Formula 1 2016 is the eighth iteration of the F1 franchise made by racing game giants, Codemasters. It has a wonderfully authentic feel and boasts full licensing for all teams and drivers.
There are a number of game modes available with perhaps the most notable being Career Mode, which now features 10 full seasons of Formula 1 racing. Other game modes include a Championship Season in which you take control of an existing professional racer and partake in a full F1 season in an attempt to reach the top of the standings. A Time Trial mode is also available on each track, as well as numerous multiplayer options. This portion of the game is a little buggy at time of review, and could do with a lot more fleshing out with, for example a progression system. As you’d expect, you can also participate in a Quick Race, for when you don’t have much time.
The gameplay in F1 2016 offers you as little or as much racing as you would like – it’s the plethora of options that makes the difference here. For example, if Career Mode didn’t have options such as one-shot qualifying and 5 lap Grand Prixs, it would take an age to complete even one season. This incredibly complex racing simulator can easily be toned down for everyone to enjoy. It’s something that racing competitor Forza does incredibly well and although Forza is built as a casual racer, they ramp up the difficulty to create a simulation. It’s the other way around in F1 2016 however and Codemasters have achieved a great balance between an arcade style racing game and a simulation. If wearing your tires out and having to pit for fuel isn’t your cup of tea, you can tone down the race lengths and just enjoy travelling around the world.
Career Mode is perhaps the most appealing by allowing you to forge your own legend, and become a F1 icon. You choose from a wide range of preset avatars, however there is no customisation available which is a little bit disappointing. After that you’re free to choose your Helmet and Driver Number before getting started. There are seven difficulty settings, meaning you can play as casually or as seriously as you would like. Codemasters may have built this game to appeal to the hardcore but they have managed to tone it down so that it can be enjoyed by casual gamers too.
After selecting your difficulty, it’s time to choose a team. There are three tiers and each is fully licensed to include all the professional racers that you’d expect to see speeding around the tracks in the real life series. Choosing a lower-performance team with lower expectations will grant a career score boost, up to 10%. This is a measure of your overall performance on the track and you can measure up against the best in the world, or just compete for bragging rights with your friends. This mechanic ensures that there is an online competitivity component included in the offline career mode with you earning bragging rights by dominating your friends’ career scores.
When you’ve picked your team and all the other options, your professional racing career will be underway, and you’ll be introduced to your agent. They are in place to help manage your contract with your team and will bring you news of new rivalries, team expectations, and promotion opportunities.
Your laptop is your hub for managing your career off the track. From here you will be able to see your rivalries, championship standing, team standing, and most importantly you’ll be able to head onto the track. It’s a refreshing interface and really helps with the immersion, especially as the bustling team area is dynamic depending on which track you are at. The weather outside while you are sitting on your laptop will foreshadow what the track conditions will be like which is a nice detailed addition.
Taking control of the vastly powerful F1 cars is really good fun. The acceleration and responsiveness to your every input is incredible and it really takes some time to learn to trust the car and find out what it can and can’t do. Corners can be a little tricky to navigate and I often found myself losing a wheel or two when tackling particularly tight corners.
The audio that comes through your racer’s headset sounds really authentic and is a nice touch, even if your ever friendly adviser ‘Jeff’ can sound a little condescending at times. Don’t worry though, you can tell him to shut up at any time and doing so might even earn you an achievement. Speaking of achievements, performing well and meeting certain objectives in races will grant you Resource Points which allow you to allocate funding to a specific area of development. After the introduction to this currency, you will meet your Resource and Development Engineer. Having these characters in-game gives everything you do a purpose rather than just another tacked on resource, and really helps reinforce the idea of a journey throughout your racing career.
Practice sessions give you the opportunity to experiment with fuel types and car settings, and also bring you the chance to complete the various programmes on offer – essentially objective-based laps that grant extra resource points. During these practice sessions, you can be as involved, or not, as you like. You could spend the session modifying your car’s downforce for maximum power transmitted to the track, pitting every lap to perfect your performance. Personally I just like driving things fast – what’s that they say about simple things pleasing simple minds?
The rivalry mechanic (game mechanic, not car mechanic) is pretty cool. You will access this system from your laptop, and can view your rivals statistics, lap times and anything else you can think of. Beating your rival across multiple races and criteria – for example by setting the fastest time in certain sectors of the track – will earn you kudos and respect within your team. Once you have met 30 rivalry objectives you will have won the rivalry and then get a new one to prove yourself against.
The broadcast feel at the start of each Grand Prix is incredibly polished and shows your racer getting into his car, as well as rival racers getting last minute team talks. What your team says to you will depend on how you performed in qualifying, and the broadcast with full commentary for both pre and post race creates a real attachment to your team and your racer. Seeing your guy up on the podium amongst the biggest names in Formula 1 and seeing your team behind the scenes celebrating is a great touch. F1 2016 creates this incredibly believable and immersive world that seamlessly takes you from your team’s paddock, to the pit stops, to the track, and hopefully to the podium! You follow your racer through every major event of his career. David Croft and Anthony Davidson are the commentators, and they offer brilliant pre-race analysis and custscenes filled with relevant information about the day’s race, and the current standings. Once again, the commentary at the start and end of each race – and the qualifying sessions – is another immersive feature of F1 2016 that makes you feel like you’re watching and participating in an actual Grand Prix.
The feel of taking control of the F1 car is actually exhilarating. I found myself clenching my toes as I entered corners and attempted to perfect each lap. The responsiveness of the car to my input was great, however early on, I often lost control as I simply was not quick enough to correct my mistakes and I’d be swerving all over the place before eventually careering into a wall, prompting my advisor to say “That was a hard hit. Are you ok? Verify you’re ok, please.” Luckily, I was fine, as was my racer, thanks to the flashback tool.
The flashback tool works very similarly to those used in a plethora of racing games before now – but a mechanic that I remember first being utilised in Codemasters’ Race Driver: GRID back in 2008. Some may argue that it ruins the immersion and integrity of the game, but you can disable the feature in the Race Settings section of the Preferences menu fairly easily if you must. If you do decide to race with it in place, then it’s a great option to have…as is the now staple, racing line.
So, F1 2016 so far is all good and will obviously appeal to fans of the sport. However, the visuals leave a lot to be desired. Obviously a lot of work has gone into the racer models and details of the cars themselves – which are the only items to have dynamic lighting and to be fair, they look really well polished. However if your eyes stray to the periphery you will notice static crowds and low-quality assets dotted around the track. Yes, it’s nice that the effort has been made to put them in at all, however they should be looking a lot more polished for a game of this caliber, and without the limitations of previous generation consoles, things should be looking a lot nicer than this. One slight redeeming factor is that the nature of the game means you should be focusing on the track and your car itself, rather than spending time looking into the distance – when you do occasionally spot some of these assets though, it’s quite jarring and can ruin the otherwise incredibly immersive world.
Additionally, the same splash screen before every qualifying session/grand prix wears thin after a couple of times, especially in those prolonged gaming sessions. The same music and introduction for each and every practice, qualifying session and Grand Prix is irritating, even though you can skip it.
The game doesn’t do a terrific job of explaining all the mechanics of a Grand Prix either and so if you’re new to the F1 franchise, you won’t have a clue about the manual start mechanic, or the pit lane speed limit until you come to have to use them in the race itself; unless you happened to stumble upon the video tutorials and watched the relevant videos to familiarise yourself with these rules. Overall though, this part of the game could’ve been executed better. That said, the full licensing with F1 2016 means that this is the most authentic, genuine Formula 1 racing game on the market. The tight control of the F1 cars and realistic damage, tire wear, and fuel consumption might mean it’s the best simulation track racer out there. Seeing pro racers and their respective kits, teams, and various associated logos dotted around the track is incredibly immersive and something that other racing games lack.
In fact, this really is the full F1 package.