The glamorous world of Formula One continues to push the limits of both technology and indeed bling. But with the real world sport currently on a bit of a cost-cutting exercise, bringing in smaller engines, less noise and a ban on testing in their goal of reducing the somewhat staggering overall costs, Codemasters have to attempt to buck the trend and bring something to the new generation consoles that has never been seen before. Something that will excite both F1 fans and most importantly…gamers!
But to do so they need to go up against some of the best, most in-depth racers the world has ever seen, leave them for dust and attempt to claim the top spot of the racing podium.
After initially deciding to throw all their eggs into the last gen basket, have they delivered something as spectacular and glamorous as the real world sport? Albeit without cutting corners too much?
In a word? No.
The 2015 season is a long one and whilst Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have been continuing their charge at the front, many others have been left floundering and F1 2015 feels like nothing more than an also-ran when pitted up against the likes of Forza and Project Cars.
Whereas the strengths of most racers lie firmly within the depths that they bring, Codemasters are always going to be on a bit of a back foot with the F1 series. Others may be able to bring huge car rosters and track variations, but F1 is quite simply stuck with trying to recreate the real world series to the best of their abilities. The cars are limited to a few teams, and the tracks to 19… and this is where the real problem lies for F1. Without being given the chance to delve deep into other formulas, F1 2015 gets real boring, real quick. Once you’ve played through each of the tracks once or twice, there is very little to keep you coming back for more.
There is no online co-op mode that was present previously, there is no classics mode giving us scenarios to play through and there is no local multiplayer. Instead, if you want to mix things up a bit, you’re left with the option to turn the rain on, or indeed switch it off again. It really is that exciting!
There is however the usual ‘Championship Season’ mode which gives you the opportunity to take on the role of a Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel or, if you really want to push your skills and patience, a Jenson Button. With three championship types available, with short, normal or long weekends all in situ should you wish to practice or qualify and five difficulty levels from the super easy right up to legendary status, F1 fans who have time to spare should be pretty happy with the chance to play through things with a reasonable amount of reality. You can also change all the usual driver assists that we have begun to see as standard on a racer, so whether you are a complete beginner or a future star in the making, Codies have got you covered.
Throughout the season, you’ll be given a single objective per race. This is decided by your pick of team and driver, ensuring that those who pick the fastest cars will be rewarded for finishing on the podium, whilst those in the lesser motors will be content with a mid table place. Whether you pass or fail this objective does however mean very little, as all we really want to to do is race fast, race hard and race to win. You can do just that in the Championship Season…thankfully.
Accompanying it is the intriguingly named Pro Season, allowing you to experience life like a real F1 star. Limited to cockpit view, racing opponents that are of Elite status and being stripped of all aids and navigation points, you’ll need to listen intently to your ever helpful engineer in order to succeed. Even then, you’re going to be struggling as even with a wealth of previous F1 experience behind me (I’ve been playing these games since the mid 90’s), I was spinning off at every corner, struggling to keep the car in a straight line and preferring to take in the full 90 minute practice session from the comfort of my garage. At first glance Pro Season looks tempting, but unless you really are Fernando Alonso then it’s going to be one hell of a struggle.
The quick race and time trial modes that frequent all racers nowadays are in place, doing exactly as they say on the tin, coming to the fore when you have just a few minutes of spare time and fancy a blast round Spa or Silverstone. The multiplayer aspect works great too; well, as great as any sparingly populated online multiplayer game can do. With a series of ‘hoppers’ available to even things out no matter what your skill level, getting a race or two is a fine art in itself and unless you have a number of friends who are willing to take to the grid alongside you, then you’ll probably be left pretty frustrated by the lack of online action…and the apparent overzealous nature of the usual multiplayer quitters.
For all its misgivings, I must however applaude Codies for getting a few things right. The visuals are a million times better than they were in F1 2014, with the cars and tracks standing out above and beyond anything they’ve previously produced. The character animations are still pretty poor though with driver faces bordering on the verge of ‘android-like’ and engineers coming across with the look of boredom even after a massive win. The audio is superb though, with each and every car sounding like it should – albeit with the now quieter muffled exhaust note being slightly disappointing.
The addition of being able to play through the 2014 season, with everyone’s mate Fernando at Ferrari and Seb Vettel driving his beloved Red Bull is also a nice touch; but for the vast majority of us, all we really want to do is play around with the most up-to-date roster. The racing itself is also pretty damn hot, and if you can find a level that tests you whilst keeping things real, then you’ll have a great time blasting round the tracks, pretending you’re a double world champion as you go.
But your dream won’t last anywhere near as long as it should, instead bringing home reality with the fact that if F1 2015 were a Formula One race driver, it would be a Max Verstappen firmly seated in that functional but none-too-exciting Torro Rosso.
Not quite full of the glamour and bling we were all hoping it would be then!