit better frame rate from 2015, but nothing massively different. Racers in the game still have weird facial animations but they are improved. Frame rates get as close as they can to a consistent 60 FPS but there is still a bit of a hiccup at times. Screen tearing is not as prevalent as it was in 2015, but it is still present. The backgrounds at the tracks and crowds still look as if they’re missing a bit of life, but that’s not the point of racers. While the PS4 has better overall quality of image, I always state to buy the copy your friends are playing on. Sound is great as always and you get the full sound from the motor and shooting through tracks at high speeds. Hearing your team talk to you and being able to communicate back via voice recognition or buttons works really well.
The two newest additions I could do without is the clutch feature and the formation lap. While not horrible the issue with the clutch feature is how the race starts. The lights countdown and there’s this odd hesitation before the cars get moving. It’s as if the race loads in half a second prior to starting. The formation lap I turned off in my first career season after a few races. It seems to delay getting into the action and I found it incredibly boring. When you watch a live F1 race the formation lap itself is seen as an afterthought. The broadcast usually pans the track and then locks the camera on the starting line. This game could have done the same and you wouldn’t lose anything. The formation lap itself is to warm the tires up and to put you in the car while it takes place. If you turn it off your car is automatically setup.
Is this the best game of the series? I believe it is. If you’re new to F1 as a sport, this is a great place to start and acclimate yourself. For veterans of the F1 game series this is a huge leap from F1 2014 and 2015. It’s personally my favorite of the series due to the features bundled into the new game, current generation graphics and the biggest evolution of the series we’ve seen in years. While not your typical racer with everyday cars, the game has enough difficulty settings and assists to allow for a genuine F1 racing experience for veterans of the series or a newcomer to enjoy for hours upon hours.
Highly Recommended : After 2 years of “meh” with F1 on consoles Codemasters knocks it out of the park with few complaints.
Gaming since the Atari 2600 and owning about every console stateside since. AKA Mr. Amiibo and resident Nintendo fanboy.