Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

F1 2016 - Fighting for wins // Catering for Formula 1 geeks on several levels

Published by Lukeh

By now you would think that a new F1 game being released wouldn't necessarily come with much excitement considering the yearly schedule that the games have. Much like FIFA or Madden we see a new game come out from the experienced hands of Codemasters every summer or autumn, and they are now in the seventh iteration of their yearly updates.

After making the jump to developing the games exclusively for the newest generation of consoles last year Codies themselves would admit that whilst F1 2015 had a solid foundation with the gameplay it was severely lacking on features and replayability. Thankfully F1 2016 corrects this and brings so much more with a very impressive turnout that I’m having brilliant fun playing.

F1 2016 - Yellow Renault taking on Max Verstappen

Trial and error

F1 2016 has now been out for a few weeks and I've spent the time just really getting stuck into the game. It's very refreshing to play a game that could easily become stale given my previous comments but instead I find myself having a great time with several modes that Codies have fleshed out. F1 2016 sees the return of a proper Career mode, with a 10 year career span and a considerable level of detail going into car development and actually feeling part of a team. Alongside this comes a multiplayer championship for online gamers in which all 22 spots on the grid can be occupied. The emphasis on this year's game very much feels like Codies are making up for what went missing last year and it seems to have paid off based on a few weeks' of playing the game.

I think one of the more satisfying aspects of F1 2016 for me personally is that the game caters for Formula 1 geeks on several levels. Whether it is working out your tyre allocation for the weekend, looking at charts that pace out the life levels and pit stop strategies, going through tyre management sessions and qualifying pace splits in practise to look at the expected tyre and car performance - I mean, these are just a few examples of how much detail has been put in to accommodate the geekier audience amongst us which I appreciate greatly.

Don't let that throw you off though if you're more of a casual fan who just wants a good racing game as the customisation to how you want to play absolutely caters for that audience too. There are so many options in F1 2016 to change how it plays - from the usual driving assists to race length to weather conditions and difficulty - that you can definitely find a style that works for you. If you're not bothered about pit stops, turn them off. Want assists to stop you spinning off at any opportunity? They are there for you. It's not necessarily all new but it very much helps getting a broad audience playing the game.

F1 2016 - Rainy conditions are really tricky in the game

What Codies have definitely done right though is get the fans involved in the development from early this year. Various bloggers and Youtube video creators have been invited along to the studio on numerous occasions to offer input and feedback over the course of the game’s development. It’s obvious how much this has paid off - F1 2016 feels far more focused than previous entries and the wealth of options, from the career mode to a surprisingly brilliant Time Trial mode, to the addition of formation laps and much more really make it worth the money in my eyes.

Career opportunity

How does F1 2016 play though? It is the big question after all, and I'm very happy to say it plays very well for me on a controller. I don't have a wheel so I play on the Xbox One controller and I've found that cars have little intricacies and adjustments that you pick up between them. I can’t speak for those that like the full sim approach of a steering wheel but for anyone with a control pad it definitely won’t be an issue. The on-screen display of radio commands can get fiddly when selecting what to ask an engineer but such an array of options is also very much welcome. I can’t really fault how much fun the racing is, especially with the depth of options with the tyres and how much of an impact weather can make too - wet racing in particular is a hell of a challenge even on the right tyres. Again, jolly good fun though.

From a technical standpoint Codies often hit the 60 fps mark with the occasional drop in frame rate and screen tear on the Xbox One, with the PS4 and PC version hitting 1080p whilst the Xbox One version sits at 900p. It's not noticeable for me but for those with a finer eye it could stand out if that's a roadblock for you. The audio is pretty superb though - cars have their individual engine sounds and there's a much deeper set of options in regards to communication with your race engineer. Ironic really given the topsy turvy nature of the radio rules this season!

I mentioned above too that Codies have thrown in a little surprise with an engrossing Time Trial mode that I was not expecting to enjoy as much as I have. Obviously time trials are just fast laps with an optimum car but what I very much enjoy this time round are the rivals that get automatically included into your time trial. It can be turned off but you soon get addicted to trying to beat these ever improving rivals that the game automatically downloads during your session. It’s a very neat touch and one that I didn’t expect until trying everything out.

F1 2016 - Play as a Williams driver in a ten year career

For me it’s all about the career mode though and having that extensive career put back in is a big plus. It just feels great fun to play. One thing I appreciate greatly in racing games is the sense of immersion and making you feel like this is a world you’re part of and Codies have looked to try and emphasis this immersion with the career. The character models don’t necessarily blow the world away but it’s nice being in a team and noticing your teammate or team principal alongside you - as well as the appearance of Ant and Crofty being a common occurrence too. You will see Toto Wolff celebrating a lot after races though just to warn you now - no sign of any ‘Brainless’ moments just yet!

This is Codemasters’ strongest F1 game to date and much needed after last year’s feature-lite instalment

Overall I find myself very much impressed with what Codemasters have managed to conjure up this year if not only for the fact that the focus is very much on giving an F1 fan a fully fleshed out game. It feels good to play and it looks good to play, and even with graphical niggles for the character models and an occasionally awkward menu to manoeuvre with radio engineer messages these feel like small blights between brilliance. There are so many little things and positives about F1 2016 that I feel like I’ve missed out a lot but this is testament to how much there is to enjoy both online and offline.

Honestly I would go as far as to say that this is Codemasters’ strongest F1 game to date and much needed after last year’s feature-lite instalment. Whether you’re an F1 nerd like myself or someone who just wants to prat about driving into other drivers at the age of 18, I’m sure you’ll be very pleased to be on the grid this year and fighting for wins in this excellent game.

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