If you’ve played an F1 game before, you’ll have a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into with F1 2015. For the uninitiated, F1 2015 is the Codemasters attempt to make a simulation of real Formula 1 racing. That said, it’s also a game that raises questions about quality before you even crack open the box. F1 2015 was released 10 months after F1 2014, and it would have been 9 months if it didn’t suffer delays. That’s a pretty fast turnaround, even for an annual franchise; something is clearly up with this situation. As someone who’s played F1 2014, I can tell you that it was that game that was funky. It was basically filler to hold everyone over for F1 2015. The good news is that F1 2015 is not filler, and parts of it were built from scratch for this release; however, the overall product still feels a little empty.
Compare F1 2015 to other games in the franchise and you’ll quickly notice that Codemasters spent most of their development time on two major areas. The first area is the digital cars of the game. The team at Codemasters focused a lot of their development time rebuilding the physics and handling mechanics of the race cars, or at least the new physics caused the handling to change. The power offered by this console generation has allowed Codemasters to make better digital versions of the engine, transmission, aerodynamic body features, fuel tank, suspension, tires, and the list goes on. Unfortunately for rookie drivers, the cars have become extremely difficult to handle without help, and that’s when you compare it to the high standards that the F1 games have already set. I wouldn’t say that the cars are uncontrollable, but now they remind me of supersonic jets. Eventually, you’ll be able to do some amazing things in them, but it’s going to take a lot of practice. Now, the same can be said for driving cars at this game’s most difficult levels, and anyone who tries those levels will have to retrain themselves to drive the cars in the way that the game expects.
For those wondering, they’ve also nailed the look of the cars (except for the sponsors they couldn’t use/secure), the tracks once again feel like they were ripped out of the real world, and all of the driver avatars look close to the real thing. That said, Codemasters are not leaving behind the novice players in order to chase realistic F1 graphics or gameplay. Novices rejoice, all of your favorite driver assistance features (traction control, ABS brakes, turning assistance, and more) are back. These assistance features turn the game into an arcade racer that almost drives itself. These features defeat the true purpose of the game, but they allow novices to get around the tracks.
The other major area that the Codemasters worked on was the opponent AI, and to be honest, I did feel like the AI drivers were acting smarter than ever. In past F1 games, you could stay on each track’s optimal driving line and the AI cars would just stay behind you. In F1 2015, it was very common for an AI driver to challenge me in the best overtaking locations of each track. I am not sure if this was a result of the improved AI, or if it was just luck, but a team of AI drivers took me out in what I would call a realistic way. I was chasing Nico Rosberg of the Mercedes AMG team around the track and, just as we crossed the exit to pit road, Lewis Hamilton (Nico’s teammate) came out of the pits and knocked me into a wall. While I’ve enjoyed parts of the F1 games for years (mostly racing online), real F1 racing has always bugged me because of the politics and teammates allegedly being ordered to protect each other. It could have been a random string of events, but losing to Rosberg because Hamilton wrecked me is one of the most realistic F1 experiences I believe I can have.
I should also point out that these aren’t the only changes to the game. Codemasters have done a lot of smart little things like breaking up the online lobbies into different hoppers based on your skill level. There is no guarantee that an all-star gamer won’t try to sandbag in the beginners hopper, but it does allow for the community to better divide itself based on skill. There is also a new Pro Season mode for the most experienced players. This mode is basically the regular career mode but there is no HUD, traction control, ABS system, and so on. There are plenty of other changes, but I can only say so much without turning this into a novel.
When it comes to negatives, there really isn’t much to point out. Codemasters are really good at what they do, and what they do is develop racing games. If I was to nail down one major issue, I think the lack of features is surprising. There are 4 ways you can play F1 2015: a career mode with assistance features enabled, another career mode with assistance features disabled, multiplayer, and an exhibition race that allows you race around a single track at the settings of your choice. It’s not a bad thing if all you want to do is turn laps in an F1 car, but it’s extremely bare-bones compared to contemporary sports and racing games. Beyond that is the normal collection of small bugs you’ll find in any game. My favorite example of this happens every time you start searching for a multiplayer lobby. The user interface will spend this time flipping between the menu screens like it is not sure what it should be doing with itself. Basically, the bugs this game shipped with won’t stop you from enjoying what F1 2015 has to offer, but be warned that they are there.
In the end, F1 2015 is very good at what it does, and what it does is allow people of any skill level to climb behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car and turn laps. Unfortunately, that is all it does, and the lack of extra features really does not give F1 2015 much to stand on when compared to other feature-rich racing games on the market. If you’re coming to F1 2015 purely for the thrill of driving F1 cars, then this is certainly the year for it. On the other hand, the general audience might want to try something like Project Cars instead. It’s not that Project Cars is necessarily superior to F1 2015 when it comes to gameplay, but the average person will have more to choose from with that game.