How realistic do you want your virtual F1 racing experience to be?
Do you want to be nursing your tyres from lap two, lifting and coasting your way around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and cursing your Honda power unit when it fails in qualifying, guaranteeing a 20-place grid drop and drive-through penalty?
Or would you rather be able to get your foot down, ricochet off your rivals and take Manor to world championship glory in your first season?
Things were rather simpler for Codemasters when they produced their first F1 game for major platforms in 2010, back when there was no DRS, no KERS and more conventional tyres. We also heard a lot less from the team radios back then – would you really want to play a game where your race engineer periodically told you not to race the car which was looming large in your mirrors, as to do so would risk destroying your tyres?
The latest instalment of the franchise is the first to be produced for the new generation PlayStation 4 and Xbox One formats, as well as PC. As with recent editions of the game, what you get is a somewhat idealised interpretation of F1 racing, where tyre wear and so on feature but are not allowed to get in the way of the enjoyment of racing.
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In terms of sheer driving fun, F1 2015 absolutely nails it. The V6 hybrid turbos are lairy but controllable, and even in time trial mode you can easily lose an evening.
Career mode has gone, which some seem to consider the greatest injustice since Suzuka 1989. Frankly I’m here for the racing, not virtual press conferences and sifting through emails. In its place a new Pro Season Mode has been added to challenge top players. This is a worthwhile addition which gives you something to shoot for, locking you into full-length races with maximum difficulty, cockpit view only and no flashback button cheats.
But it’s the graphics where F1 2015 really shines. Running on a revamped engine, the vehicle and track models are richer in detail and texture, and under night lights the cars sparkle and shimmer. It runs smoothly too, even when splashing about a soaked Singapore or charging towards Massenet at the back of the Monaco Grand Prix grid.
Outside of the cockpit the new “broadcast presentation” promises to “immerse you in the unique race day atmosphere”. The TV-style presentation, accompanied by introductions from Sky’s commentary duo David Croft and Anthony Davidson, adds a nice touch, though at times the visuals get a bit washed out.
In-race replays remain very short but you can review a lot more once the race has finished. You can now switch between cars as well, allowing you to find out what happened elsewhere during the race. As in previous games the post-crash special effects are ugly and there’s no obvious way to disable them.
The popular online mode has been enhanced by the addition of practice sessions and a new Feature Race in which, according to the developers, “as Formula One moves on from circuit to circuit so does the feature race in F1 2015 to recreate the real world championship”.
F1 2015 was originally supposed to feature updates which “will deliver 2015 content into the game as the season unfolds, ensuring you’ll be competing against the same drivers and teams you watch week in and week out”. The first of those was intended to add the Manor team, however they are already present.
So is McLaren’s post-Spanish Grand Prix livery, although the original one is still visible in the in-game videos. For the sake of authenticity, it would have been nice to see them in the silver colours for the first four races. Hopefully if there are any mid-season driver switches Codemasters will come good on their promise to include them, however there’s no sign of Kevin Magnussen at the Australian Grand Prix. And don’t expect to be allowed to drive the Williams in anything other than its left-out-in-the-sun-too long livery, due to alcohol advertising restrictions.
Not for the first time, market realities mean the game hits the shelves long before the constructions work at F1’s newest venues has finished. The revised Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez looks convincing for the most part, however turn ten appears to have been tightened up since Codemasters were shown the track plans.
Among the game’s other shortcomings are the occasionally simplistic artificial intelligence and banal, useless radio chatter. The latter is a real bugbear: your engineer will waffle on with vague information about the track but won’t remind you when you forget to hit your DRS button. My reckless driving incurred several penalties, most of which seemed reasonable, though I was irked at being disqualified for reversing out of a run-off area because the game decided I had driven too far against the direction of traffic.
Most disappointingly, some features which were introduced for previous editions have now disappeared, such as the Safety Car and the brilliant Classic Mode from F1 2013. And then there is the usual roster of things Codemasters can’t add because of the restrictions of the F1 game licence such as a more spectacular damage model or customisable drivers, cars and tracks.
Codemasters’ F1 game series has rarely failed to entertain but has also never quite managed to satisfy enough to merit a full five stars. That hasn’t changed this year, but with just one F1 race over the next six weekends, I expect to get a lot of mileage out of F1 2015.
F1 Fanatic rating
F1 2015 by Codemasters
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