As bold and creative as Codemasters’ original concept for the F1 franchise was, even they eventually suffered the same fate as sports game developers around the world by ultimately becoming nothing more than a machine to churn out a new-but-same-sports-game year after year.

This was felt more than ever last year. All eyes were on F1 2015 as it debuted the first of the new-generation titles on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and on the Xbox version that we reviewed the results were underwhelming to say the least. Murky, low-resolution graphics made the game feel like it was out of focus, the career mode was bland and the whole package uninteresting.

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Thankfully, this is not the case with F1 2016. Codemasters seem to have not only finally found their groove again, but also heard the fans yearning for a more interesting career mode.

The new career mode allows you to create your own driver, and contains a bunch of fun and interesting challenges that are housed within a race weekend’s usual proceedings. Free Practice sessions are now no longer just there for you to lap the track and get a hang of the layout, and even if that was the case, why would a gamer need three, like in the real world? Optional challenges are available to you over the course of the sessions that typically include acclimatising to the track by hitting all apexes around the circuit, doing runs at qualifying pace to see if you’re up to speed and doing tyre management exercises to help you get a good feel for how to not wreck your tyres too quickly during the race.

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These challenges are not just mini-games, but incredibly helpful exercises that not only provide you with things to do, but actually help you get better at driving, and better prepared for the race. If that wasn’t enough incentive, they also earn you credit towards a form of currency that lets you request upgrades and features on your car over the course of the season. This combined with some career moments that take place between sessions (chatting to managers, keeping up with info on your laptop etc.) helps to keep the career interesting as the calendar moves along, but not so intricate that it gets in the way of the experience. Aside from the career modes, there’s a typical line-up of modes that include time-trial and a 22 player online races. There’s not too much to be said there, but those of you know you love some or all of those features know what level of value lies in it for you.

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One problem still prevalent in this franchise is the issue where year after year, many fans start their careers and play the same couple of races in a row before moving onto something else, meaning that year after year many people actually only really play the same few tracks in full career mode, leaving many from the end of the calendar barely played unless specifically opted for in quick race or other modes. Bringing back some scenario-based career modes will really rectify issues like this (they’ve had similar before) and in many ways it really makes me wish that the game included a “career highlights” mode that tells a bit of a story, only putting you in control of crucial moments from the tale, such as “that P1 in qualifying that made all the difference in Japan” or that time you had to start from the pits due to a penalty but needed to make up enough places to score important points that won your team the constructors championship. It’s just a thought Codemasters, use it / don’t use it, you know the drill.

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As with all sports games, there is still that need to add more little features here and there to keep your fans interested in upgrading, and as it stands the games now include a host of features missing over the years, such as safety cars and formation laps, although most of these are set to off by default.

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One new feature I really did like though, is the inclusion of a fun, engaging but simple mechanic for manual launches at the start of races. When the red lights come up, you have to hold down X (A on Xbox) to engage the clutch and then keep your engine at the optimum revs for launch. When the lights go out, just like on TV, you release the clutch and the car launches away. It’s such a small addition and yet it makes race starts that much more enjoyable to fans who know the importance of those few moments when watching the real races.

The graphics on the PlayStation 4 are sharp and beautiful where it matters, with additional scenarios such as rain and different times of day looking especially easy on the eye. The same can’t be said for the character models though, as you sometimes have to spend a few moments looking at some pretty ghastly creatures before realising which driver it’s supposed to be. They want to try and mimic the feel of a TV broadcast, but this department has a pretty long way to go, They should maybe give those folks who make NBA 2K a call.

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One last issue that’s gone on long enough now without Codemasters addressing it, is a most annoying, whiny sound coming out of the internet turbos when you drive. The high-pitched whistling sound feels like its piercing my eardrums when I drive, to the point that in my earlier sessions I legitimately couldn’t play for longer than 20 minutes at a time before needing to take a break. Maybe it won’t bother everyone, but it sure as heck bothered me and the ability to turn it off would be much appreciated. [Update: There’s a patch in the works to have this remedied! Hooray!]

At the time of writing (a patch or two in, I do believe), the game also seems to have some sort of sound bug that causes it to sound like somebody in the pit lane left their microphone on. While driving around the track, engine sounds can constantly be heard when they very clearly shouldn’t be audible and at times it’s actually been so distracting or noisy that I’ve struggled to hear my own engine and even missed gear shifts. Hopefully little issues like this can get sorted out, because they’re very out of place in an otherwise solid video game package.

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While wheels are always going to be the best input method, F1 2016 does an immaculate job of translating controller inputs into full car movements. While many sim racing games struggle to get this right, Codemasters have absolutely perfected it. The driving is visceral, slick and responsive, with all the necessary assists available along the way to give you the driving experience that you want to have, be it full simulation or some weekend fun before the real grand prix broadcast starts.

Last Updated: September 7, 2016

F1 2016
Summary
F1 2016 is a return to form that delivers what fans have wanted while finally feeling at home on this generation of consoles. If you’ve been holding out for a year or two, this is a great time to jump back on the incredibly fast wagon. Even if they did promise realism but still show Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton smiling on the podium at the same time.
8.5
F1 2016 was reviewed on PlayStation 4
82 / 100

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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