F1 2016 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Tomas Barry 11.11.2016

Review for F1 2016 on PlayStation 4

Developed for the eighth time by Codemasters Birmingham, F1 2016 (also on PC) aims to pad out and build upon the previous year's impressive fundamentals, whilst also applying some of the qualities that made DiRT Rally, another Codemasters project, so successful. With such a wealth of developer experience within the genre, F1 2016 seems well equipped for a podium finish, bar any surprise blowouts.

F1 2015 reached a new pinnacle strictly in gameplay terms for the series. Its focus on providing an authentic experience, with realistic handling and a great sense of intensity, whether behind a wheel or pad, was its greatest strength. However, while its core was hugely compelling, it did lack a certain attention to detail, such as the glaring absence of a safety car or in-depth stats to review. It was also held back by the complete lack of a career mode, a staple for the franchise and for driving games at large.

Pleasingly, F1 2016 maintains the impressive core gameplay mechanics of its predecessor and reintroduces all the features that were formerly absent, such as the career mode and the safety car. Taking a page out of DiRT Rally's book, it's not afraid of committing to a high-intensity sim-like experience, with all the trimmings. It's extremely rich in the finer-details of F1 racing, specifically not making the mistake of worrying about how it might affect casual gamers. Instead it wisely opts to prioritise the purists. The inclusion of formation laps (for warming tyres and brakes) and manual starts are good examples of the types of minute detail players can expect to find, some of which are perhaps somewhat pointless yet, at the same time, it's a joy that these things are in there.

Screenshot for F1 2016 on PlayStation 4

Especially on the back of last year's failings, it doesn't take much playtime before the player will sense how much better aligned with its vision this iteration is. It features an excess of the unique smaller details of the sport, which only the hardcore F1 fans will likely appreciate, and it is firmly committed to a serious and sim-like approach to the driving experience.

Although admittedly there's always the danger that this may be too perplexing for some casual racing fans, the reality is that it's much better to draw in the few you can with an authentic F1 experience rather than streamlining the entire game for the sake of accessibility, thereby diluting the experience for everyone, in particularly the hardcore F1 fans themselves. Many annual driving games have suffered from this sort of 'Whose game is this anyway?' dilemma from year to year, often wavering between the two stances. It's good to see Codemasters being bold in its stance once again as it definitely seems to have revitalised another franchise here.

The most notable improvement to this year's addition, and yet another fruit yielded by embracing a sim-experience, is the usefulness of practice sessions now and the way they actually help the driver improve. There's seldom been a driving career mode in any racer where practice sessions help with anything other than learning the layout of the track, besides online true sim titles like iRacing, but F1 2016's career mode deserves huge credit for turning these practice sessions into something more meaningful, and more in line with their actual purpose in real life.

Screenshot for F1 2016 on PlayStation 4

These sessions will actually chalk up useable data, just like the real thing, which can be extremely useful if the player knows how to manipulate things to their advantage. If not, the team will make reliable suggestions, should you wish to start tinkering. The whole process of taking a newly modified vehicle out, amassing data, and then analysing it, is an impressive and satisfying grind in itself. While it's not anywhere near as detailed as the real team engineering process, it's certainly impressive to see it approximated so well. The sessions also earn the driver points to make car upgrades, which is a simple yet effective way of encouraging the use of practice sessions and rewarding efforts.

In many ways like this, F1 2016 asks that the player is efficient and capable of making practical decisions on the fly, the way real drivers would. Communication with the engineering team has been stepped up, and race strategies can be selected and changed in-race. The accessibility of strategising in the game is quite impressive, making it possible for amateurs to make proactive tactical choices and learn along the way. Understanding how to manage fuel, when to risk one last lap on those super soft tyres, or how weather conditions will affect tyre grip and durability, are all things that those in control will come to appreciate in due time. However, being highly attuned to what matters in F1 from the off, like the long-time fans themselves, certainly pays high dividends, since so many of those smaller details are in place to be taken advantage of.

At the same time, the full range of driving assists are available to players who don't mind diluting the authentic racing experience a bit, like the full driving line and braking assist, some of which may be useful for particular phases of learning. There's even the now quite standardised rewind function available, but it's tucked away behind the menu, presumably to discourage over-use of it. It might be tempting to players who swear off such perks at times, but there's no denying it's a valuable tool for those with a growing understanding of the sport.

Screenshot for F1 2016 on PlayStation 4

Hardcore players might also find themselves using it with a guilt-free conscience on occasion, as the AI drivers have a surprising tendency for taking players out late on. This is a particular issue this time as player reaction is more compromised when tyre wear is so much more realistically applied. It does, admittedly, break the illusion of an authentic race somewhat when this happens, since the player is suitably punished for the same type or race incident. One other small but glaring issue is that the engineering team has the occasional capacity to sabotage your tactics, possibly suggesting something quite ill-advised at a late stage of the race, which is a bit bizarre, but thankfully not too recurrent. Hopefully it is something that can be patched, though, given that less experienced players might always want to trust these suggestions.

On a pad, F1 2016 performs admirably, with tight controls and a good impression of the road and vehicle from the force feedback. On a wheel, however, things are decidedly more impressive. The wheel resistance, and the general precision it provides, leads to a much more intense and authentic race experience. This is particularly so if the player happens to have a good speaker setup, as the audio is so highly detailed and convincing that if someone overtakes when it's cranked, there is an urge to look over your shoulder.

Visually, things haven't changed much since last year. Graphics are more than adequate and especially convincing thanks to the sturdy sixty frames per second that doesn't budge even at eye-watering speeds with a full pack in line, in dynamic weather. New to this year is the time of day editor that allows you to set the exact time of a race. This means the likes of new street circuit Baku can be experienced in all of its beauty, sunset or sunrise.

Screenshot for F1 2016 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

On reflection, F1 2016 is a game that has enhanced itself significantly with this instalment. It accentuates the smaller details of the sport, but also makes a series of more wholesale changes, which makes the game seem more purposeful. The availability of proper lap analysis and telemetry data brings a proper purpose to practice sessions. It finally turns a too often pointless mode into the proactive, useable tool that it should be for improving driver performance. While it's not the perfect outing, it's a more serious and functional affair that will appeal to the purists two-fold. Codemasters has certainly learnt from DiRT Rally, which didn't deter less serious racing fans, but introduced the details to players in the right way. Although it is not quite perfect overall, it's an encouraging step in the right direction and still easily the most authentic F1 racing game ever made.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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