Codemasters have been making the official F1 games for some time now, it has become a successful franchise for them just like fellow sports games such as EA’s FIFA and Madden NFL in addition to 2K’s NBA games. The issue this raises for Codemasters is like the others you’re going to get to a point where you’ve come as close to perfection as you can and releasing new versions annually is going to make it difficult to try and top your own creation. It’s like climbing Everest, once you get to the top there is no chance of getting higher so you end up only reaching the summits of smaller mountains like Lhotse, Nanga Parbat or even Snowden. It doesn’t mean that following releases are any less of an accomplishment but rather than playing a new game it can feel as though the developers have just passed you the same prize pig with new lipstick on to make it look different. So is this years F1 game able to top the peak set by last years title or have they just gone and given the old garden fence a coat of new paint?
Well there are a few areas when it comes to the new F1 game that start to get the old gears ticking in my brain and wondering why? Firstly is a generic point, most sports games are released at the beginning of a season or a few weeks in to it, that is except for F1 which releases its game toward the end of the F1 calendar. I don’t know why this is, whether it is due to the fact they don’t get access to the cars until the season starts so they can’t start really developing the game until we’re already part way through, or whether it is a licensing issue, all I know is it does somewhat irritate me. The second area that is puzzling is that F1 2014 is only available for the previous generation consoles and PC. This is obviously not an issue for PC Gamers but people who have invested in next-gen (or current-gen I guess it is now) will be wondering why. I guess we’ll never know but it looks as if though this is Codemasters last hurrah for the PS3 and Xbox 360 before they focus their efforts on the PS4 and Xbox ONE.
But moving on from the puzzling aspects of F1 2014, the game seems to be easier than ever before and not thanks to some of the new features the game adds like the new turbo charged engines which were introduced into the real F1 cars this year. It’s one thing I always hated but loved at the same time when playing F1 games, they were challenging, frustratingly so at times. But unlike games before where I’d find myself spinning out and losing control, this latest edition made it feel like I was taking a leisurely drive down a country lane. Even with things like assisted braking turned off it just didn’t seem to get me wound up like previous versions where I would be pushed to the point of wanting to smash my controller against the wall. That said I do enjoy racing games so it was enjoyable being able to drive on the familiar tracks we see each round of the competition, and the graphics are that good you’d only find a better experience in an F1 simulator or actually sitting in an F1 car on a track day
Another new feature in addition to the F1 cars new engines is a hot lap the game asks you to complete when you start up the game. This is essentially the same as when FIFA throws you straight into a match on startup to test your abilities and recommend a difficulty setting it thinks is right for you. The issue is it almost seems a little pointless, not because it isn’t a good idea, but due to the fact the lap is over before you know it. This means if you come off at a sharp corner by going too fast or do the opposite and take it a little slow to get used to the controls it can totally misjudge your skillset. Maybe having a quick three lap race would have been more suitable because it gives you that first lap to get a feel for your car and the remaining two laps to push yourself to the limit and really show what you can do.
The game also uses other features we’ve began to see in many sports games today, one of which is a scenario mode, much like the challenges mode that was not long ago added to Football Manager. This places you in various scenarios to really test your skills and is probably my favourite game mode available. It’s one thing trying career mode where time after time you come fastest in practice which means you start at pole position in every race only to drive off into a lengthy lead, much like Vettel last season. But, it is another thing entirely when you have to start several places behind the race leader with only a few laps remaining, or work your way through the race pack having gambled on a new set of tyres due to a predicted weather change while everyone else remains with a different option.
The career mode also sees a slight change to the way it operates, one that for me takes something away from the game. Instead of starting out as a new driver and working your way through the ranks like you do on the Moto GP games, you now have the option to select which team you want to join from the off and start racing for the likes of Ferarri, Mercedes and Red Bull. For me though this just spoils any racing game as you can instantly get into some of the best cars available and race your way to glory from the off, it takes away the challenge and the sense of accomplishment that comes with making a journey from unknown amateur to world champion. I suppose if you wanted to you could set yourself this challenge anyway as you can pick your own team but it’s not the same as the game saying “you’re not good enough” then you proving it wrong by climbing the ranks from zero to hero.
So as expected the latest edition was always going to struggle to top its predecessor because they had pretty much reached the pinnacle of the series last year. Changing the engines was always going to happen to resemble the new rules in F1, aimed at making the sport more environmentally friendly, and that shows in this game with cars no longer making the classic screeching sound as they whizz past. The major letdown for me though was career mode changing to make the game less of a challenge for people by allowing you to pick our own team, if they had kept it like Moto GP where you start off in a lower division or lower ranked teams forcing you to work hard so teams compete to sign your name then it’d have been much better. The other let down which will have fans of the series upset is the fact there is no current-gen version, so anyone who traded in their old consoles for new ones will miss out. But there are good aspects such as the scenario mode which makes up for the lack of challenge you find in career mode and the graphics are as good as ever. It is just unfortunate that instead of progressing forward this latest game feels more like it has taken a step back. Here’s to hoping next years effort is a lot better.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.