As we head into the final half of the Formula 1 calendar, Codemasters brings us the 2016 instalment of one of the best racing franchises in gaming. While F1 2015 scratched an itch for F1 fans it didn’t come without its shortcomings and felt like a shadow of its former self. Well I can safely say that Codemasters have made up for last years game and dare I say it give us the best representation of F1 to date. There is quite a bit to talk about so lets jump straight in to the review, if however you want the quick version just jump straight to the bottom.
The biggest criticism of F1 2015 was the lack of a career mode in single player and if you played the previous iterations you will know how much of a blow that was. This year though it is a true return to form and so much more, that will make you want to take the time to compete for F1 glory. Unlike Championship Mode, the Career mode has a great level of depth to stop it becoming stale. After you select your virtual avatar and race helmet you will granted with your manager in the new VIP area, which changes throughout the course of the race weekend. You will find most of your information in the laptop. In the HUB tab you have details on how you are doing against your rivalry, yes they are back, so you will always have a challenge throughout your racing career. As you race you will also see where you are on a scale of the teams expectations you sit. There are also tutorial videos to watch, while you don’t need to watch them all, you should watch the first few as this concerns a fun way of getting Resource Points.
Resource Points is what you need to accumulate in order to upgrade your car throughout your season. This has been implemented perfectly and gives it that gaming element without truly sacrificing the reality of F1, in fact it makes playing the Career Mode even more fun. I have been that use to skipping the full weekend last year, but this year you have something called the Practice program, where there are a few different options. The tutorial videos will explain them in detail, but in short these are challenges that you can chose to partake and the result is not only Resource Points but could also help your driving skills. The Track Accumulation Program will help you not only learn the track layout, but it is designed to teach you the breaking areas and staying on the racing line. When you start the program you have an object score, recommended tyre, number of laps and the total Resource points. In order to achieve success you have to pass through markers as well as chaining them together for maximum score. You can’t cant just cruise this as you need to make sure you are hitting the ideal speed etc.
Another program is Tyre Management which I am thoroughly enjoying where you have a set number of laps to complete while managing the tyre wear at the same time keeping a race pace. The aim here is to keep to the purple end of the scale and stay out the red and it isn’t always as easy as it looks, especially if you are not that knowledgable of the track. There is also the qualifying pace as well as things in the team objectives to put your skills to. I like the fact that there are these challenges included over the course of a full race weekend, but at the same time giving you the clear choice to attempt them or not. However these are not the only way to gain resource points as you can get them for having a penalty free sessions etc. to the number of laps completed in a session.
When it comes time to spend those Resource Points you will be presented with the R&D section in your laptop, from here you can select what to upgrade from a number of categories. These range from engine power, fuel efficiency to downforce and drag. There is a description for each upgrade which will tell you what part of the car gains the performance increase. For those new the the genre you will be able to see how much performance advantage you will have over the other teams if any. The parts won’t be installed till the the next race so you won’t be able to take advantage straight away and it seems you can only choose one upgrade per race weekend. Other things you will come across in the Career Mode is not only rivalry but also the ability to change contracts etc. You can even sign a contract with a new team season. Not to forget there are also various other team and personal goals to achieve. I can safely say you will not be disappointed with the Career Mode in F1 2016.
When it comes to actual racing there are plenty of new and exciting additions really showcasing what makes this the ultimate F1 experience in the franchise so far. When you start a race weekend you will be granted with the new option of tyre allocation which can be crucial dependent on track especially if you are playing it in multiplayer. You can either select from a pre determined allocation or you can manually select what tyres you take for the weekend. The one thing I personally wanted in an F1 game pretty much since Codemasters started doing them is the formation lap. Finally it has happened and it pretty much works the way I imagined it to. In single player if you overtake or get a penalty the AI takes over, or in multiplayer you just sit at the starting grid. The whole point of the formation lap is getting heat into those tyres and brakes and when you factor in the new manual starts you see how important it is. Manual starts are easy to get the hang of if you have some of the other assists on like traction control. When it comes to the pros it will provide a nice challenge with all assists off especially in the wet. Another new addition is almost complete control of entering the pits, I say almost as you don’t get to manually control stopping at the team, it is just up to the break point. On some track this is really fun as it is easy to hammer it around the last corner in Italy and be over the speed limit entering the pits.
When it comes to the car setup there have been a few new additional options, like the ride hight etc. given you even more fine tuning options. When out on track you have a slightly different HUD display compared to 2015 and you can adjust the front brake bias and differential in the form of a percentage. The new layout of the HUD can take a bit of getting use to but the upside is that it gives you a lot more information on your tyre wear and boy have they really upped their game on simulation tyre wear and grip. When it comes to the team radio you still get all the usual info. New this year is the ability to change the pit stop plan with them giving you a choice throughout the race depending on car damage and tyre condition. The only hard part is you don’t always have the chance to read the alternative option while hitting those high speeds.
Car handling out on track definitely feels more refined and much more challenging in a good way. Lets face to be a true pro at F1 games you are best to use a steering wheel. I can say though that the refined controls help bridge that gap compared to using a wheel. I instantly felt the change from 2015 with the rumble feedback feeling much more realistic as well as the over all car handling being more defined than ever. Going off the track has a more realistic effect on tyre grip and the effects last longer. While driving in the wet is still an intense experience, there is a degree of control more so than in F1 2015, thanks to the overhaul in the acceleration and breaking controls. When it comes to the dynamic weather system being on the right tyre at just the right time really counts this time around. The car damage system has also seen a major overhaul and is more sensitive when on full and simulated damage. I have seen me puncture two tyres within a couple of laps by just scuffing against the wall.
You will not be short of weather forecasts or other detailed information wither you are sitting in the pit lane or out on track. I absolutely love the addition of your real-time Delta times which show exactly, and I do mean exactly, where on the track you are losing and gaining time. It also now comes up on screen when your team mate pits in multiplayer so you don’t really need to ask your mate when he is going in unless you are right behind him. When in the garage you will find the forecast not only for all parts of the qualifying but also the predicted weather for the duration of the race, and it is pretty God damn accurate. In the Career Mode you have even more information.
As you would expect the games tracks follow that of the 2016 calendar, so we see the return of Hockenheimring as well as the all new Baku street circuit. The tracks are recreated with a true to life detail which is so much better compared to last years. The Baku circuit though is absolute gold for the gaming version of F1. I have instantly fell in love with this track and is easily one of in not my new number one favourite. You have much more control over creating your own race with the ability to change the time of day for any track and also the dynamic weather and time progression.
When it comes to the graphics they are just absolutely stunning and not only do you see this in the fine details of the track, but the crowds look much more life like and the car and tyre details have never looked better. Codemasters have really found some amount of extra horse power in the new graphics engine over the previous game. The lighting engine is pretty sweet as well and it is such a strange feeling racing Singapore in the morning or at Australia in the sunset in what would normally be a day track. There is also much more customization you can do with the view points like adjusting the mirror angles, and field of view etc. When you are spectating the race the new broadcast view is a million times better than in any previous title. I also like the addition of blades of grass and specks of gravel getting stuck to your screen when you go off the track. The only slightly negative thing I have to say, and this is only nitpicking is that the formation of a race line throughout the race still isn’t as near to what it was like in F1 2012. When some of the cutscenes are playing in career mode it can get a bit choppy too. These two things can be forgiving thanks to all the new features and content.
When it comes to multiplayer this title takes the top spot hands down, as you can have a full grid of human players along with full qualifying. As if that wasn’t enough you also have the formation lap as long as the race distance is at least 25%. You can pretty much have a full blown race weekend and this is certainly a major plus for fans of the franchise. Thinking this was good enough you can set up a full championship online which makes this the number one racing game for racing leagues in my opinion. This is certainly something I will be looking into when starting the F1 2016 XLC Gaming Network league. As you would expect you can’t change cars during this, but you also can’t start a race without people. This makes it slightly difficult for people that can’t make it one night. Hopefully Codemasters can patch in an option you can use to override this. The multiplayer seems to be very stable and reliable so far but I haven’t had as much time as I want to really test things but can’t see any issues. I will update this review if I need to though.
The Good Things
- Outstanding and in depth Career Mode.
- Formation Lap, Manual Starts and Manual Pit Entry.
- Looks absolutely stunning.
- Multiplayer can now have a full grid of human players.
And The Bad
- No random mechanical failures.
- Cutscenes in the VIP area are a little choppy.
- F1 2016 really does set a new bench mark for F1 games and then some. Codemasters have well and truly redeemed themselves after F1 2015 in many ways. They have certainly listened to fan feedback and produced one of the best F1 titles to date. You can really feel the speed and the refined controls are just excellent, especially for the control pad user. Formation Lap, Manual Starts, Manual Pit Entry, and a full grid in multiplayer are just a snap shot of what this game has to offer. I highly recommend F1 2016 to not only F1 fans but also to fans that love the racing genre in general.
This is seriously the best version of F1 Codemasters have produced, highly recommended.