No matter the length of race chosen, F1 2015 mandates at least one pit stop per outing. When pulling into the pits, control of the car is seized from the player and the steering wheel displays the words “pit limiter.” That’s a real-world solution to keep drivers at a reasonable and safe speed when operating these super machines around crews.
F1 2015 is Codemasters’ first attempt at developing for current-gen consoles. Every single time the pit limiter flashed onto the screen, I couldn’t help but think it was an apt metaphor for this game. The transition has left F1 2015 under-powered and operating at a fraction of its potential.
F1 2015 (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One [reviewed])
Developer: Codemasters Birmingham
Publisher: Bandai Namco
MSRP: $54.99 (PC), $59.99 (PS4, Xbox One)
Released: July 10, 2015 (Europe), July 21, 2015 (North America)
Most of F1 2015‘s missing horsepower comes in the form of features. Only the barest of essentials are to be found, and even those feel further stripped-down. The mode that everyone will get the most mileage out of is a single season of play (either 2014 or 2015). Pick a driver from the pre-set list of real racers, practice, qualify, and race. Repeat 18 more times, and F1 2015‘s longest goal has been completed.
There’s no career mode, creation tools, or management simulator present, so season play has to carry a strong sense of progression. Unfortunately, that’s almost completely absent apart from watching you and your teammate earn points after each race. There are no contracts to chase or sponsors to keep happy. Your crew assigns goals, but they are absolutely pointless. After they’re achieved or failed, they’re never spoken of again and they don’t affect anything. There isn’t even a calendar to keep track of how many races are left; I had to look it up on F1’s official site.
Compounding matters is the race length. The shortest possible race in season mode is 25 percent of a real race. This usually works out to about half an hour. If you add in practice and qualifying, it’s upward of an hour. That’s quite the time commitment to a game that doesn’t adequately reward you for playing. It becomes a slog before long.
Other modes offer little reprieve from the tedium. Time trial puts you on a track alone. Quick race is a better suit for seeing the different tracks than anything else. Multiplayer is plagued by a litany of bugs — one of my first races there saw a player finish last by more than 30 seconds only for the game to award him first place by more than a minute, with a best lap time of 457 minutes.
This lack of polish isn’t isolated to the netcode. F1 2015 is an uninspired-looking game. Driver models are almost offensively bland. Several of the tracks are adorned by blocky, blurry backdrops. Crowds are completely static. The screen tears regularly, which thankfully isn’t always easily noticed due to concentrating on racing.
There are exceptions to this, though. Codemasters put in care in the most obvious spots — where it knew players would look for it. Iconic courses in Monaco, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi are absolutely fantastic. The claustrophobic streets of Monaco almost feel like an entirely different game given the attention to detail on all the close-quarters buildings. And, like in real life, it’s where F1 is at its most exciting.
Strangely, for a title that’s supposed to simulate the highest tier of performance racing, F1 2015‘s cars handle remarkably easily. There’s a disconcerting disconnect to the road. The pavement offers little in the way of challenge, as simply steering in the correct direction at full throttle works flawlessly. Brake for those tight corners and then slam the gas back down. It’s nowhere near as nuanced as one would expect, and it takes a lot of skill out of what should be the most skilled driving in the world.
The saving grace for the driving mechanics — and I say this without an iota of sarcasm or irony — is the tire wear. Over the course of a race, the tires degrade to the point of being nearly useless. The turns you once took efficiently suddenly have you pointing in the wrong direction. It adds a sense of tension around the midway point and final laps. You’ll know that you have to pit as you’re losing time on each circuit, but when’s the best time? Have your opponents pitted yet? Can you squeeze out one more lap?
Similarly, rain adds a lot to the driving. While it’s visually unimpressive, it certainly negates the problem of cars being too easy to steer. All of a sudden, these vehicles might as well be on ice. If it starts pouring, it’s paramount to tell the crew to switch to a different style of tire and hit the pits as soon as possible. Otherwise, drivers who have already adjusted will overtake you in no time at all.
One last mode in F1 2015 also takes care of the “too easy to drive” issue. Pro Season is the most simulation-like the game has to offer, and it’s only for the most hardcore of players. It ramps the difficulty up to the highest degree, turns off all assists, locks the view to cockpit, and sets everything to full length. It’s intense. Realistically, only a small percentage of people will care enough to attempt this, and those are the ones dedicated enough to the genre that they have much better offerings with way more options in several other games.
But, it’s not only those racing enthusiasts who will see F1 2015 as lacking. Everyone who tries it will. Its development was short-sighted, and its appeal is thusly short-lived. This is a game that excels in a very small handful of areas — imagine how thrilling it is when your tires wear away in Monaco! — but is mediocre or bad almost everywhere else.
As centuries of racing have taught us, no one remembers the guy who finishes toward the back of the pack. That will be F1 2015‘s legacy: a forgotten one.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]