F1 2016 is a fantastic return for the racing series, delivering a deep and exciting Career Mode alongside thrilling and fluid racing and varied gameplay modes.
Although Formula One racing is one of the most glamorous and high-stakes sporting events in the world, there has been a large gulf between the excesses of Monaco in real life and the level of quality seen in recent video game adaptations. Both F1 2014 and F1 2015 failed to meet fan expectations, with heavy criticism over both a lack of features and a lack of innovation. With the release of F1 2016, a lot was expected from developer Codemasters.
Thankfully, the studio has immediately addressed one of the biggest complaints about last year’s entry: the lack of a Career Mode. The feature had become an important part of the series for F1 fans, giving a deep and impressive gameplay mode for players to conquer, and its omission from F1 2015 had been a let-down for many users. For F1 2016, however, the Career Mode has returned with aplomb.
Indeed, Career Mode is likely to be many a player’s first port of call (after a quick trial of the game’s driving mechanics via a quick race, of course), and it’s unlikely to disappoint. Immediately, it’s clear that Codemasters has put a great deal of flexibility into the game across the board, with the player being given the option to start with a top team and higher expectations, or move their way through the ranks after starting on the lower rungs. It’s a neat touch that gives players an added element of control, and this transfers to different aspects of the game to boot.
The rigidity that sometimes plagued Career Modes in the F1 series has nearly been eradicated entirely. Players can choose exactly how much (or how little) of a race weekend they wish to partake in, from a full set of practices and qualifying through to the bare minimum to scrape by. Meanwhile, there’s a flexibility of options as well, with the player able to customize their own gameplay mode for everything from the amount of time spent on each session through to rule restrictions.
In the end, though, many purists will want to partake in the Career Mode the old-fashioned way – with extensive weekends and a low-level team. It’s here where F1 2016 truly excels, with some of the helplessness of driving for a weaker team taken away if the player is both skilled and smart. Although a player may not be able to keep up with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, such smart decision making as changing a race strategy from the cockpit can easily make the user jump up the ranks, and it’s this level of additional driver autonomy that makes the Career Mode such a great option.
To help even more with this, the player has access to resource points by completing certain tasks for the team. This goes from the basic fare of beating your teammate or reaching certain goals in qualifying or the race itself, through to smaller team goals that relate to practice sessions. These points can then be used to improve the car, through increases to top speed or downforce as two examples. It’s a nice touch overall, and one that gives the player even more reason to take part in as much as the title offers as possible.
Aside from this, however, the game is simply very fun to play. Racing around each circuit is an absolute joy, and Codemasters has managed to balance the fine line between simulation and fun with comparative ease to some other games. Of course, this is hardly a Forza or Gran Turismo title, and players will need to treat their driving accordingly – the handling of the cars is still unforgiving, but in a good way that emulates the sport of Formula One. F1 2016 is hardly a walk in the park, and upmost reaction speed is still a requirement, but the stilted nature of some of the previous games is lacking, particularly in circuits such as Monaco and Spa where the fluidity of racing had never quite come to the fore.
It’s another reason why racing for some of the teams away from the top tier is such a fun way to play the game, too. Picking the right moment to overtake, or the right movement to defend, is an important decision, as is the player’s control over the start of the race. Unlike many other games, users are given clutch control, and it really makes a difference between a slow getaway and a speedy launch.
When the player is focused entirely on the racing, F1 2016 more than competes with other franchises, providing some of the most thrilling driving seen of this generation. Unfortunately, although F1 2016 does have some sheen, as seen in the pre-session videos that showcase the circuits or grid positions, it is found wanting in other areas. In particular, human character models are quite awkward, and players will not want to spend too long looking into the distance or else witness some rather basic locations.
Thankfully, these areas are unlikely to be the focus of a player’s attention, and the car designs themselves are more than solid. Each team’s car looks fantastic, and the game’s overall quality in this area, as well as the brilliant and authentic sound design, easily make up for shortcomings that only really appear when the player is either talking to their agent in a cut scene or is lounging in the gravel after a spin; indeed, one could even argue that it’s an added incentive to stay on the road.
Unfortunately, the old guard of racing fans hoping for a split-screen mode are going to find the game wanting. Split-screen multiplayer has gone missing from many modern racing games, including Project: CARS and Need for Speed, and it turns out that F1 2016 is not going to be bucking the trend. Although the game is hardly a graphical powerhouse, one suspects that once more the quality of single player and online multiplayer were made a priority, and perhaps the title is overall better for it – particularly given the promise of 22-car online championships.
Indeed, it’s hard to find fault with what Codemasters has done with F1 2016. The game is a fabulous return to form for the series, delivering thrills that had been missing for some time, and the title could no doubt find a place among many racing fans’ libraries. This generation has not exactly had many standout racing games thus far, particularly on the PS4 where a new Gran Turismo is still yet to arrive, and F1 2016 could no doubt fill a nice void in many a gamers’ heart. Meanwhile, Formula One fanatics will be thrilled with what Codemasters has pulled out of the bag this time.
F1 2016 is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided a PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.