The racing genre is home to many sub-genres, and many of those are accessible to most people. Take me for example; I love playing games like Forza Horizon, Mario Kart and even Dirt Rally. All three are racing games, but all three are wildly different. I veer towards the more arcade style of game, finding things like tyre differential and suspension far too complex. Dirt Rally had many of those settings open to the player when it released last year, but also had a mode that allowed gamers like me to just enjoy the driving and leave the car tinkering to the AI. Well Codemasters is back with F1 2016, and thankfully they have brought that ease of access with it, while pandering to the F1 crowd in a massive way.
Codemasters is quite the authority on F1 games, having been the main developer for the series for seven years. However, they took a lot of flack for last year’s version, the first on the current generation of systems, for it being bare bones and uninspired. Not ones to take those claims lightly, Codemasters promised that the 2016 game would be a love letter to the sport and an apology to the fans for 2015’s mediocrity. They weren’t lying.
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Multiplayer: Yes – 22 player races
I guess I need to start by saying that I know very little when it comes to the sport of F1. I know names like Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button, and I have a basic knowledge of the rules; as in I know that there are cars and they race around a track for a large number of laps. So given my knowledge of the sport and the fact that I don’t get on too well with racing sims, I wasn’t sure how I would get on with the game.
Thankfully, F1 2016 welcomes drivers of all levels. The options may be plentiful, but include fully assisted setting for players like myself, who want to leave all of the complicated stuff to the AI, and just have fun racing. That’s not to say the game has been dumbed down. If simulations are your thing, players can switch all of the assists off and experience the game at its most challenging. Along with it’s in-depth settings options, the game offers the same kind of assistance when it comes to playing. The management of the car can be completely left to the game, or the player can intervene and set the car up as they so choose. This means that all of the technical stuff that the game simulates and that fans will love, can easily be side-stepped by those not in the know; something that I really appreciated.
The main core of the game is set up just like the real thing. After creating a driver and picking a team to race for, I was welcomed to the fold by the team PR manager, who was there to offer me updates on what was expected of me and how I was performing against my rival (picked for me at the start of the game). Then along came the technical manager for the team. This guy was there to offer advice on the car, and to recommend upgrades. These upgrades are essential to my progress if I wanted to reach the top of the Driver’s Championship, and were obtained by collecting XP from the challenges in the practice round and through completing each Grand Prix.
Each weekend is comprised of three parts, and can be customized at the start in regards to how much time players want to spend on it. They can of course go for the full F1 experience, which involves a full day of practice, full qualification laps and the full Grand Prix. This, of course, will take hours to complete. But this can be reduced to a more manageable short weekend, giving a quicker experience. The practice section allows the player to go out on to the tarmac to acclimatize to the track and the conditions, as well as complete various objectives, such as setting a fast time, reducing tyre wear and fuel consumption. Completing these objectives isn’t compulsory, but does unlock XP. Once day one is over, it’s time to set a qualifying lap. This lap dictates what position players start in on race day, so the faster the better. Finally, it’s time for the Grand Prix, where the challenge to finish first is great.
So far, it’s what one would expect from an F1 game. But it’s the attention to detail that stands out here. The game adds a new layer of strategy with the addition of the safety car, on the fly fuel mix options, as well as pit crew chatter to help plan the race. While these may seem complicated (and they are), Codemasters has done a great job of the automation of these systems, allowing access for those that want it, but can be ignored for those that don’t.
The handling of the cars also lives up to expectation. The car models look and sound great, as well as handle like an F1 car would. It’s very different to your average racer, but really feels authentic. It’s also amazing how differently the car handles in different conditions, such as wet tracks and even when its raining. The Dynamic weather adds a whole new layer to the game’s difficulty, as the way the car handles in the dry is a completely different beast when in the rain, and the nuance between the two is a challenge to master. Add to this professional commentary, authentic car damage, the full 21 circuit season calendar and even the options to change the angle of the cameras and you have yourself one of the most complete racing simulation games out there. It is a little complicated for those who don’t follow F1, but with all the assistance options the game gives, even a complete F1 moron such as myself can still enjoy the game.
As well as the standard career mode, F1 offers a whole suite of modes. There’s Pro Career (just like normal career, but for the hardcore fan), Championship Season mode, where players can play their favorite F1 driver, a Quick Race option, Time Trails and of course, Multiplayer, which allows customizable quick races or full season sessions. It adds up to a package that offers much value for money.
Although F1 2016 won’t be for everyone, it is a testament to Codemasters’ love of the genre and their commitment to their fans. Taking lessons learned from previous games and applying their expertise, Codemasters has created an almost perfect simulation of the greatest racing competition on earth.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.