Ever since Codemasters acquired the rights to produce video games based on Formula 1, the company has produced a new title every single year. While you might have thought that the property would be in good hands with the developer of racing games such as Grid and Dirt 2, some fans became somewhat disillusioned with recent titles. In particular, F1 2015 was seen as a step backwards despite it being the first entry in the series to makes its way to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. A lack of game modes and features prompted a backlash that the developers would have to make up for in their next instalment.
The truth of the matter is, they have done exactly that with the latest release. F1 2016 feels like a culmination of everything they have previously done that has been put together in one brilliant package. Not only has this meant the return of some of the most loved game modes from the past but also a few new additions that spice up the gameplay significantly.
Central to the whole game is the ability to enter the career mode and start off your own story in Formula 1. You can do this is several different modes, though they all boil down to essentially offering the same experience. Unlike its predecessors, though, this entry lets you choose to begin your career at any team you want, getting rid of the sometimes tedious fight to make it out of the slow back-marker teams and into the midfield pack or front. This ability to jump straight into the action is certainly helpful for those who don’t have the free time to spend 10 seasons fighting their way into a title winning car.
The biggest, and best, change made to how the career mode works though is how a race weekend is constructed. Practice sessions have now been given extra meaning, making it much more likely that players will actually use them to get used to the track and improve their skills. This has mainly been done through a series of team objectives and tasks. These come in a variety of forms, from setting a fast time in the speed trap to preserving the tyres over a three-lap stretch.
The tasks are a bit more involving, however. The three “missions” essentially give you the chance to get to know the track. One of them sees you having to follow the racing line, passing through gates at the right position and speed. The second task involves keeping wear on the tyres to a minimum so that they last longer and the third is simply a chance to set a quick qualifying time that will get to you a specific ranking. The only downside to these is that they are the same for every racetrack, where some variety could really have expanded the concept and made it that bit more interesting,
Completing the various objectives rewards the player with points that can then be spent on research and development. No longer do you just have to wait for a random chance of an upgrade for your car. Instead, the onus is now put onto you to do the necessary work to unlock new components that should make you more competitive. Added in with the new rival mechanic that sees you facing off against someone near you in the standings along with the safety car and formation lap, the career mode takes on a new in-depth appearance that is far more realistic than ever before.
What also makes F1 2016 such an approachable game is how customizable it is. Not only are you able to select which driving assists you want to enable or disable to make the job of getting round the track as difficult as you can handle, but the game also offers a variety of options for the length of the race weekend. This gives you the ability to pick and choose exactly how long you want each session to be, letting you tailor each race to your time constraints.
Perhaps the most discussed new mode is the Multiplayer Championship. This puts up to 22 players into an online competition whereby you can race against each other across a whole season. It adds a bit more structure to the helter-skelter of random races in matchmaking but suffers a little due to the lack of features when compared to its singleplayer counterpart. The rest of the online multiplayer works in the same way as it always has, though it would be nice if Codemasters could come up with a better profile system to track your achievements and accomplishments more easily.
As you would expect from a series that tries to be as accurate as possible, to the point where it is essentially aiming to be a simulation of the sport rather than a traditional racer, F1 2016 contains near-perfect recreations of the 21 circuits that are on the Formula 1 calendar this year. This includes the new Baku track in Azerbaijan along with old favorites such as Monza and Spa. The team has not only managed to capture the look of each individual location but also some of the atmosphere and feel of the tracks.
This attention to detail has carried over to other parts of the experience. The cars all look exactly like their real-life counterparts, down to minute details such as the steering wheel configuration. Meanwhile, the various drivers all appear to have been scanned in much the same way as sportsmen in FIFA and Madden. This has even extended to the team principles and managers, meaning you can get a good look at Eric Boullier or Toto Wolf when you land on the podium.
After the disappointment of F1 2015, Codemasters have done a stellar job of bringing the series back up to where it belongs. This is without a doubt the best Formula 1 racing game ever made, combining much of what the developer has done right over the years into one title. Fans of the sport and the racing genre, in general, will find plenty to like about it and very little to complain about, making it a game that you should definitely try.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes. F1 2016 is available now worldwide on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.