Formula 1 has finally arrived on the current generation of console, with Codemasters ending the wait for one of their biggest and most lucrative game series to make the jump. Of course, the question on every racing fan’s lips will be whether or not it has been worth the wait.
At the heart of F1 2015 is a whole new game engine, which has been a long time coming, but delivers the goods graphically. As our tour of the game’s features and racing above demonstrates – albeit via YouTube’s compression algorithms – it’s a good looking game. Though the driver models look like odd waxworks in motion, the cars themselves look great, as do the tracks, with some of the best grass run-offs I can think of. There are certainly elements of motion blurring in play alongside anti-aliasing which means that, while jagged edges are kept to a minimum, you are left with a rather soft image.
On the other hand, that plays into the hands of the game’s presentation, which aims to capture the feel of live TV broadcasts wherever possible. The main menu features floating screens, of a sort, which either display a game mode’s iconography or can be turned to play back a video introduction for a specific track, while the brief interstitial stings during loading screens have a touch of the Sky Sports/BBC/FOM look to them. It even extends to being able to view other cars when they’re on track during qualifying, switching between drivers and camera angles as you see fit.
Of course, it really all comes down to the cars and the racing on show, which does give a pretty good first impression. Racing with a gamepad and assists like traction control and ABS turned on, it feels easy to pick up and play. These are cars which feature tons of downforce, so their tight handling and the way that they react to your inputs are to be expected, and with the modern V6 turbo powered engines that are currently in use, so too is the tendency to spin up the rear wheels and squirm if you’re too happy on the throttle.
However, I must say that there doesn’t feel like there’s too much difference between a Williams and a McLaren until the AI starts to breeze past you down the straights in the latter car. There’s an element of artistic license at play with each car’s respective performance level, so that it’s not quite as stacked in Mercedes’ favour or against the likes of Sauber and McLaren as it is in real life. Though it depends on the difficulty settings, I could bottle up or re-pass mid-level AI in a McLaren much better than I’d expected, while deft and fluid cornering around Silverstone let Bottas’ Williams catch and pass Hamilton’s Merc with relative ease.
And it’s playing as these real world drivers that will dominate your time with the game. Championship Season lets you pick a driver and race for either the 2014 or 2015 title, while Pro Season lets you do the same but without assists, full length races and from the cockpit. However, compared to recent years, you’re missing the career mode where you work your way through the ranks as well as the themed challenges.
Pro Season will also have you relying more on the game’s race engineer, as even the HUD is stripped away from you. While the D-pad menu returns, to let you alter tyres, engine mode and the like, you can also interact and talk with the race engineer to ask about another driver, when your pit window is and so on. Thankfully, that’s not absolutely reliant on voice commands, but you can instead hold the button to bring up the menu and then use the D-pad to pick the relevant option.
While there are fewer ways of spinning the same races offline, the 16 player online multiplayer has a myriad array of options available to you. Split into different difficulties and with varying race lengths, assists, track rotations and more, it’s easy to find something to your tastes and importantly, as players might start to ignore certain hoppers, the game will search for an online match in the background while you do other things in the game. Alternatively, there’s still the custom races, which put all of the options in your hands.
We’ll be playing more over the weekend before giving our final verdict, but it gives quite a good first impression from the graphics to the car handling and the overall presentation. There’s a couple of notable omissions in terms of game modes, but after a few years of disappointment, Codemasters’ decision to start from scratch for the new generation of consoles seems to be paying dividends.