The 2016 Formula 1 Season is well and truly underway so you all know what that means? Yep that’s right, it’s that time of the year again when Codemasters put out a brand new Formula 1 Season. Much like the sport itself, the F1 franchise has evolved over the years and 2016 is no exception.
Last years effort was a fantastic step forward for the F1 game franchise but it was missing a key element, that being a career mode. This year fans should rejoice because Career Mode is back! I jumped straight into Career Mode and was genuinely impressed. Would be future F1 Superstars can choose to start their career with any team currently competing in Formula One. Of course, if you’re an F1 rookie driver there is no way Mercedes or Ferrari are letting you get a run in the F1 Championship but this is a video game so of course you can jump right in and drive for a top tier team. There are Pro’s and Con’s to joining each team so before you decide to go for the best of the best from the start, take a look at the other teams. Mercedes may offer you the best performing car out there but you’ll get less XP and development points from each race and the team will have extremely high expectations of you in order to retain your spot on the team. Compare that to a team like Sauber and you’re car will be off the pace but you do get better bonuses for performing and the team has very low expectations so it is actually a good way to cut your teeth in F1.
I choose to go the hardest route, choosing Team Sauber. Forgoing vehicle performance in order to gain greater development credits and lower team expectations I was thrust into the world of Formula One. Greeted by a chirpy team manager telling me how excited he was to have me in the team and my lawyer who was acting as my manager I proceed to enter my first season in the Formula One Championship.
Going into racing weekend I could choose whether I wanted the full racing experience, going through the entire weekend of racing or reducing it down to less time on track. The purists out there will no doubt go for the full weekend, going through each and every session for the maximum amount of time and then competing on race day with a full lap count. In order to expedite the experience to get through as much of the entire game as possible to review it, I choose to reduce the weekend by half. Each session was half the length of what a full session would be including race day which was 50% of the laps a normal race would be. The amount of depth you can go to is brilliant. Each practice session has goals that, if successfully achieved lead to development points which can then be used to develop better parts to the car to make it more competitive. Getting into the races you’ll have the team behind you helping come up with strategies to get as high up on the grid as possible. Thankfully Sauber did a better job than I was expecting and by the time I got to my second event, I managed a podium finish.
One of the great things about Career Mode is that it really does feel like you are pursuing a career in Formula 1. You’ll get 10 seasons out of Career mode and in that time you can expect other teams to try and poach you. Switching teams after a successful season or two and working up to a team like Mercedes really made the game feel more authentic. Working my way up rather than going for the easy road from the start made the entire career mode feel more worthwhile and rewarding. If anything I’d have liked Career Mode to actually make everyone work their way through the ranks but some people will want to jump straight into the best cars so I can’t really mark the game down for allowing people to play the way the want to.
F1 2016 is a simulation experience, if you are after a more arcade style of racing then this is not the game for you. If you cause mayhem on the track then expect to be penalised for them. One unfortunate race I had I was pushing hard and a misjudgement on a corner gave me a time penalty which, even though I pushed hard to extend my lead, meant that even though I crossed the line in 1st I ended up finishing 2nd. The simulation experience goes well beyond penalties though, hitting barriers or hitting another car will result in damage that will send you to the pits or see your race end in the blink of an eye. Consistently brake too hard and generally misuse the car and expect an unwanted call to come and pit in to replace the tyres that you have overzealously worn down.
It really does feel like everything that an F1 driver has to think about in races, the player must think about too. Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport, pushing driver’s to their limits and F1 2016 faithfully replicates that experience.
So how do the cars themselves handle? The short answer is very well. The not so short answer is you’ll need to practice to harness their true potential. Braking is all important, timing your braking and not locking wheels can be a fine art at times, particularly as you come flying down a straight at break neck speed to then be confronted by a tight corner that seems to appear out of nowhere. Too soft on the brakes and you’ll fly off the track, too hard and you might lock off and come off, too conservative and you will stay on but you may well see yourself lose a few places. To make the experience easier or harder, depending on your level of expertise, F1 2016 features driving aids. This will provide things like brake assists or handling assist. The die hard fans will turn these off to get full authenticity but for the rest off us (myself included) I would judge you for turning on a few aids just to make sure you spend more time on the track than off it.
The feeling of speed in F1 2016 is phenomenal, especially if you choose to play from the cockpit. Reaching speeds in excess of 300km’h is a scare a minute bundle of joy. Driving from the cockpit was a real test, not being able to physically see too far in front of me made judging turns a real skill and on many times I found that my reflexes just weren’t up to the challenge. That’s no fault on the game though, that is just a bloke post-30 being reminded that he needs to focus more.
Outside of Career Mode you’ll be able to compete in single races, do the 2016 season as a standalone season, create a track playlist or jump into multiplayer. If you want the ultimate test then it’s gotta be in multiplayer. The in game AI is brilliant but nothing quite provides the test that other real humans do. Nothing puts you in your place faster than going from leading the Championship in Career Mode to finishing dead last in a multiplayer session. Yes I just admitted to coming dead last in an online session but that does not diminish my ability to write critically about these things and no I won’t mark the game down for coming last!
If there is one let down to F1 2016 I’d say it would have to be the visuals. There certainly aren’t terrible but when compared to the likes of Forza 6, this one comes up wanting. Things like scenery and detail around the track can be sparse at times but to be fair, you are going so fast that you don’t have too much time to notice.
The 2016 F1 Season has caused major talking points, mostly due to criticism of the rules of F1 drivers. Thankfully F1 2016’s talking points aren’t criticism but words of praise, bring the franchise back to what made it so appealing in the first place. F1 2015 managed to get the franchise back on track by appealing to the fans and focussing that all important core racing action, however it did so by sacrificing things like a career mode. F1 2016 retains that core experience form last year but manages to right the wrongs by including a deep, expansive career mode to create on of the best F1 experiences in recent memory.
- 10 Year Career Mode
- Insane Feeling of Speed
- Fantastic Simulation
- Graphics aren't as good as they could have been