Roaring Out Of The Pit
HIGH Unlike last year, this is a deeeeeeep, full-featured racing sim.
LOW Tires seem to be held together by bubble gum and prayer.
WTF Frame tearing, stuttering and jaggy lines made me wonder which console I booted up
In America, motorsports are largely defined by NASCAR, while big-engine bad boy desires are satiated by an ever-popular street racing culture. So, when a technical, intricate F1 sim crosses my desk, I take notice. And I’m glad I did, because unlike last season’s well-intentioned, but ultimately incomplete effort, F1 2016 is the real deal, for both diehards and casual tire-kickers alike.
Outside of Europe and Asia, F1 racing is simply not a big deal, and contrary to popular belief, Indy Car is NOT F1 racing, regardless of how uniform the vehicles may appear. As players will find out from F1 2016, the similarities end at open wheelwells — F1 is its own entity, with its own set of rules to master.
It’s the intricacies that make the title so rewarding. Unlike the fantasy racing of Forza or Need for Speed, F1 cars need to be handled with grace and care, not brute force. Players will need to be conscious of pit strategies, tire wear, appropriate fuel loads and more, all while bobbing and weaving through narrow, winding Grand Prix tracks.
This attention to detail is prevalent throughout the title, leading me to believe that F1 2015 was nothing more than a glorified tech demo for this year’s title. Don’t get me wrong, 2015 wasn’t a bad game, but it was unforgivably stripped-down. This year, loyalists are rewarded with a full complement of features and fan service, most notably through the game’s ridiculously deep career mode.
Much like 2K Games has done with its standard-bearing NBA franchise, Codemasters made F1’s career an ideal combination of on-track performance and off-track balance. In other words, it’s not just about obligatory endorsements anymore. Gamers will need to practice, win races, build reputations, plan with agents, optimize their cars, and endure rivalries – often from their very own teammates.
Better race results typically lead to better off-track accomplishments, but success comes with expectations, and the in-game AI ensures the career path never gets boring. To achieve career progression, drivers will need to master the controls, as handling F1 cars is much more nuanced than simply cranking a gamepad trigger and drifting through turns. The uber-realistic handling requires deft shifting, drafting, and selection of lines. At first, players can expect to spend plenty of time hitting barriers, but once the control scheme clicks, F1 becomes an immensely rewarding experience.
Outside of the career, players will enjoy the usual array of offline modes and features, including quick races, individual seasons and time trials. What’s nice is that players are no longer limited to a handful of race length options. Now, they can choose a duration that fits their timeframe — short weekend, full weekend, or custom races are all available, and a welcome addition for those who don’t want to commit to hours and hours of racing.
Multiplayer is currently a mixed bag. While rookie mode is a perfect entry point for newcomers, the rest of the slate seems to cater to highly experienced fans, and is unwelcoming to less-skilled racers. Matchmaking works to a degree, but as a whole, online multiplayer is currently more suited for die-hards. That said, getting into an online match was seamless, and the racing was lag-free, even with full lobbies. Kudos to Codemasters for getting this right the first time, as this is an all-too-rare occurrence in modern gaming.
Sadly, F1 2016 falls well behind the pack with graphics, and is in dire need of a visual tune-up before the 2017 edition hits the streets. In fact, I’d argue that F1 2015 was a slightly better-looking game. This year, for every beautiful track and sleek car reflection, there’s a slew of jaggy lines, shimmering backgrounds and outright screen tearing, rendering much of the game unappealing, if not unplayable.
Despite seeing some moments of visual brilliance, gamers aren’t noticing well-rendered trees as they shoot around a course, they’re noticing a framerate that sinks into the teens when too much activity piles up on the screen. They’re also noticing some of the limpest, most dead-eyed facial renderings in recent memory.
Hiccups aside, my hat is tipped to Codemasters for listening to fans and critics. In F1 2016, the company delivers the deep, intricate racing experience we should have enjoyed a year sooner, and the title is loaded with all the depth and customization that F1 enthusiasts can handle, while also welcoming clutch-wary newcomers. F1 2016 may not be perfect, but no sports sim has seen more improvement in such a short amount of time.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Codemasters. It is currently available on Xbox One, PS4, iOS and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox One. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to online multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains nothing objectionable other than some aggressive racing and bad voice acting. Parents need not worry about F1 2016.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: While subtitles are available for dialogue, the game’s primary use of audio comes from car sound effects, AI character chatter, and in-game music. Tactile feedback from the controller replicates some of the experience, and the game is fully playable without sound. But deaf and hard-of-hearing gamers may miss some of the subtleties offered.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls, but only for keyboard and mouse users on PC. Gamepad controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
When not writing for Gamecritics, Brad spends his days managing several sports and entertainment websites, handling several freelance writing contracts, and occasionally playing the role of "Dad" when time permits.
Brad is also the only guy on this staff who prefers the Xbox One to other platforms. And he's not budging on that one bit.