Codemasters is widely known as one of the most dedicated racing game devs out there, but after mixed results with 2015’s installment in the F1 franchise, can Codemasters get back to the top of their game with F1 2016? Last week Codemasters gave us the opportunity to spend some time with a portion of the game, and what we got to play gave us a good look at what we should expect from the studio’s upcoming release.Starting off our sessions with F1 2016, we were once again introduced to the concept of the Motor Home, which is our home base in between races as we manage our careers and manage our research and development. Starting off with small encounters with crew members, managers and such, the Motor Home aims to add a more personal approach to the more theoretical aspects of the game, however, every encounter and interruption feels are stale and needless as you’d expect. It seems like an attempt to add an extra dimension to the immersion of the game, but it doesn’t really do anything other than adding some frustrating intervals.
The opening negativity aside, once you get to work, the real experience starts. Starting off with a series of practice runs, the game doesn’t rush its introduction, which in this case is a good thing. The thing with practice races is that a lot of people (including me) seem to take these for granted, as for a lot of players they simply want to cut to the initial chase, but in the world of F1 that is basically the stupidest thing you could do. Offering a taster of the real experience, accompanied by your initial conquest to find the perfect driveline, F1 2016 strives to make the practice section of the game not only practical, but fun to go through.This all ties into the game’s practice mini games and upgrading system, which work pretty well hand-in-hand. Throughout your career you will receive points based on performance and objectives, which will give you the option to select a certain field of research for your team to develop upgrades for your car, which is where the game is seemingly giving you proper rewards throughout your career, and ultimately adapting to your play-style as you move throughout the process. This also works hand-in-hand with the game’s new mini-games during practice runs, which give the player the option to not only obtain upgrade points but to test their skills and better them in a fun and intuitive way. Whether it’s setting more straightforward time goals throughout the course or setting checkpoints throughout the track to strengthen your potential driveline, F1 2016’s mini-games add so much more depth to a portion of the game that is a lot more essential than many players seem to think.
But of course, you can’t stay in the frying pan forever, and after a few practice runs it was time for the real deal, and with the game’s new and improved AI, I really did feel the pressure throughout the races. AI behavior seemed a lot more dynamic than in the game’s predecessors, which made certain situations a lot more unpredictable, which really seemed to give me an edge when it came to concentrating on the situation, which can make or break your experience. This was accompanied by the game’s new damage system, which is pretty unforgiving when it comes to even the smallest of mistakes. Long gone are the days of not caring about the tiniest of dents because these dents could turn into a serious problem just a few rounds later. However, one of the most aggravating aspects of the experience seemed to be the safety car and the virtual safety car, which ultimately tested my patience severely as I was forced to drive in line or adapt to Delta speed, which is realistic, but annoying at times none the less.Graphically F1 2016 doesn’t seem like the night and day difference you’d want in regards to its predecessor, but it seemed like a sufficient upgrade over last year’s installment. The biggest problem is the fact that it’s more of a refinement than an actual upgrade, though respectively it’s far from the worst-looking racing game out there. Environments are decently detailed, though certain aspects like shrubbery and grass do seem to fall a bit flat at times. Cars and track texture look exceptional, though, and this is especially noticeable in the game’s first-person view, which in my opinion seemed like the definitive way of experiencing the game.
So far, F1 2016 is a game that isn’t without its issues, but it’s a game that’s learned some valuable lessons from its predecessor, which has resulted in a game that already feels far more complete than its 2015 counterpart.
F1 2016 comes out on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on August 19.
*The sessions discussed in this preview were done using an Xbox One controller on PC.