Five years ago I named Codemasters the greatest racing studio in the world. Today I wouldn't think of doing it. After disappointments (ranging from minor to major ones) like Dirt 3, Grid 2, Dirt Showdown, Grid: Autosport and now F1 2014 it feels as if the proud development house that gave us arcade racing classics like Dirt 2 and Grid have lost the lead they once held. This year's edition of the F1 game is only released on old-gen consoles (and PC) and much like the case was with Grid: Autosport it comes across as cheap - like a free-to-play title that wound up on the wrong shelf.
F1 2012 was a very good Formula 1 title. It balanced on the edge of a punishing simulator and easy going arcade fun and mixed modes and features in a way that both casual fans of the sport and complete nutters could enjoy it. F1 2013 wasn't quite as good, but still entertained. The Classic Mode in particular was a brilliant addition that I spent a lot of time in. F1 2013 was far from perfect, but still a well put together offering.
Unfortunately F1 2014 doesn't offer the same level of experience. It leaves a lot to be desired, and it comes across as a quick cash-in thrown together by an uninspired dev team in order to sell a couple of million copies before making that daring leap onto new-gen consoles. The menus have been lifted (entirely) from last year's product and the amount of content and modes has been drastically cut down.
The weirdest part of this is that the Classic Mode has been removed altogether, my favourite new addition in last year's product. Driving around as Alain Prost in a 1980 Williams FW07B on Monza med Murray Walker screaming over the PA system was a pure delight for someone like me who have felt that the sport has become less interesting with every passing year. Now the mode is gone. Codemasters haven't commented on why the chose to remove Classic Mode, but it wouldn't be completely surprising if they opted to save this mode for the new-gen version of the game that's due out in the spring, running on a new version of the Ego engine.
The lack of content isn't the main problem with F1 2014. The single most glaring problem this year is that there appears to have been some sort of delay added in between your input on the controller and their implementation on screen. Compared to last year's version it feels like playing on an age old LCD screen with useless response times.
In order to avoid this delay you have to play with a proper wheel and you'll need the PC version where there are way more settings to play around with. With a good wheel (we use Fanatec GT2) and with the correct settings F1 2014 can be entertaining. You can dig up quality from this heap of mediocrity, but it isn't easy.
Among the positives we find the new car models from the start of this season that offer turbo charged V6 engines as opposed to the non-charged V8 engines. Codemasters have managed to capture the new cards well both as for as behaviour (when the turbo is fully charged and the torque kicks in it's a delight) and when it comes to the lower rumble, less dramatic sound of the engines. Other than that it's easy to pass on this year's edition.
The visuals are good though. On PC F1 2014 finds itself passed by numerous titles as the Ego Engine (8 years by now) is starting to show its age. But on the old generation of consoles the game still stands as one of the best looking ones and it impresses with gorgeous lighting and very capable polygon models. The sound is also very good as Codemasters have managed to capture both the characteristic sound of V6 engines, as well as screaming slicks and on top of that the commentary is brilliant.
Codemasters come across as lazy as of late, or perhaps just overly comfortable as they've released many titles in quick succession that simply haven't been up to their usual standard. F1 2014 is another disappointment and I really hope they bring it for the new-gen debut of F1 next spring.