With the close of the 2015 F1 championship with Mercedes dominating a rather lacklustre season in terms of actual racing, we take a look at the return of F1 gaming by Codemasters that was released back in the summer.
At first glance, F1 2015 is a wonderful representation of a racing game for the modern era. Graphically it is a step up from last-gen and the near-consistent 60 frames-per-second is now an absolute must-have for any racing game. The sense of speed and fluidity makes completing a 70-lap race more of a joy than a chore.
The cars look better than ever with much greater detail showing aerodynamic differences between the cars. The presentation of the game looks solid with the TV-style broadcast to introduce races, accurate TV-style replay camera modes, the Rolex-branded timing information, podium celebrations making a welcome return and all drivers being superbly recreated in-game.
Using a controller in an F1 game has never been so much fun. You can push the car, ease off and control a potential spin with relative ease. Handling has been overhauled to reflect the high-torque turbo-powered hybrids of this F1 era. That said, to master tyre management with traction control off is not an easy task and you find yourself switching that setting to full before too long. But once you do have settings you like, F1 2015 is an enjoyable game to play.
It is not a perfect game however, and is sadly far from it.
A great game is made when all the small details are taken care of and F1 2015 has so many details that have been overlooked that this product comes very much undone. Even when transitioning from one generation to the next you expect to see the same level of features that were in the previous game, but we are missing the career mode, safety car, classic cars (or bonus features of any kind), teammate comparisons or the ability to race as yourself.
One of the featured modes of F1 2015 is the Pro Season mode – a version of the standard game with all assists switched off and a forced cockpit view cam. To even classify that as a game mode should set off alarm bells that the game is a little light on content.
It doesn’t stop there.
Getting to 60fps has clearly been a challenge but it appears at the expense of some tracks looking a little bland. The tarmac of each circuit looks lifeless and on a drying track there is very little or noticeable dry racing line appearing – Grand Prix 3 had this perfectly done, when it was released over 16 years ago.
The interactive radio would be a great feature – if it worked. The game rarely understands even when spoken in a very clear English accent. In fact it works better when putting on a bad American accent. In fact it would make sense if you could use words such as “Strat 1” to give you details on car performance to add a little more realism.
Race Engineers are also far too repetitive and comment on non-relevant details – they seem obsessed with telling me about fuel in various ways (percentage and weight). More intelligence is needed here when pit strategies are altered due to variables taking place. Again, being told immediately after my pitstop that my tyres are in good condition is just annoying.
Driver AI is always a challenge to replicate, but Codemasters have taken a step back here. Backmarkers rarely get out of the way and when they do they crash into a wall jerking out of the way at the last moment, and some races required heavy use of the (unlimited) Flashback feature due to cars simply taking you out. Not cool.
Even with the gentlest of tyre management when doing a 100% race, it is normally impossible to complete the a without doing an extra tyre stop than the competition. Your engineers give you your tyre strategy (which, by the way you cannot tweak yourself at the start of the race) and you are never able to stretch the stint to the suggested lap.
Once again F1 2015 is a racing game where you start by pressing forward on the accelerator and when the lights go out you magically move forward. Why is there not some sort of clutch mechanism which you drop to time the start? It has been used on PS2 games and Geoff Crammond’s GP games had a launch control mode, so it would be a nice addition.
There are other frustrations here, and having played the game through on full distance races and near the end of a full in-game season, the game has been exhausted. Much like real-life F1 which feels lacking in this era, the game has captured that aspect very well. With all these frustrations it is impossible to award F1 2015 anywhere near a high score.
But let’s see what happens next year. Another year of development to sort out the minutiae detail and include the features we expect along with some (if not all) of the features we keep asking for, i.e. a database of results achieved, full control through the whole pit lane process, parade lap, victory lap, full podiums (including anthems) and a trophy cabinet, and Codemasters will have a killer game on its hands.