Formula 1 is not a sport for everyone. Those who have petrol running through your veins will know the intricacies that makes the sport so beloved by millions around the world. It may be under scrutiny by critics, for being bland and boring these days, with the Hamilton’s, Vettel’s and Schumacher’s dominating over the years, but there’s no denying that the Formula 1 games have captured the spirit of the sport. Does F1 2015 continue this trend?
Unlike any F1 games before this you’ll finally be able to play most of the season in tandem with this years F1 season. F1 2015 includes both the 2015 and 2014 season, which you can swap between at your leisure. Changes take place in the form of car liveries, driver line-up and the Mexican race track gets dropped from the 2014 season. Other than that you’re virtually playing the exact same game. The menus are clean and slick, but there’s one apparent problem.
Running out of fuel
There is a massive lack of modes. Career and scenario modes are completely missing from the line-up. Your only mode to enjoy, from a single player point of view, is the Championship Season. Here you join a team and select a driver in that team and tackle the F1 2015 season that ties in with this years actual season. As it’s not a career you’re taking part in there’s no testing of any kind. Unless you take part in some Quick Race events you’re thrown into the deep end that’s Albert Park in Melbourne. It’s up to you how tough you make it for yourself though.
There is a good amount of settings to tie in with the realism of the simulation. You determine how much time you’ll invest into the Practice Session, Qualifying and what the overall Race Distance will be on race day. The weather, which has a dynamic setting by default, can be changed to dry or wet weather and you’ll select your AI Driver Level, whether there’s flashbacks or not, toggle Parc Fermé Rules on or off and if there’s vehicle damage. It’s also here where you decide if you require various assists to be turned on or off, which include Braking Assist, Anti-Lock Brakes, Traction Control, Dynamic Racing Line (in 2D or 3D), Automatic, Semi-Automatic or Manual gearbox and Pit Assist. If you’re not in the mood to customise these settings you can switch it to pre-arranged beginner, amateur, experienced, professional or elite modes. Once you’ve made those choices you’re whiffed off to the first F1 weekend.
All the realism you want
The presentation style is slick and mimics what you’d have seen on TV where the commentators, David Croft and Anthony Davidson, introduce a track and speculate about rumours in regards to teams and drivers. The next thing you know you’re sitting in your car in the garage surrounded by engineers and mechanics with a screen showcasing important information for your first practice session. The session info on the screen is the key to improving your car in practice, as the drivers do in real life. Here you can see a map with the drivers on track in real-time, the weather forecast for the next 20-90 minutes, a breakdown of the drivers times (for you to compare your sectors to others) and you can follow a live TV feed of another driver racing that comes in handy if you plan to match his time. Call your engineer over to tap about on a virtual tablet to select your tyre compound and one of the five preset car settings (that can be customised) and you’re ready to head out on the road.
Codemasters have obviously spent a good amount of time adjusting the cars handling as it does indeed feel like you’re driving an F1 car. The cars don’t feel quite as sluggish as it did in the previous generation, though you can’t go ‘arcade racing’ either, unless of course you’ve got it setup as a beginner and you’re barely doing anything but steering left or right. With all the rules turned on, along with full damage and minimal assists, you have to be well aware of your surroundings and who’s in front or behind you at all times. As with the real F1 season it’s best you stay away from Pastor Maldonado who’s got little to no care for the rules of the sport. Meet him and you’ll likely end up in some barrier. You’ll also have 7 cameras to choose from, though I advise you stick with the default option. Something that’s been improved drastically is the way in which your team communicates with you and how you communicate back to them.
It’s a bugs life
Press the L1 button and a menu pops up. Here you can inform your team of understeer and oversteer or ask for traction advice, a position update, the vehicle condition and a weather report. Throughout the practice, qualifying and race your engineer will constantly inform you about your rivals and the overall status of your car and race, though you can decide on the regularity of these interruptions. As with F1 race drivers today it’s not only up to your crew to assist you but you’ll have to press some buttons yourself while in mid-race. Press up on the D-Pad to change your fuel strategy or brake bios, followed by up, right or down, depending on your requirement. This sounds straight-forward, but when you’re in the thick of the action, and you require an injection of fuel to defend off that bastard Hamilton, then it’s something you have to learn to deal with. Thankfully there are flashbacks, for those who are concerned about their driving abilities. For F1 fanatics it’s genuinely an enjoyable experience but, other than the lack of modes, there’s another black flag.
The game is inundated with bugs. I had the sound (engine, menu and ambient) all but disappear about 20 laps into a race, which required me to restart the game. I also experienced a moment where I used a flashback while in the pitlane and I was dropped in the middle of the track at the start/finish line when I reappeared. It’s something a patch can fix, but when that is is another question altogether. The real problem remains the lack of modes. There’s a Pro Season mode where all assists are turned off, you’re forced to race in the driver position cam (which is hard as nails) and you have to race a full weekend race, as you would in reailty. In other words – it’s for complete F1 nuts. So what about the multiplayer?
Both Split-Screen and Lan modes have been removed and you can only play it online with other players. It’s a shame as I’ve had a stupid amount of fun offline in split-screen mode in the past. There are preset races online which are categorised into Beginner, Standard, Hardcore and Feature Race options, along with Custom Race for invite-only games with buddies. Codemasters opted for an interesting take in regards to the lobby system. Instead of waiting for people to join your lobby you’re welcome to leave the multiplayer mode and play a quick race while it searches for a match. Once found you’ll automatically move to the lobby. Select your car and you’re in a race. It’s a good concept, but it never exceeded 30 seconds. Perhaps this is a great way to handle things once the number of players dies down online.
F1 2015’s heart is in the right place but bugs, graphics that’s not quite up to standard with other racers and a lack of modes has really left this years game with a penalty that’s pushed it to the back of the grid. This is one for F1 fanatics and no one else.