F1 2016

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Codemasters
Release Date: Aug. 19, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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Xbox One Review - 'F1 2016'

by Brian Dumlao on Oct. 13, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

F1 2016 is the latest installment in the Formula One racing series and will include the most immersive career mode ever featured in the franchise.

Buy F1 2016

For about eight years, Codemasters has been releasing officially licensed F1 simulation racing games for both the PC and major home consoles. Reception for the titles started out positively, but the series lost its luster in the last two iterations, with critics citing a lack of modes once the series jumped from the PS3/Xbox 360 to the PS4/Xbox One. F1 2016 seeks to correct that, and while there's room for improvement in some areas, it is clear that this is the return to form that fans have wanted.

If you haven't played a serious F1 game in a while, then it's important to understand that the racing involved is much different from most racing titles. You're still trying to get a higher spot in races, but you can't bump and grind your way to the top since your car is so fragile. One hit from behind, and you'll spin. Slam into a wall, and you'll likely destroy your front axle, knocking you out of the race. Racing cautiously also means that you have to be aware of things like tire degradation and fuel consumption, so you have to plan your pit stops or risk having to pray that you'll reach the finish with what you have left, hoping not to crash or have the car die.

Aside from the standard stuff that goes with playing other racing simulators at higher difficulty levels, players have to deal with the Formula 1 rules. Some of the rules are pretty apparent, such as not performing a false start or crashing into other racers. Cutting through corners is also frowned upon, as is using the outer limits of the track to pass others. Whenever a wreck occurs, you have to stay behind the safety car, and you can't use that opportunity to pass others. Also, the modification of your spoiler can only be done in certain zones and only if you're trailing an opponent by a second or more. For anyone accustomed to other racing titles, these rules seem stifling, but give it time, and you'll find them to be challenging instead.

There's really no better way to understand all of this than Quick Race mode, which strips away all of the other parts of the game and just gets you on the track. One of the things you'll appreciate before you even set foot in the car is that you can manage all of the race details at the loading screen. While the main track and racers are being loaded into memory, you can mess with things like difficulty, lap number, weather conditions and time of day for the tracks that are available for the 2016 season — all without incurring additional loading times for the changes you make. The other thing you'll appreciate is that you won't automatically start at the back of the pack for every race. Instead, this mode automatically places each racer in their positions based on past performances. Pick someone like cover star Lewis Hamilton, and you're either in the first slot or somewhere close to it. Pick one of the racers from a lesser-known organization, and you'll want to bump up the default number of laps from three to a much higher number unless you don't mind finishing in the middle of the pack. Speaking of which, Quick Race mode saves your progress if you quit before the race officially ends, so you can go for a high lap count and still finish it without having to dedicate yourself to completing it in one go.

Once you're on the track, you'll notice the nuances of F1 racing, such as the benefits of not always going at top speed so you can gracefully handle a corner, learning when to apply brakes, or how far you need to steer to minimize tire degradation. Depending on your difficulty level, you'll also learn how to balance things out, so you aren't fighting your car on those turns and corners. You'll begin to tell the difference between tire types, so you can adjust your strategy based on how you handle your vehicle. For long races, you'll even get familiar with how to modify brake bias or fuel mixture for endurance or speed. If you're still struggling with the whole process, then you'll be happy to know that there are a ton of assists to ease you into the experience, including an automatic braking system, loads of charts to monitor every important detail, and a racing line that feels more advanced. You can put on a headset to have the pit managers bark out strategies in your ear for a more immersive experience. You can also use the headset to issue commands that are normally performed with a combination of d-pad movements and button presses, a far less cumbersome process if you want to convey more strategies to the crew or call ahead for a pit stop.

After you feel more comfortable with how F1 racing works, you can go to Time Trials to get the fastest times for each track or go online for races against up to 21 other players. From our experience, the community is decently sized, with a good mix of amateur and seasoned players per race. Even with a full lobby of people, lag was practically nonexistent, so it felt like you were racing offline minus the fact that your opponents were more unpredictable than the AI racers.

The main mode is Career, where you're coming in as a fresh rookie to the scene. After utilizing a bare-bones character creation system, you'll be asked to sign to a club, and this is where the mode's depth first comes into play, since your club choice determines how difficult your career path is going to be for the next 10 years. Choose a top-tier one like Mercedes, and you'll be expected to win that championship in your rookie year. Sign up with a club like Manor, and you'll play the long game because they still expect you to bring home the championship but give you several years to hone your craft before going after the big one. From there, you'll meet up with your lawyer to get a contract signed with goals for the year. As time progresses, you'll be able to see your overall and club standings and keep up with any rivalries or see if you can get promoted to be the top racer in your club. It's all pretty straightforward, since you don't have to worry about the publicity side and can focus on racing.

The other pre-race aspect you'll have to consider are weekend types. For those who want complete authenticity, there's the full weekend, where you go through practice sessions, a qualifier, and the race with all of the laps the pros would take. Those wanting a more digestible experience can opt for short weekends, where sessions are shortened and you only have to do a quarter of the real-life lap number. Finally, for those who really want to burn through the career, you can do custom weekends to modify all of the aforementioned aspects to your liking.

Unless you do away with them altogether in your weekend, your practice sessions have you covering three different aspects of the race. One places gates on the track and tasks you with passing through them, so you can get familiar with the track. Another has you trying to make a good lap time, while the final one grades your tire wear rate based on your driving on the track. Each of those can be repeated throughout the practice session, and all of them have mini-goals that total up to become your grade.

Even if you're playing in a short weekend format, the practice sessions can get quite tedious, more so if you hit your goals for those disciplines early. To combat the monotony, F1 2016 rewards your participation in the practice sessions with points that can then be used to upgrade at least five different parts of your vehicle. Even if you choose to race with the top club and can comfortably get first place in a few races, you'll need the practice points because it won't take long before everyone else upgrades their own cars. It is the dreaded grind that RPG players often experience, but it becomes more acceptable here since you don't have the advantage of swapping out one car for another if you need the boost.

For those who want the game to be even tougher, there's Pro Career mode, which is essentially the same as the vanilla version but with fewer assists and fewer gauges. It plays out the same as the regular Career mode, but you'll depend on your pit crew to give you more information than before. Also, for those who want a much easier career path minus some of the extra activities, you can always choose Championship, which lets you pick a professional racer and concentrate on practice sessions and racing without having to work from the bottom up.

Graphically, the game looks mostly good. Whether you're at the Australian track at dawn or the Singapore track at night with the building lights aglow, the environments look good despite the lack of vibrancy in the colors. Despite the washed-out look, there's plenty of detail to be had on the tracks and the cars. Nice touches look spectacular, like rain being swept away from visors and the heat waves coming from each of the engines, and it all comes across with a very smooth frame rate. Where it falters is in the vertical screen-tearing that's prevalent when you take a turn. The severity of the tears is wholly dependent on the severity of the turns, but it is noticeable. Also, the character models look decidedly last generation, where the faces look fine but something feels off, whether it's in their animations, texture pop, or particle effects. For a car game, these things shouldn't matter, but since you'll see the same intros, outros and people for every race, it can be a bit of an eyesore.

On the audio side of things, the game is fine. The music is good but minimal, since you only hear it in menus. The sound effects are done well most of the time, with buzzing of the engines going well with the tire skids and bumps between cars. This is especially nice if you have a surround system since it's wonderful to hear someone nipping right at your heels. As for the voices, you have David Croft and Anthony Davidson aboard, and they sound fine, if reserved instead of overly enthusiastic. Their delivery is good for the most part, with the only stumble being an odd cadence change when Croft reads the racing lineup.

F1 2016 is certainly one of the better representations of the sport in some time. The handling of the vehicles is just right, and once you understand the little nuances, the races are thrilling from start to finish. The career mode is more than enough to sustain any player, but the other included modes give the game real value. It still needs work in the presentation area, but for simulation junkies who want to race around in cars they'll never be able to afford, F1 2016 is the best thing going.

Score: 8.5/10

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