Review: F1 2016
After a very disappointing F1 2015 almost considered as a regression of the series, Codemasters had a lot of work to do to overcome the doubt of driving simulation fans. For F1 2016, players wanted everything that was promised and expected of the previous iteration, including a noticeable graphical leap, a more exciting career mode, realistic atmosphere and the hardcore simulation gameplay that made this series what it is today… And now that everything is right here, I should start by saying thank you Codemasters for listening.
While I realize that I just spoiled this review already, do take couple of minutes of your busy life to read the rest of this piece, while I actually attempt to share my enthusiasm for a F1 game which I haven’t played properly since the 2010 edition (the ultimate chapter in my opinion), and couldn’t stand last year F1 2015. I must admit that while I expected something bigger, I was surprised to see the improvements and almost a comeback of the series, almost to the point that I look forward to returning and start a new season (almost because I barely have the time to fully finish games these days). Admittedly, Codemasters used this episode as a revival of the franchise, based on the series solid foundation, ready to welcome fans of the genre and newcomers alike.
When talking about racing games, players quickly start to gauge the level of realism ever since the arcade-scale simulation era, a trend having the appearance of being elitist while eluding for simulation and offering a more relaxed driving experience and fun for all. And today we find all sorts of more or less successful strategies, such as Forza Motorsport 6 (or the more relaxed Forza Horizon 2), Project CARS or even DiRT Rally (which we reviewed this year). But at the peak of all these is F1 2016, as the franchise always offers all the possibilities to the player to calibrate the game to the microscopic change to better get a hang of the tracks and win the race. With F1 2016, you will have the opportunity to activate “support” aids, but to live your race like real life, you’ll have to go deep into the settings instead of trusting your AI-powered engineers. So while beginners will enjoy a simple and exciting gameplay, veteran players will find the most advanced management of a car which is both complex and gradual, in the same range that is proposed in Project CARS, albeit with the advantage to have clear explanations for each of the many available settings and options.
Team spirit is at the heart of this F1 2016. If you are thinking about a solo experience, having you hiding behind your steering wheel, then guess again. The career mode is scripted indeed, but it involves you in the complete management of your manufacturer, working on the knowledge of the staff and thus the performance of your vehicle. If you do not want your competitors to get used to you being at the back of the polls, then you are going to have spend some time to go through various tests that will be offered during the practice sessions. Enough to give a true value in these sessions that one naturally tends to overshadow, since in addition to helping in the learning curve of the game and the car’s behavior, they award you with resources points needed to activate new developments. The more time you take to achieve the objectives, the more likely you are to hold an advantage over your competitors in qualification rounds and the race itself.
In any case, the immersion in the world of Formula 1 is quite real with this game. Since F1 2016 takes advantage of the official license, with all the circuits, teams, drivers and sponsors of the championship, but also because it skillfully blends television shots and situations as the player is immersed in the driver’s seat. So you can, if you feel like it, participate in the warm-up lap and grid placement, or be an actor of your strategy by communicating with the engineer during the race. It does lack ultimately more voice interaction, replaced here by a tabbed menu that is not always practical, but you’ll gets used to it.
Racing game’s biggest problems as I’ve pointed it out in two different games this year (Valentino Rossi: The Game and Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo which I reviewed) is how a poorly calibrated artificial intelligence can ruin everything. While it’s getting better than it used to be – with drivers going kamikaze on you – you’ll still notice that the AI is not accustomed to you driving “adventurously”. The problems appears when you leave the preset optimal driving path, miss a turn, brake too early or change direction suddenly. That’s when the damage happens, and a competitor rams you to the side of the track or hits you badly, which, knowing that you are always the one who gets punished, can be annoying. And since we’re talking about accidents, a word on the damage when it comes to its visual presentation. Don’t expect to see a car pileup, a complete flip in the air or massive car smash, as it seems Codemasters‘ engine, even with the next-gen upgrades, cannot make this happen.
When it comes to control and steering, F1 2016 doesn’t revolutionize the genre and offers an sort of arcade-simulation compromise which is quite acceptable even for the purist, and a more convincing physics engine. These cars have beautiful turn radius with almost flat masses of transmissions which makes it easy to feel and use to chain turns. On dry, wet or completely wet circuit, F1 2106 can push the game to frustrating or inconsistent moments though. If a steering wheel accessory is by far the best way to master “performance” and take maximum pleasure, the joystick (Xbox One in my case) can be a bit too responsive by default, but its accuracy can easily be adjusted with the many available settings (or go further with the Xbox One Elite Controller, reviewed recently)
Thoroughly tested on Xbox One (and not on PC), F1 2016 shows a a great distinctive visual upgrade than its predecessor. The picture is much cleaner, with constant framerate and the work on the different 3D models is quite impressive. Special mention to the visual effects to portray heat on the circuit and splashing water during the rain. But we can blame some small points, as the lack of energy and life around the circuit, some grainy textures and almost no reflection effects on the body of your car in some instants.
As for content, it is equal to that of its license, not more nor less. Your typical season’s 21 circuits, 22 riders, 11 cars. Too bad we do not take advantage of the opportunity to go back in time and relive some historical moments like in Valentino Rossi: The Game. Fortunately, the different modes both online and offline give you a more than considerable gaming lifespan where twenty hours of play would not be sufficient to complete a single season.
F1 2016 was reviewed using an Xbox One physical copy of the game provided by Codemasters. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC in both digital and retail releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• A great technical achievement on consoles
• Top driving experience.
• A game that really fits to the player.
• The career mode is really exciting for once.
• The official content with its up to date rules and names.
• The AI is better but not there yet
• Crashes are still not as realistic as I want them to be
• Somewhat limited content
• Sound effects can get a bit chaotic on the mixing front