Back in Pole Position?
After a lacklustre showing in 2015, Codemasters bring a more fully stacked Formula One game to the table in F1 2016. Promising a 10-year career mode and a bunch of other new features, does it live up to its claims?
Game: F1 2016
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review Code Provided)
Last year’s F1 game was a disappointment, I don’t think anyone would disagree with me on that one. The belated debut of the series on the new consoles was stripped of some of the key features and modes that made the series great in previous years, with the only way to complete a season was to do the races in order, and no depth to it at all. Fortunately, Codemasters have listened to feedback and crafted what I think is the best F1 game in years.
I’ll delve into the career mode in a moment, but first up let’s talk about the gameplay. Last year went a long way in improving the car handling physics, and 2016 has built on that really well. The improved front forks in the car react dynamically to everything that’s on the track, making you feel every bump and dip in the road, and the cars handle beautifully. One of the other major additions this year is the manual start. Holding down the X button and getting the revs up, then releasing X at the right moment adds a level of tension to the start that was missing in previous years, and puts the pressure on you to get your launch just right or face losing precious places in the field. If you screw up, you’ll incur the penalty of the safety car, which returns for the first time in a few years.
The biggest feature, however, has to be the revamped career mode. Obviously missing in last year’s game, the new mode takes you on a 10 year trip through the ranks in Formula 1, depending on who you start with of course. Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull will expect immediate results, whereas other teams, including the brand new Haas team, will expect a slow but assured ramp up through the pack as you make your name in the sport.
Your base of operations in career mode is the hospitality suite, with your laptop being the key navigation tool through it all. You talk to fully voice acted staff, such as your R&D engineer and agent, and they will assist you in making any decisions you want to. The mechanic is probably the more important of the two, as you will gain upgrade points throughout the season to conduct R&D into new parts to the car, including engine modifications, aerodynamic changes and more. It’s a neat system that ties into the elongated race weekends in a really cool way. In previous games, it felt like you could pretty much skip the practice session and go straight into the qualifying or even the race. This year, particularly in career, you can spend absolutely ages in each session. There are a series of objectives that you can try to hit in order to achieve upgrades more quickly, as well as teaching you some of the intricacies of the sport (such as managing your tyres, hitting corners perfectly etc). It’s possible to spread the race weekend over a few days, and really get engrossed in the tweaking and tuning of your car, as well as ensuring you’ve got the best time possible.
On top of all of this, there’s a very cool rivalry system woven into the career mode as well. If you start to make waves with another driver, your agent will contact you and let you know that the rivalry has begun. As the season progresses, you will have to beat your rival in a number of areas over a series of races in order to win the battle. Things such as the fastest sector time, qualifying position and final race position all count, and will help you nick the edge as you aim to win the championship. There is also the “pro career” mode, which ramps everything up and lets you take control of everything in the most challenging way possible.
Visually, the game is very impressive. Running at a near rock solid 60fps (I noticed a few very rare drops and a small amount of tearing), the cars and tracks look absolutely stunning, and the sense of speed is something that’s been vastly improved since the transition to the new consoles. The new street track in Baku looks beautiful, with it being as challenging as you’d expect it to be, and Hockenheim makes its return after its real life absence in 2015.
AI is challenging, particularly when ramped up to expert levels, although there are some odd moments where they’ll stick super rigidly to the racing line even though it may cause an accident. Issues from last year such as team mates bunching up have definitely been relaxed, and each race feels like more of a battle than they have done in the past. If you find the difficulty you’re comfortable with, then it’s a real challenge to find a decent place on the board.
Overall, F1 2016 has made tremendous strides to become the game that it needed to be last year. An incredibly deep career mode and a bunch of new gameplay features elevate the game to a point where I can see myself playing this long past the review period. Some shaky AI moments don’t really detract from what is the best F1 game in years.