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Has Codemasters finally got it right with F1 2016?

28 Aug 2016

Codemasters’ sixth entry in their Formula One series, F1 2016, is upon us. NetGuide’s Darren Price puts the pedal to the metal and checks out the PC version to see what’s in store for us this year.

I’m going to put my cards on the table, here. Unless you are a die-hard Formula One fan, there have been plenty of other motorsport games that offer much more varied gameplay than Codemasters’ F1 games. Most of those games are also from the Codies’ stable. The likes of Codemasters’ own GRID and DiRT games, as well as the superb Project CARS all offer great, realistic racing simulations across a number of different motorsport disciplines.

But, of course, that being said, no other motorsport evokes the style, sophistication and romance of the Formula One World Championship tournament. Codemasters’ F1 2016, manages to perfectly capture the essence of Formula One to give us possibly the best video game version of the sport, yet.

I tested the PC version of F1 2016 on an Asus Z170-AR-based, i7 6700K-equiped PC, running with an NVidia GeForce GTX 1080, across a triple-screen set-up. It was a nosebleed-inducing experience and great fun to play.

This year we are back to the full line-up of options which includes a ten season career mode, which can also be played in pro mode for superhuman Formula One masters. You can also play a long or short season, a quickrace, time trial or multiplayer session.

Advances in the games lighting system means that you can how adjust the time of day as well as the weather for your custom races. The character of the circuits is noticeably different is racing on a bright morning or a gloomy midday.

The race is on

For this outing, Codemasters have gone back to the “Race Driver” narrative-based racing career, complete with your leggy agent and grizzled engineer. The career mode gives the game a bit of soul that was, perhaps, missing from last year’s competent but dour entry.

I’ve always found the practice sessions invaluable to get reacquainted with the circuits. Now, in career mode, you can now use them to improve your race. Recourse points can be obtained by successfully completing track acclimatisation, qualification performance and tyre and fuel management tests during the practice session.

This does a good job of emulating the pre-race testing carried out in real life by the team engineers during the practice session. Using resource point you can improve your car’s engine power, fuel efficiency, chassis weight, downforce and drag. This adds, especially over a ten season career, and RPG element to the game.

The game perfectly emulates a TV-style presentation on race days, with behind-the-scenes shots of the drivers and crews preparing for the contest in the team garages. The whole look and feel is slick with authentic-sounding commentaries between the sessions.

Of course, the teams, drivers and circuits have all been updated for the new season. This sees the addition of the Haas F1 Team, the return of the Hockenheimring and the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan.

It’s good to see the safety car back in the game, and even the new virtual safety car represented in the game. This year, Codemasters have not compromised on a thing. To be honest, with the polish and the additional features that they’ve put back in this year, it would be fair to say that F1 2016 is the best version yet.

In the pack

Like it’s predecessors, F1 2016, accommodates both novices and veteran racers. With the racing line, braking and steering assists, even beginners can get a decent race from the game. There’s also the return of the frustration-relieving flashback option, allowing players to undo their cock-ups- unrealistic, but avoids the need to rage-quit. Of course, in cranking the AI up to legend and turning off all the assists, you get the full uncompromising F1 simulator experience.

The game looks great, but most definitely has issues when played across three monitors. The crisp refined visuals of single-monitor play become ever so slightly pixelated for triple-screens. It’s as if the game is rendering at a tad lower resolution and upscaling to my 5880x1080 (bezel corrected) resolution. It’s still beautiful and very playable, though.

Playing the game with an Xbox One controller was fine, but the there is a gulf of difference between the reasonable, but comparatively sloppy, console controller and a proper racing wheel set-up. Using a Thrustmaster R300 wheel elevates the experience into the stratosphere. It’s almost a totally different game, changing F1 2016 from a simcade game to a full Formula One race simulator.

The absence of a VR mode is a bit disappointing as F1 2016’s Codemasters stablemate, DiRT Rally, is superb in VR (even when hacked from its official Oculus Rift compatibility to run on the HTC Vive). Something for next time, perhaps.

F1 2016 is the game that we should have got last year. With the career mode, the safety car and the great R&D component, this is the definitive version of the F1 series. Codemasters are going to have their work cut out topping this game with next year’s release!

Verdict: 8.5/10

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