Bringing New Cars To Old Consoles In F1 2014

When F1 2014 was announced in the early days of August, there was a palpable sense of disappointment that the series would only be coming to the last generation of consoles this year, with the jump to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One aligning with a new release schedule that will see F1 2015 arrive much closer to the start of the F1 season. But with the advent of the new engines and regulations in Formula 1, couldn’t F1 2014 still do enough to grab people’s attention?

It’s those engines – or “power units”, as they’re regularly called – which are really at the heart of this year’s Formula 1 championship, and the early races of the year saw a lot of criticism of the noise, or relative lack thereof, that they made. The step is quite clear to hear in F1 2014 as well, with the hellish scream of the V8 running at full revs replaced by a deeper and throatier roar and the whine of the turbocharger. The sound mix is quite different when racing with a camera fixed in the cockpit rather than the television cameras, so the engine noise is very much at the fore, but I’ve actually quite enjoyed being able to hear the crowds cheering and tyre squeal when watching F1 on the telly and these are both quite prominent in the game, as you zip past packed grandstands and push the tyres to the limits through corners.

F12014-IL1

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –

But when it comes to the actual racing, the new engines and their sounds throw me for six. A marked difference between last year and this is the point at which shifting up a gear is meant to occur, coming much earlier and at much lower revs, rather than closer to the rev limiter. As someone who typically switches to manual gears and has played the Codemasters’ F1 games since 2010, it’s something that I found difficult to adjust to over the course of a few hours play with a PC preview build of the game, no longer being able to listen for that particular frequency and having to keep an eye on the upshift indicator in the bottom corner of the screen instead. It’s not the end of the world, since these early shifts are done with overall performance and efficiency in mind, and the engines can actually go much higher, but it still takes a bit of adjusting to.

As too will the amount of energy the new power units will put through the rear tyres, making for a livelier rear end that can quite happily send you veering off the track if you step too hard on the accelerator when coming out of a corner. Naturally there are plenty of assists to make use of, with traction control and ABS helping to even out the kinks as you follow the racing line and braking points highlighted on track, or even indulge in full braking assist, where the game will actively help to slow you down into corners (and in terms of your overall pace, I might add).

For the more dedicated of racing fans (and I know a few of you will be reading this), it’s all about plugging in a racing wheel, turning the assists down or completely off and removing much of the abstraction between you and the car. Hopping back and forth between F1 2013 and F1 2014 really highlights just how much more careful you need to be on the accelerator when playing like this, as even just a fraction too much power will see the rear tyres sliding and squirming away from your intended line, forcing you to readjust. It’s here that the game came to life for me, being much more difficult to control and really bringing something new and refreshing over last year’s release, as I struggled for lap after lap to try and hold the much faster AI cars behind me.

Naturally there’s little to no graphical leap over last year’s entry, but there are a few new tracks on the calendar and it’s a delight to see the new Sochi Autodrom track and experience first hand how it will look and race in real life. With the mountains off in the distance, racing around the track is reminiscent of the Korea International Circuit that is no longer on the calendar, even with a twinge of Montreal, with hard barriers often coming close to the sides of the clearly Hermann Tilke designed track.

Unfortunately, F1 2014 does feel like it’s treading water in some regards. Much of the overall presentation is very similar or the same, with a near identical set of menus to the actual gameplay, while the Young Driver Test has been replaced by a single lap driver evaluation, which certainly helps to get you into the game itself much quicker. However, F1 Classics has sadly disappeared without a trace, and there’s also the curious omission of user controlled ERS, the battery-powered boost that has been a part of the sport for half a decade.

When I queried the seeming disappearance of ERS, I was given the following statement:

When we originally implemented the engines, all of the information we were given was that the ERS system would be part of the throttle mapping for the power unit, rather than a deployed boost as with KERS. So for that reason, there’s no player controlled system, it’s all handled along with the engine/throttle map settings, which control power and adjust fuel usage. The addition of ‘overtake’ buttons only started to become apparent part way in to the season unfortunately.

With its successor already on the horizon, F1 2014 is in the strange position of being a kind of stepping stone to a major refresh of the series. The real star of the show is plugging in a racing wheel and grappling with the task of driving these cars, but that aside and with some steps back compared to F1 2013, it could be facing an uphill struggle to get people to part with their cash.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

12 Comments

  1. Sounds like driving the cars will be similar to the turbo cars from the 80’s in classic mode of the last game.
    I would have fired up my PS3 for this but as it’s releasing around the same time as Drive club and Project Cars I’m going to wait for the next in the series.

  2. “The addition of ‘overtake’ buttons only started to become apparent part way in to the season unfortunately.”

    So does this mean there is no ‘overtake’ option in the game then? if so it sounds rather lax as it’s become a fairly interesting mechanic in this year’s F1.

    Still, I can’t help but be excited with this year’s F1 game as it should be a decent enough leap from 2012. Admittedly F1 2015 and it’s regular season updates sounds a lot more exciting in terms of authenticity and realism.

    • The “overtake” button refers to the new form of Energy Recover System, which has been greatly increased for this year’s cars. You’ve still got DRS in there which opens up the rear wing flap.

  3. What I don’t get is that modern F1 cars have always had some kind of ‘overtake’ button. Even with the normally aspirated V10 and V8s they would use the button to over-rev, change fuel mixture etc. KERS had the biggest increase effect at 80bhp extra. This year from what I understand most engines with the button pressed change map and deploy more ERS but it is nothing compared to what KERS did. Not sure what detail level they should be going down to, torque maps, diff settings, brake balance, tyre pressures. Difference between arcade and sim I guess.

    • You can still switch between fuel mixes, so low, normal and high fuel to save and use up more fuel as you need to. Then there’s the same quick and detailed set up options that were there for the last few years. The ERS system is used quite differently this year, built into the overall power unit’s electronics, but you can override that as a driver, apparently.

  4. Is there any word of an upgrade plan? Knowing that in 6 months time there’s going to be a better version, I’ll hold out for that. Haven’t had an F1 game in years so I’m looking forward to it!

  5. Well done TSA.
    I was half expecting a preview which did nothing but sing the praises of this game perhaps payed for by Codemasters but this was a genuine honest preview. It’s obvious that there isn’t much difference to 14 than 13.

    Let’s just hope F1 2015 on next gen consoles blows us away or we might be seeing the beginning of the end for F1 games again.

  6. Nice preview Teffers. For me, if the menus and presentation are the same, it is a big ding. I would like a new game to feel new. On the flip side, it sounds different to drive, nice. But then less content? A mixed bag perhaps, count me in providing a tempting price.

    • The less content is the biggest sticking point for me. I’m sure there are reasons but the classics made F1 2013 absolutely brilliant.
      I really hope they’re back for 2015.

  7. I might give this one a miss after a dissapointing multiplayer experience with F1 2013. Literally no friends bought the game so was compelled to Single player Career or playing Fairground Dodgems with randomers.
    I think that waiting for the next gen iteration would likely be the shrewdest move, although I wouldn’t totally rule out indulging in this :P

Comments are now closed for this post.