August 19 cannot come soon enough, that’s the date that this year’s instalment of Codemasters now classic and industry leading racing simulator F1 2016 comes out. Having had a preview of the game and some of the new features, let me tell you – you won’t be disappointed.
Make no mistakes about it, F1™ 2016 is the official video-game of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship™, I mean look at all those ™ symbols right?
For many years Codemasters have incrementally and often in large leaps of technology, improved this game and perhaps the real challenge each year is to make it more engaging, make it better, and not just update the tracks, teams and drivers from the previous years.
2016 is a big update, lots of new drivers and teams, and even recent enough to have Max Verstappen driving for Red Bull and poor Danny Kvyat back in the Torro Rosso.
In all the pre-release announcements it has seemed there is a desire to build a deeper experience, but also bring even more realism to the game.
I was fortunate enough to hook a limited demo version of the game up at home to my rather elaborate racing sim setup. My F1 Playseat and Logitech G29 wheel – I don’t drive with my thumbs ok!
The preview I got to run was focussed mainly on the new career mode and for good reason, it’s really one of two key improvements to the game.
Returning to something from a couple of seasons ago, the game once again features a paddock environment. So as a driver you’re getting more than just graphics of timing, and in-car garage and track views.
They say the career path now expands over 10 years, I got a couple of races into my first season – but I’m sure it’s a wild ride with contract negotiations and lots of drama.
I noticed a very strong in-team rivalry in the rounds I played, with my team not only setting me objectives for the weekend balanced against my team-mate, but a sliding scale of feedback to see how you were tracking.
It’s a simple thing, but I did enjoy creating my own genuine profile too – pick a face, a helmet and even your own racing number for your career – a real personal touch.
Sitting at my desk in the Red Bull paddock office – Even Christian Horner was visible near me, so they’ve put a lot of effort into the details.
In the garage there’s a lot more to do. A full race weekend isn’t just a few practice sessions, qualifying and a race, within those practice sessions are team objectives where you will be asked to complete laps to familiarise yourself, test tyre and fuel management and qualifying pace. It really feels like a proper race weekend.
And then there’s the Research and Development – from my quick preview it seems that everything you do across the weekend earns you points, and you can allocate those points to different areas of the car to enhance its performance and development.
On Race Day you’ve got the ability to build a solid strategy, and just like the boys out on the real track – you’re in charge of the starts too.
I didn’t test it, but they tell me there are full safety cars, virtual safety cards, pit wall boards and even a formation lap if you want.
What I did see in my limited preview of the on-track action was a deeper sense of realism.
The graphics don’t feel that much more advanced – perhaps we need to wait for the 4K implementation which I doubt will be in this version – perhaps for 2017. However there were three things I noticed while blaring around Albert Park.
Sparks – Lots of sparks from the cars around you as they scrape the track – very realistic
Tyre Smoke – lock that wheel and you’ll see a puff – or more than a puff of smoke.
Wheel tethers – I hit the wall all in the name of previewing the game of course – and the wheels stay tethered to the car just like in real life.
I’ll wait to give it a full review, but the general feeling of the car seemed much more realistic. I get that sense because I really struggled at first, until I realised how much oversteer or wheel-spin I was getting.
From my very limited preview – my only disappointment – car setup.
For years this has been the way to get the most from your car. Each year I find myself searching game player forums for optimal setups and just copying them – I don’t feel I’ve actually learned anything about car setup.
What I’d like to see is an engineer who works with me, pushes me to give car feedback and suggests adjustments. I know there are basic setups that suit all tracks, but if you wanna play with the big boys you’ve really got to dig into this area – I think that area would benefit from a bit more AI interaction.
And in 2016 there’ll be loads of downloadable content (DLC) – pay extra for cool things, like custom helmets or who knows what else.
For now, I’ll have to let my preview fuel the excitement for a full review – the game launches on August 19 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC (DVD and via Steam)