Admittedly we've been swayed by gorgeous graphics on more than one occasion, but it's hard not to taste the bittersweetness of a visually fine F1 racer that's tragically stripped down from previous iterations. Even more bitter when it's from a studio that's brought us some of our favourite racing moments, past and present.
For example, Codemasters are currently working hard on simulation Dirt Rally, currently in Early Access and due out as a full release towards the end of the year. We've spent upwards of 50 hours with the game over the past few months and have enjoyed it massively. It's a game in which the team has managed to do everything right.
However, the studio's output has been unbalanced in terms of quality of late. Grid 2, Dirt Showdown, and Grid: Autosport all lacked that special element and last year's F1 didn't inspire confidence either. However, with a year ahead of it, we thought the studio would have ample time to fix the problems and reintroduce features missing last time. Sadly neither is the case.
Split-screen is missing. Classic Mode still hasn't returned. Plus the option to create your own Career, the Rivals feature, the option to switch teams and more are nowhere to be seen either. It feels like half a game. Less, when compared to what F1 2013 offered.
Perhaps you don't really care about the number of game modes, and simply want to lower yourself into the carbon fiber seat of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes and enjoy the mind-numbing downforce of the Eau Rouge corner of Spa. Yet due to graphical glitches the impact is ruined. Car physics are great, but the rest of the game needed more polish before being released.
But let's back up a bit. We realise we're coming across as incredibly negative, but there are some great things about F1 2015 that we need to point out. When it comes to the car physics Codemasters knows what it's doing. We typically long for a bit more simulation than what the F1 series offers, but we realise that from a commercial perspective it's a far better strategy to land somewhere in between realistic simulation and arcade racing. And much like previous F1 titles this is where F1 2015 sits. Cars move and behave in a way that is very reminiscent of what it's like driving a Formula car (even if, admittedly, we've only driven Formula Ford and Formula 3 cars), without being as unforgiving as, say, the open wheel racing in iRacing.
There aren't enough improvements in how cars behave and more specifically how tires react to heat compared with what the new consoles are capable of. We would have liked far more detailed tire physics compared to what we got with last year's PS3/360 version, and a more customisable physics engine like the one in Project CARS where you can activate aids and turn Slightly Mad's fantastic simulation into pure arcade racing.
With Codemasters' upcoming rally game Dirt Rally, new staff have been hired, extra competence has been acquired to provide a new engine for more advanced calculations of tire physics. This is something that should have been adapted and put to use in F1 2015. It really feels like the F1 games have been standing still while the genre has raced quickly ahead over the last few years.
Another disappointment are the damage models. The damage the cars suffer during tight races such as Dubai's Autodrome or Monaco GP is poor. Compared to much of what the genre has offered over the last few years, Codemasters have fallen behind and this is an area that needs to be redone from scratch.
The sound is also not impressive even if we can appreciate the atmospheric effects. That said, Codemasters have nicely captured the lower, more subtle sounds of this year's V6 engines.
The online mode is great and it's one of the main highlights of the game, letting you tailor your experience, and the lobbies are nicely polished. It's a good example of what the game could be if only the rest of the experience was as fulfilling and as carefully constructed. As it is, it's simply not living up to expectations following what both the series and studio have shown us in previous titles. The lack of content and polish is the reason for the low score: improvements and necessary additions to next year's model are definitely needed if the franchise is to reclaim its former glory. We hope it does.
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