Codemasters have had the license for Formula 1 racing for quite some time. Their initial F1 game was released in 2010, and gave fans a sense of the passion Codemasters had for the sport. Some of the later entries, however, haven’t quite lived up to the developer’s reputation and have left a bitter taste amongst critics and fans alike. Thankfully, F1 2016 is a return to form and is easily the best in the series so far.
The F1 series has always taken pride for being a realistic simulator of the sport and 2016 is no exception. Strict rules and damage settings will punish anyone who isn’t familiar with F1 – you can’t take shortcuts by driving out of the boundary, you will be warned for bumping into other vehicles, and any mistakes on the track will lead to vehicle damage causing a drop in performance. Adding to the realism is a new manual race start mechanic. As you eagerly wait for the lights to turn green at the start of a race you have to manually hold the clutch and rev your vehicle, hopefully gaining an early advantage by jumping a few positions. The safety car makes a return along with a new virtual safety car, there’s also a new manual pit lane entry mechanic and speed restrictions in the pits. It can be quite a bit to learn and take in initially, particularly if you’re new to the series, but they all mesh together well and provide one of the closest experiences you’ll get to being an actual F1 driver.
F1 2016’s main appeal is its in-depth Career mode. From the beginning you can choose which of the 2016 season teams you would like to join, including the top tier Ferrari and Red Bull teams and rookie Manor Racing. Relative to their real world standing, each team will have different expectations on how you perform during the season which adds a nice strategic element. Throughout your career you may receive offers from rival teams to join them, so you can stay loyal or jump ship to your dream team.
Before a main race you’re allocated practice sessions which are used to try out different simulation programs. These can be described as a type of mini-game which familiarises the player with their vehicle, tyre selections and the the overall track layout. You can drive through gates which demonstrate how to take corners correctly, simulate tyre management so that you can build your endurance and reduce the number of times you visit a pit, and also aim for the best lap times on the track. There is some incentive to persist too – players who perform well are awarded research and development credits which are used to upgrade their vehicle. Admittedly it can get a little repetitive if you’re not into learning the tracks inside and out, but from a simulation perspective it doesn’t feel out of place and will satisfy fans.
The usual game modes return as well, including Time Trial, Quick Race, Championship Season and online multiplayer for up to 22 players. The online multiplayer in particular features a fully fledged Championship option, which encourages longer play sessions amongst friends and adds to the already robust content on offer.
Another nice feature is the ability to select the time of day and the weather featured on the track. You can, for example, drive through Melbourne at night in heavy rain or switch to clear skies in the early morning. Dynamic day and weather effects can also be specified in the options menu, making races feel more authentic as time passes and weather changes periodically.
One of the few grievances I had with F1 2016 is the occasional inconsistent advice from your pit crew. At the end of a practice session for example, I was ordered to come back to the pits as I only had enough fuel for one more lap, only to be informed seconds later that I could do a second lap if I so wished. At one point during the final lap of a race the crew even advised of changing tyres, something which isn’t practical at that late stage. It’s only a minor annoyance though which is a testament to the overall polish of F1 2016.
Visually the game is stunning to look at. The game runs at a smooth frame rate, there is no noticeable slowdown, and the cars and tracks look clean and vibrant. It’s one of the better looking racing games available. One thing Codemaster’s engine doesn’t seem to render properly, however, are human character models. They look really awkward, stiff and don’t quite capture the splendor of the track.
F1 2016 is the most comprehensive F1 experience yet. Not only does the game retain the series’ well known realism, but it also provides a robust Career mode and features plenty of other gameplay modes and options to keep diehard fans entertained for a long time yet.
- Realistic rules and gameplay
- Robust Career mode
- Stunning visuals
- Some minor AI issues
- Human character models are uninspiring