The much anticipated F1 2015 has finally been revealed for release on June 12th for PS4, Xbox One and PC, and despite it coming slightly later than expected, it’s good to see everything is progressing well in development. This new iteration is the first Codemasters title for the new generation consoles (it won't be released on PS3 and Xbox 360 this time round), and with an all new graphics engine the pressure is on to hit the ground running. This step forward in power grants the opportunity for revising and building on previous versions, but for many gamers it’s also a make or break time in terms of the future direction of the franchise.
F1 2015 will feature a raft of new modes, but rather than discuss the said modes we haven’t seen, this preview will focus very much on the demo we were given access to play at the preview event. The demo put in a 2014 car on the Singapore circuit in wet weather conditions, a location which wasn’t all that convincing in previous iterations primarily due to the limited power of the consoles.
First impressions are good. Running on the PC, we see a smooth 60fps with vastly improved lighting, as the circuit lights reflect on the track surface, as do the illuminated buildings. This all looks far more realistic and provides a wonderful sense of speed, although the cockpit view could do with a spark of visual treatment in enhancing a more visceral feel. Track surface textures and water effects are also a considerable step forward, all aiding that immersion, with bumps and surface changes giving a profound effect on the newly revised handling model.
Onto the handling and this is the core area where many gamers have been anticipating changes: would the new F1 titles lean more towards arcade or simulation, everyone would ask? I’m pleased to announce they have targeted the latter, and with outstanding results. All round improvements to tyre and suspension modelling are evident: you feel the car leaning on the tyres while exiting corners, while the feeling of weight carried through the car gives ample opportunity for naturally correcting power or steering. In short, it’s all very intuitive.
To put the handling improvements in perspective, we need to look at the journey of the series so far. Over the past five years we’ve had one fundamental model which has seen various tweaks in terms of suspension and tyres to varying degrees of success. On a personal note, I enjoyed F1 2013 a great deal but in many respects F1 2014 was under-appreciated. Indeed, I stopped playing it quickly due to the wheel users being handicapped in comparison to the controller assisted players. I was also finding my tyres wearing out far sooner, and with almost uncontrollable wheel spin it all felt a bit rushed, even if the concept was there. Move onto F1 2015 and I’m happy to say all of that appears to have fixed and improved. My right foot/finger was feeling the power and traction intuitively and this year there will be parity between controllers and wheels, so we can look forward to fair races, leagues and lap times again.
The AI has also been improved: the drivers are now much faster through turn one and generally more competitive and unpredictable. It’s too early to say how dynamic they will be when defending, but certainly improvements are being made. This also tied in well with the different abilities of core attributes featured within. Driving the 2014 Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, the car handled well and featured great traction, but was limited along high speed straights which made overtaking very difficult. I later raced with the Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes which had solid all round handling, but I found improved response as the turbo kicked in giving me greater top speed. Indeed the subtlety of this wasn’t apparent until I was racing wheel to wheel with a Williams: it matched me for over half the straight, but then I had just a bit more grunt to get ahead into the braking zone. It wasn’t easy and required some timely late braking, but it's testament to the developers to see that these subtleties are in there and working.
With impressive visuals and much improved handling and audio, the package is shaping up nicely. But that’s not all. This year will feature the full selection of TV replay camera angles all backed up with commentary from David Croft and Anthony Davidson who have been reading thousands of lines for inclusion into what could be an epic and much sought after addition to the series.
A limited preview at this stage, then, but you can expect extensive coverage in the coming weeks.