The world of F1 racing is fast paced with little to no room for errors. This isn’t a world where rubbin’ is racin’, but a world where contact leads to damage to your very fragile and expensive ride and touching wheels with another open-wheel race car may lead to you going airborne. Either way, it will probably mean the end to your practice session or race weekend, and that’s never a good thing. While the F1 racing series isn’t as popular here in the US as it is in Europe, it still has a large following.
Developer Codemasters has a pretty good racing pedigree when it comes to video games with the likes of the Dirt series and the Grid series. They released F1 2015 last year to decent reviews, but were lacking a few bells and whistles to really make the game feel complete. Most reviewers felt that the foundation was there for a great game, but the developer stopped short of delivering it. Enter F1 2016.
On to the Races
For those of you that are just here for racing, you’ll probably want to jump in to a quick race and get busy. There are 21 different tracks to choose from including the newest Grand Prix track, Baku City Circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan. Every track is recreated in stunning detail and really almost make you feel like you’re there. The only thing missing from the Circuit of the Americas in Austin is the Texas heat and humidity, and even in October, you can still feel it.
Once you have your track selected, you can then choose from one of the 11 teams. With names like McLaren Honda, Scuderia Toro Rosso, and Scuderia Ferrari, the choice might not be so easy the first time. Once you pick your driver you can then proceed to select how much of a racing simulator you are in for. To be clear, I’m a pretty big racing fan, and I love a great racing simulator, but going with the Elite setting was a bit much for me to start with. No ABS, no Traction Control with zero braking assist and full damage is not how you acclimate to a new game. Needless to say, that session didn’t end well.
For those of you looking for longevity to the game, there is a Career mode this time around, and you can opt to play either a standard career mode, that can be fully customized to your liking, or you can go for the unforgiving Pro Career mode. Both modes have you using your name along with a generic avatar, and then have you selecting from one of the previously mentioned teams. The standard career mode lets you decide how much sim you are looking for and how good the AI drivers are. You can go as easy as possible, and the game actually feels more arcade like, or you can aim more for the middle, where damage is reduced, but still present, and assists are barely there, and the AI will give you a run for your money. You can always slowly work your way up to the Elite level, as there can be a bit of a learning curve, and you know what they say, practice makes perfect.
A good career mode doesn’t necessarily need to throw you into the mix of F1 racing right away, and the roots of F1 could have been explored a bit here. The path to a career in F1 starts out in kart racing and progresses towards the major leagues of the circuit through experience. Personally, I would have liked to start out as a younger driver on a kart circuit, and have teams court me through a shortened season. This would have given the game a little more authenticity and personality, and would have given me, the driver, a little more loyalty to that team. There are other games out there that gives us that experience already, but I think it would have been a plus here to at least have the choice, if we wanted it.
The career mode, while lacking in any sort of backstory, does try to give some personality to the game through “Rivalries.” This could have been a bit more interesting if you knew why these other drivers decided to be your rival. Did you piss them off on the track? Say something bad about them? Call their wife dog-butt ugly? There doesn’t seem to be a reason why they ended up as your rival, but they are nonetheless and you can earn bonus career points by doing things better than them. Faster sector times and lap times, better qualifying positions and finishing ahead of them in a race will all help you take them down, I’m just not sure why we need too.
Practice sessions prior to a race are a great way to achieve team goals and earn R&D points for your team to improve your car. The first goal on every track is to run through the Track Acclimatization program which will teach you how to enter and exit every corner on the track by having you run through gates on your driving line. Hit all of the gates correctly in one lap, and you can earn 50 R&D points. There are three different programs for each track and the other two are Tire management and Qualifying Pace. All three programs will help you learn the proper racing line, so be sure to run through all of them at least once per weekend. As for that racing line, I really like the 3D racing line effect. It’s like post-it notes on the track that let you know if you need to brake, coast, or step on the throttle, all without needing to know what color they are. If you are color-blind, be sure to turn the 3D racing line on.
As Sim as Can Be
If there are any race engineers or race engineer wannabe’s looking for some fun, the car set-up customization system will please you. You can use several different presets based upon what you are wanting to try, like less or more downforce to increase or decrease top speed, or you can alter the settings manually and adjust gear ratios, braking ,and wing angles. The level of customization is pretty deep and gives you freedom to alter and save settings that can be shared across all of your tracks. Naming conventions are up to you so you’ll probably want to name them according to where they are used and what they are used for. As you unlock more upgrades for your car, you will probably want to tweak these settings as you progress along, as more power may generate more downforce as you reach higher speeds, and that in turn will make the car handle differently. The physics engine seems pretty spot on, even when slamming into a wall at 200+ MPH with full damage turned on.
If you aren’t ready to jump into your career, you can head to the Time Trial section and see how you match up against others around the world on any given track. This is also a great way to practice for an upcoming race in your career if you want unlimited laps and want to try different set-ups. You can also try out a Championship Season which will have you driving as any current driver on the full roster, and take on the rest of the world as that person. Both of these modes allow you to adjust the sim level to your liking, so you can go as sim as you like.
The multiplayer for the game boasts up to to 22 racers in a room, but the most I have had so far is 10. Out of 20 online races, I have only had one random disconnect, and there were only two of us in the room at that point, so I’m not sure what happened there. With 10 in a race online, the game ran smoothly with no glitches, but I need to revisit the multiplayer element once the game fully launches to try out 22 cars on one track online to see how the game plays when full. It did run great at half capacity, so it does look promising on that front.
Codemasters created a great foundation for themselves when they made F1 2015. It wasn’t the greatest F1 game ever, but it looked and ran great. Building upon that foundation, F1 2016 adds quite a few bells and whistles, along with a meaty career mode and an unforgiving Pro Career mode that is as much fun as it is difficult.
F1 2016 review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.