If you are like me and commit to the annual ritual of playing Codemasters’ yearly F1 games, then last year you were more than likely disappointed. After the amazing 2012 and 2013 entries, F1 2014 felt like a skin on an aging engine with dumb AI, ugly visuals, and no model for how the new V6 turbo hybrid cars worked.
Also, getting it only on the older XBOX 360 and PlayStation instead of the two brand new systems made the game feel like an exercise in going through the motions, one last effort to milk what they could out of aging platforms rather than giving everyone the F1 game they wanted.
But this disappointing endeavor came with one glimmer of hope: “2015 will be out early next season, on the Xbox One and PS4.” So is F1 2015 the game that was an embodiment of repentance for past mistakes?
In short, yes. In a longer way, yes, it really is great, but there are still some issues. Even the diehards disappointed by the last game will be blown away by the amount of love and effort put into making this one so much better.
When you first load F1 2015, you will be greeted with a choice of 2014, or 2015. I assume this is their way of saying sorry for last year, by putting both seasons in the game. Loading into one of the seasons you will notice a few things are missing. The career mode — where you make your own racer, test at Abu Dhabi and then campaign yourself — is gone. In its place there is a Championship Season mode where you get to play as your favorite driver. A Pro Season mode where all the assists and HUD elements are turned off has also been added. This mode is only for the most hardcore racers.
Oh, and in the new pro mode, you’re forced into cockpit view. Trying that mode will make you realize just how hard these cars are to drive, in case you somehow didn’t know that Formula One cars are hard to drive. I bet a wheel and pedals would make it easier, but at the time of this writing I hadn’t had the chance to try the game with anything more than the Xbox One controller.
The new level of polish is only really apparent once you enter into a race weekend, where the new engine really comes into play. The first thing you are treated to is an intro by David Croft describing how the weekend would be going as if it were the Sky broadcast. Now, the one thing the new visuals forgot about were the faces but you let that slide once you see the cars and tracks in their updated glory. The game looks crisp, with new lighting and texture effects not seen in older versions. The graphics only become sort of odd when the game focuses on the animated versions of the drivers. Also, the spray of the champagne might be the single oddest bit of animation in the entire game.
It doesn’t quite look at good as Forza, but maybe that’ll come with polish in the next couple years of annual revisions on these new consoles. The best part of the new engine is the new handling characteristics that they built from the ground up.
The V6 cars no longer handle like the V8 cars did in previous games; they now model the torque delivery and levels of downforce that the new cars have. With the V8 cars, you could pretty much hammer around using full throttle as soon as you had gotten around the corner. But with the new torque figures that these cars have, do that and you will spin. The brakes lock easier, even if you have anti locks on. The new cars feel like they are a tad more slippery than the old cars, getting faster on the straights.
Also, the game takes wonderful advantage of the rumble triggers that the Xbox One has. Using vibrations to tell you when your tires are locking and sliding, and when you start losing the rear under hard acceleration and power sliding.
The other big improvement that I think might be worth the price of admission alone is the AI. In older games the AI seemed to be on rails, too easy to pass, and qualifying didn’t matter because you could dive-bomb most of the field on the first corner. That and the AI wouldn’t defend or try to re-overtake you as long as you stuck to the racing line. Now though, the AI is vicious, attacking when you are vulnerable or defending off line and on line. It’s such a stark difference to how it used to be, and to me it makes this the most fun of all the F1 games that Codemasters have put out.
The modeling that they did with all the different cars, making them all feel unique in top speed, handling, and faults, makes car choice a strategy. Experienced players should probably crank it up to hard, but very hard is reserved for the gods of F1 games, those with full wheel and pedal setups and fully planned out custom car setups.
I do have to say that while the game does feel like it is lacking some of the modes that we have come to expect from an F1 game, the new engine, AI and graphics have to make it worth the price of admission. That and having two seasons in the box makes it feel like there is a ton of content there. The new season and new tracks feel like this is the love letter F1 fans have been waiting for.
The two biggest issues are the audio of the cars and the lack of Career mode. The audio just sounds pretty weak. The new engines are quiet, but not this bad. Tyres do squeal a bit, but again, very quiet. Then again, these new V6 cars don’t sound great in real life either. Remember when F1 cars used to scream at you?
I have heard that the PC version has had issues, but I haven’t had the chance to play that version. Reports of crashing, audio bugs, and the like. But, I had nothing go wrong for me on the Xbox One, and have heard nothing bad about the PS4 version.
Overall, it’s something I would recommend. The latest F1 game doesn’t feel like it falls into the niche of F1 fans only anymore. Anyone who wants a good racing sim would do well to pick this up.
Top .GIF adapted via YouTube/Tiametmarduk
Patrick Hoffstetter is an Austin-based freelance writer who likes Formula One and video games, but you probably figured that out already. You can find him driving his 944, watching too many cooking shows, and trying to figure out the complexities of Metal Gear Solid.