Monday 26 September 2016

F1 2015 review: Formula missing some ingredients

F1 2015 (PS4/XOne/PC); rating: 7/10; age 3+

Published 21/07/2015 | 12:34

F1 2015: racing can be thrilling - or as thrilling as F1 ever gets at least
F1 2015: racing can be thrilling - or as thrilling as F1 ever gets at least

IT’S as hoary a story as when boy meets girl. When long-running franchises make the shift to a new generation, something always gets lost in the translation.

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The F1 licence has been domiciled at racing gurus Codemasters since 2009 and the demands of the annual churn have always put a strain on the small studio. Last year’s outing was barely an update at all, presumably because Codemasters was gearing up for this full rewrite for next-gen consoles.

Unquestionably, from a technical standpoint, that has been time well spent, for F1 2015 adds a glossy sheen to the array of tracks and cars. Even more importantly, the handling has been tightened and those unruly 800bhp beasts feel responsive to control, even as they twitch and buck under your thumbs.

The AI shows occasional glimpses of cunning and/or fallibility and (on PS4 at least) the pit engineer updates delivered over the radio via the controller speaker are immersive and helpful.

F1 2015: teeing up the 2016 edition nicely
F1 2015: teeing up the 2016 edition nicely

But in many other respects, F1 2015 selects reverse gear. Time constraint is the only logical explanation for a game that omits large chunks of its predecessors’ modes and content.

Almost as a sop, Codemasters includes the 2014 season driver/car configurations as well the current line-ups.  If you’re a F1 gearhead, the details will matter to you – Mexico makes its return as a circuit after 20 years and Alonso is back with McLaren, for instance.

F1 2015: zombies in cutscenes
F1 2015: zombies in cutscenes

But such accuracy scarcely compensates for the absence of a swathe of features to which we had become accustomed.

Gone are career mode – in which you created your own driver and worked your way up the ranks. Gone are the historic cars and drivers. Gone is multiplayer splitscreen. Gone is the safety car. The paddock interviews. Etc, etc.

And as pretty as the tarted-up visuals on track are, there’s something lifeless about the post-race celebrations. Seemingly, a trio of zombies are deputised to collect the trophies and spray champagne instead of anyone behaving vaguely like Hamilton, Vettel and co.

The heart and soul of the racing remains intact, though, and F1 2015 presents a decent, if colourless facsimile of what has itself become a fairly dry sport. It bodes well for F1 2016 but that’s not something you’ll see splashed across the front of the box by the marketing wonks.

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