F1 2014 finds itself in an awkward transitional phase. Codemasters have opted to stick to the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms rather than jumping onto the newer generation consoles, in what can only be seen as playing it safe. The transition however is not only with the development but also the actual rules and regulations within the F1 sport itself. The stars of the show, the cars, have changed significantly, making handling a new experience compared to old F1 titles and one can’t help but feel that the controls and over all experience are flawed.
You are eased into your driving experience by a new and improved driver evaluation system. You’re assisted with the use of traction control, automatic braking and steering. So what’s the point then, right? The vehicle practically drives itself. To a certain extent this is true but without this you will be absolutely lost especially if you are planning on spending a significant amount of time on this racer. At first the handling feels jagged and overly sensitive but as you progress and your confidence grows you will become apt with the overall behavior of your aerodynamic speed machine. You might not like it but you’ll be apt. This is partially because of the vehicles and regulations changing drastically over the past year. V6 turbo engines (that’s lost the ‘angry mosquito’ sound), 8 gear box ratio’s and new penalties all contribute to the initial awkwardness that F1 enthusiasts could find frustrating. Drivers have been updated in all the teams and you’ll also be able to tackle the brand new Russian and Austrian circuits, it will require some know-how to make your way around most of the circuits.
There is no denying that the learning curve is steep. Most F1 titles are known for the in-depth management of the vehicle. Tyre selection and fuel management are arguably the two key aspects you need to focus on in order to progress but that isn’t to say that the other vehicle aspects should be ignored. Once you’ve wrapped your head around the different construction settings and gotten used to the new official F1 rules and regulations the fun truly starts. By fun, of course, I mean a love or hate relationship between frustration and satisfaction. The more time you spend with a racing simulation title the more the cracks begin to show, cracks in the actual realism of the game that quickly become gaping potholes. One of these cracks is the vehicle damage or should I say lack thereof. This is arguably one of the most important features of a sim racer and seems to be a continual downfall in the series. Another irritation is the way in which you accelerate. It simply doesn’t feel ‘real’, you know, because your average man on the street knows exactly what it feels like to drive a F1 car, but I digress. The lack of realism that I refer to regards the feeling that you can simply hold accelerate down all the way, quickly release the right trigger and smoothly handle a quick corner. All this said, once you’ve come to terms with the idea that your car is a indestructible bullet of doom the gameplay is rather rewarding. Beating a though AI racer can be hellishly difficult but the feeling of beating a rival by a few split seconds is beyond compare.
When not struggling through the F1 championship in the career mode you have the Scenario, Rivals and Online Multiplayer modes that allow you to both hone as well as flaunt your racing skills. The Scenario mode is comprised of a number of different situations based on (for the most part) recent F1 moments. Racing in wet weather is a prime example of one of these instances and as ludicrous as it sounds, it’s actually pretty fun. In the Rival mode you select a definitive rival which you compete against in a ‘best of three’ situation. Regardless of whether you choose a rookie or experienced rival the AI in this mode seems ridiculous as your rival seems to catch up miraculously even though you’re having the race of your life.
While F1 2014 is well presented with first rate visuals it is by no means perfect. Finding the perfect formula is something that the series hasn’t managed to consistently get right and this is highly unfortunate as all the potential is there. F1 2014 will be the last title to grace the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and Codemasters have confirmed the PS4 and Xbox One version of the game to launch mid next year. F1 enthusiasts will find value in this year’s reappearance but if you’re simply looking for a solid sim racer you ‘d probably be better off waiting for next year’s new gen release.