After reviewing last year’s entry and previewing 2014’s edition, it suddenly became apparent that I have become Invision’s unofficial official F1 correspondent. Considering I’ve not watched a single Formula 1 race for roughly 15 years, you can imagine the surprise at this realisation. All that aside, Codemasters have really had a tough time getting a great game out of their motorsport franchise in recent years, and after 2015’s decent, yet lacklustre attempt it seemed it was only a matter of time before they got the ‘formula’ correct, and just 12 months later, they did!
F1 2016 is the latest title for the world’s most glamorous motorsport, developed once again with racing royalty Codemasters behind the wheel. Hailed as the most immersive Formula 1 experience to date, 2016 has been updated with the latest rosters, tracks and rules, making it the deepest and most complete racing experience the team has ever put together. The biggest and most impressive addition to this year’s game is the all-new career mode, where you can take control of yourself and become a legend through a journey that can span up to 10 seasons. Other new features included help build the dramatic tension of the starting grid and truly put you in control of the race, with full customisation of your car and driving style. Last year’s entry was alright, but it felt incredibly hollow and lifeless, so with everything more or less there, it surely wouldn’t take long to inject a bit of soul into the franchise and fill everything that was missing from it. Upon firing up F1 2016 for the first time I couldn’t help producing a rather smug smile on my face as my prediction was spot on, this is the F1 game fans have been waiting for, and too rightly deserve!
Everything about F1 2016 is ten times bigger, better and faster than last year’s disappointing title and this genuinely is a difficult game to put down. Jumping straight into the game’s brand new career mode, I was able to create my own racer and assign him to any of the current teams on the grid to begin my quest for global domination. Joining a specific team gives you particular expectations and goals to achieve, perform these and/or do better will reward you with a better rep amongst your team, contract bonuses and opportunities to become the team’s number 1 driver. Being a beast on the track will often spark a rivalry whether that’s on your own or opposing team, and once again coming out on top of that will work towards your legendary journey. You begin each race weekend with 3 practises that’ll give you the time you need to get used to the track and aim for a fast lap, and unlike last year there are actually impressive events you can take part in to get the most out of your vehicle. One particular challenge will see you attempt a number of laps around the course whilst hitting a number of checkpoints, whereby hitting them at the ideal speed and angle will reward you with points and currency towards developing your car; performing each checkpoint with more speed and finesse will result in more points and more dollar to spend. Completing this task will let you know how you attempt each corner or section to give you an indication of how you should be performing to get the most out of that all-important qualifying round. Secondly, there is an option to see how you manage your tyres, which in all honesty is something I’ve never thought about in a racing game until now. With a marker at the top of the screen showing the wear and tear of your tyres, finishing each lap with decent tread will reward you with points and once again performing better will give you more; you begin each weekend with a particular amount of tyre sets, so it’s important to utilise them effectively so you don’t come to a cropper and go through them all come to the race. Finally, there is the option to set an unofficial qualifying time, which will show you how well you’ve adapted to the track and estimated times set by your garage. Each of these features genuinely tests your ability at how well you can handle a motor car and show a definite level of thought and ingenuity that isn’t found in any other racing game on the market, easily making those practice rounds far more important that skipping to that qualifying.
It’s great to see that some care has been put into creating a competitive and exciting career mode, however, it’s a shame that the game doesn’t really learn or adapt with your success. I joined with Maclaren-Honda, who are regarded as a 2nd tier team, meaning I had mid expectations and goals, like finishing at least 8th in each race with an aim of winning the championship within the next 4 seasons. I however rather quickly became half decent on the game and at the time of writing I’ve won every race, yet my team are still setting me easily achievable tasks that I am more than capable of doing. I expected the game to adapt to how well I was racing, to maybe up the difficulty a little or having the team set me new targets to hit, but no, with 12 gold trophies currently under my belt they are still expecting me to only place at least 10th in the next race. In between races you’ll occasionally be visited by your agent or chief engineer who will give you a brief rundown of your career and car, however, that being said the interactions are almost unnecessary and are very repetitive, making it a rather impersonal and generic journey to go through.
There isn’t an awful lot more to say about anything else featured in 2016 as it’s all just a new and vastly improved version of its predecessor. Visually the cars and tracks are gorgeous and the absolute spitting image of what you see live on TV, and the drivers and garage team are … well what you expect them to look like, not particularly great but who cares coz that’s not what the game is about. The cars this year are a lot easier and smoother to control and including the formation lap and use of the clutch on the starting grid just adds all the more realism to the franchise, something which is far more important that how it looks. Other game modes are again what you’d expect to find and it’s now less stressful to join a multiplayer session or championship without aimlessly wondering whether you’re actually in a lobby or not.
F1 2016 is a fantastic edition to the franchise and is easily the best and most impressive instalment of the franchise to date. Everything about this new title viciously eclipses’ last year’s poor attempt, and once again fun, realism and a genuine challenge have been brought back to the sport. The career mode may be the most obvious difference from past entries, however, every tiny detail within has never been better. The career mode isn’t perfect and at times it can feel a little impersonal and unoriginal, but what it does show is that Codemasters are still fully committed to the franchise and will do all that they can to make each year’s game bigger and better than before. There’s still a little way to go in making the absolute perfect Formula 1 game, however currently it’s at its peak and there’s no better chance to enjoy the franchise than right now, so strap in and enjoy, genuinely, the deepest and most immersive F1 experience right now … that is until F1 2017 anyway!