Codemasters’ F1 series has to date been a very mixed bunch of games, but the F1 2016 game looks set to build on a strong basis from what F1 2015 had. Is the seventh instalment in this reborn F1 franchise any good? What new features are there which will make you want to part with the £40 price tag which comes with it? How does it compare to Codies’ other recent titles such as DiRT Rally, and how does it compare to rivals such as Assetto Corsa, which makes its console debut this year, or rFactor 2, a revered full-on simulation title?
F1 2016 Game Review
Firstly a little bit of background into how this review will be done – it will be worth bearing in mind that this will be the first F1 game played by this writer since F1 2013. The choice of driving equipment will be a Logitech G29, and the game will be played on a custom-built PC with a GTX 960 graphics card. In addition, all assists have been switched off, obviously. Online is not a mode which has been explored yet as well.
The game loaded smoothly right away, and out of curiosity a FPS test was done in the wet. Thankfully you are able to jump straight into a race if you want to, or go through all of the tutorials, which are strictly optional. Surprisingly it recorded more than 60 FPS, despite running ‘high’ graphics settings across the board. As the G29 is a supported wheel, a pre-built configuration was there, however thankfully there was a custom option, to allow for a more familiar set-up. The initial impression from the graphics is that it is simply not to par with the likes of Assetto Corsa, and to a degree even DiRT Rally.
In terms of the visuals within the races, they are by no means the best around, but they are more than sufficient. The graphics are more than good enough to be able to immerse you into the game, and it is very much possible to determine wet lines from dry lines and so on. The added effects onto the visor or camera (depending on your choice) add an extra element, and this has been refined more and more over the years. Dirt on the tyres and such is very much visible, and the HUD is arguably the best it’s been. A welcome feature is the changing of the time of day. So it provides the opportunity to race at Spa in stunning twilight conditions. The models of the drivers, team bosses and commentators are far from perfect, but you are certainly able to differentiate between Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg. Personally graphics has never been a deal-breaker when it comes to video games, but it is nice to discuss it.
In terms of sounds, they seem to be on par with the previous two instalments. However the subtleties between each of the power units appear non-existent in F1 2016, which is a bit sad.
The cars are certainly a bit more fun to drive than they were in the V8-shod games. They still feel incredibly easy to drive, even on the hardest of difficulty settings, which is somewhat disappointing. In the wet however, they really come alive, and they will still try to kill you in fifth gear. The crashes certainly feel a lot less clunky and the cars are substantially more sensitive. You are now able to completely sheer a wheel off even at low speed, and the introduction of wheel tethers provides a much-needed improvement. The first major gripe with this game is the AI. At the start of a race into the first corner, they are very aggressive, but then they decide to form a snake for the next few laps, not even attempting to make a pass on anybody. This does allow making half a dozen places up in a single corner mid-way around the first lap, which whilst convenient, is not realistic.
Well that took long… pic.twitter.com/ZS1VSCzi3R
— Craig Woollard (@Craig_O_F1) August 19, 2016
Another pair of new features is the manual start sequence and the formation lap, the former being similar to what has been implemented into F1 in real life this year. It is a much-needed introduction, and getting the start right is incredibly rewarding. The tyres feel much better as well, however flat spots are not simulated at all, and punctures seem to be very uncommon. The force feedback is as good as I have encountered anywhere, and that will be critical for wheel-users. In general, the gameplay is a massive improvement on what it was in the previous generation, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Whilst it would be a complete nightmare for the casual player using a controller, a proper simulation-style difficulty option would be much appreciated.
It is refreshing to see a number of adjustable setup options, including the new for 2016 tyre allocation as well as adjustable differential settings from within the car, weight ballast adjustments and changes to things such as front wing angle at the pit stops, where you now need to reduce your speed before the pit speed line. Tools such as these which drivers can use in real life are very welcome. Another useful feature is requesting information from your race engineer, who is called Jeff. Jeff will be able to tell you a range of things, such as your car status and what position your team mate is in. Whether what Jeff will be able to tell you will change in a patch following recent rule changes is yet to be seen.
A welcome returnee is the career mode. In F1 2016 you are able to choose your career number and customise your helmet from a small selection of choices. Unfortunately the options regarding helmets seem a bit sparse, and being able to recreate your own vision of a helmet design will likely be very challenging. There is a nice range of options regarding how realistic you want your campaign to be, ranging from just a handful of laps in a race situation all the way through to a full-on weekend of practice, qualifying and a Grand Prix distance of racing. You are able to select any one of the 11 teams as your initial destination and you are also able to select who your team mate will be.
In practice, you will be able to help the development of your machine by doing R&D tasks within practice. These tasks, which initially may appear quite tedious, actually were pleasantly fun at the first attempt. They also will crucially help with car development, so if your task is taking Manor to the front, doing these tasks will be crucial. Those with the DLC pack will be able to get a head-start on car development as well.
Other noticeable features
It is interesting that both Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen are with their current teams in F1 2016, and not the teams in which they started their seasons with. Other omissions are Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Ocon, although replacement drivers have very rarely featured in F1 games to date.
Grandstands are completely packed in all test sessions, and at every Grand Prix venue. Having a mixture of empty, partially filled and completely rammed grandstands depending on the session is something Codemasters got absolutely spot on with GRID: Autosport, but they have failed to translate that into their F1 games unfortunately. In addition on a grid prior to a wet race a lot of people are not underneath umbrellas, which just looks odd more than anything. These are little things, but very much noticeable.
The Safety Car returns and the Virtual Safety Car makes its debut as well. These features have not been tested yet as the circumstances have not arisen, but these things are very much welcome in F1 2016. Notable omissions which would be welcome would be the GP3 and GP2 categories, especially for less experienced players who will want something more simple to drive to dip their toes into. It would also be great for the career mode, especially being able to join a part of the young driver programmes with say Mercedes or Red Bull.
The penalty system, whilst still not perfect appears to be improved on from the previous iterations of the game. However there is still no option for penalties to be switched off entirely, which will cause nothing but headaches for those who run competitive leagues.
All in all this is the substantial improvement required to shake up the F1 series, and it should attract a number of those who stopped buying the games because there was just not enough improvement to justify parting with such an amount of money. Whilst not perfect, it still provides a very immersive experience and is a heck of a lot of fun.