I don’t willingly buy games with a rating of 39 on Metacritic, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The release of F1 2015 earlier this year was one we lazily covered here at PRC.net, opting to link the numerous glitch videos by popular YouTube commentators as a replacement for a proper text review to drill home the point that you should stay far away from this game. At the time, it seemed like the right call. The stream of negativity surrounding the title offset any noteworthy boost in visual or technical fidelity, and those who had invested entire days worth of playtime into previous games lauded everything from a complete lack of a career mode, to the pace car being strangely absent.
But DiRT Rally prominently displayed that Codemasters wouldn’t be going down without a fight, and to their credit, F1 2015 was receiving patches on an almost routine schedule. Out of sheer curiosity, wondering how the game played as of late October, I started hunting around for a torrent, only to discover that even the major illegal rip providers couldn’t be assed with providing an up-to-date version of F1 2015. I’m not proud of it, but I paid $35 for a game with a rating of 39 on Metacritic, one which Gamespot describes as a game suffering from “technical hiccups” and “reliability issues.”
I’ve gotta say, I’m a little confused before I’ve even booted up the game for the first time. Some ambitious forum users and community contributors believe we’re in a Golden Age of Sim Racing, and F1 2015 is one of many fantastic titles to choose from. However, Gamespot begins their review with “let’s start with what works” – as if there are entire portions of the game that don’t work. I know Gamespot has criticized Grand Theft Auto V for being derogatory to women of all things in order to push a strange left-wing agenda, but they got rid of that guy a few months, and it’s sort of impossible to be subjective when it comes to technical issues.
A mere 80 minutes after my first time booting up the game, I’d already uninstalled F1 2015 from my Hard Drive, and sent an Email off to Steam requesting a refund; one which was carried out within the hour. Usually, I map a button to my wheel to take screenshots while I’m in the middle of a race, and those get sprinkled throughout the article. My FRAPS folder only has three screenshots from F1 2015, so that should give you an indication as to where we’re heading.
Earlier this year I shitcanned F1 2014’s poor AI, but was fairly satisfied with the rest of the game. Codemasters’ 2014 iteration of their officially licensed series drove very similar to Race 07’s fictional Formula One cars, and its flaws were only noticeable for those who have been playing driving game for far too long. There was a nice career mode to give people something to do, the game featured the largest roster of tracks ever (provided you made a visit to RaceDepartment), and it didn’t look all that bad. Most people are simply not going to be good enough to discover the AI strategy issues I ran into, and in the end it’s a game I can actually recommend picking up if Steam offers a sale on it. Hell, even 2013 might be worth a look due to the Classic content that has not carried over to future titles.
F1 2015 is basically the opposite.
Shipping with both the 2014 and 2015 seasons available, the game’s list of modes are woefully short, as are the basic features. Career mode has been cut entirely in favor of not one but two single season modes, one of which forces you to drive from the cockpit camera and removes the heads up display. The safety car has been removed, as well as red flags, even though they were prominently featured in previous games and worked as they should. The ability to tweak your camera view and other aspects of the game with XML files has been removed, meaning there will never be a modding scene on-par with F1 2014, which allowed everything from livery swaps to performance database modifications.
As I run a Driving Force GT mixed with G27 pedals, like many others I was forced to create a custom controller profile within the options menu. The first problem I ran into with this whole system, was that I couldn’t get my Force Feedback to work at all. I tried everything I could think of, and my wheel would rattle around only if I nailed the wall head on. I’m no stranger to Codemasters games, I know the ways in which each of the FFB sliders affects how my wheel behaves… In F1 2015, none of the sliders really did anything. Oops.
And what I’ve found shocking, is that Codemasters still makes no effort to explain to its users that Formula One steering wheels have a much smaller rotation range than your passenger car, or other race cars for that matter. I mean, given my experience with previous F1 games, I know to set my wheel rotation to anywhere from 270 to 330 in the Logitech Profiler, but a lot of other people aren’t going to know that.
First, we’ll start with how it drives. These cars have the most grip ever in a Codemasters game, to the point where running laps isn’t all that satisfying. On consoles, I could see this being a lot of fun given the extra grip compared to previous releases, but with a wheel there was virtually no skill involved. I worked my best time at the Red Bull Ring down to a 1:09, and at Monaco I broke into the top 20 worldwide within about fifteen laps.
This is partially due to the game’s hilarious track limits. You can wall ride at Monaco without receiving any physical damage, time penalty, or lap invalidation, and some of the cut limits at the Red Bull Ring allow you to channel your inner John Deere tractor. Cheeky lines that would get you booted from most online leagues are deemed perfectly acceptable and within the rules according to the virtual stewards in F1 2015, as if those in charge of programming track limits deemed every flat surface within a five mile radius as legal. Of course, when the game does punish you for a track limit violation, it’s usually because you haven’t done anything wrong in the first place.
Yet for how easy it can seem to throw the car all over the track without being punished, the cars also light up the tires in the lower gears under acceleration, leading to these absolutely ridiculous death wobbles. The outcomes of these death wobbles are extremely hard to predict; for a few corners, you’ll feel as if Codemasters got tire behavior right, only to be thrown into the wall without having a single clue as to what you’ve done wrong managing your throttle inputs on corner exit.
The overdone turbo effect on the lower gears is insane, and I would argue that the 2014 Forumla One cars in Stock Car Extreme are both easier and more predictable to drive as a whole. The false sense of security the increased grip level gives you only bites you in the ass when exiting turn 2 at Montreal, or the Casino Hairpin at Monaco – the game suddenly decides extreme turbo behavior is authentic, and turns your 2014 Mercedes F1 car into a drift spec Nissan Silvia. Pedaling out of this death wobble feels unnatural, as the game is torn between punishing you, and throwing you into the wall.
The AI obviously doesn’t play by these rules. While it’s true that they seem to be much more competent at turning laps within a pack, at no point are they struggling with the same tire behavior as you are. AI cars rocket away after a hairpin in which you’re struggling to get the car to hook up and pussy footing through the gears. To Codemasters’ credit, when they are alongside you, they are much more composed than they’ve ever been in previous entries, but still not on an equal playing field with the player’s car.
Unlike what the screenshot above suggests, F1 2015 looks like utter ass, and it is impossible to capture how bad the game looks in motion with a still screenshot. Even on the game’s Ultra preset, it looks as if someone smeared a stick of butter all over my PC monitor, which is obviously the last way someone should be describing a supposedly re-done shader model optimized for next-generation consoles. Portions of each track look fantastic in terms of detail, but the overall effects are reminiscent of early Xbox 360 titles that tried and failed to implement new and exciting post processing effects. The framerate isn’t affected by this stuff, but your eyes certainly notice it.
Ghost cars, engine exhaust, and even car reflections are coated in a thick layer of translucent sludge, as if someone’s gone a bit too hard on the third party rFactor shaders found on a sketchy Russian website housing illegal Forza rips. Driver models prominently displayed before the start of each race are more akin to mannequins than faithful recreations. The deeper you go into F1 2015, the more you wonder how someone gave any of this the thumbs up.80 minutes into the game, I was done. And I know we’ve got a bit of a reputation for being cynical bastards here at PRC.net that hate everything, so maybe it’s time to inject somebody else’s opinions into the mix who doesn’t hate everything.
We’ve posted this video before, but a few months ago, Alan from TeamVVV did a stand-up job showcasing the frustrating experience you’re subjected to when playing F1 2015. Alan loves Codemasters games, and throughout the ten minutes of uncut footage he’s filmed of himself racing at the Hungarian Grand Prix to test out the game, nothing is safe. Just like we’ve mentioned above, he notes that the motion blur is ugly, the visual fidelity is a step backwards, the car doesn’t feel good to drive, and by the end of the video he is incredibly frustrated – just as I have been.
In an effort to buy into what RAVSIM wrote a few days ago, describing how we are in a Golden Age of Sim Racing and there are several phenomenal titles to choose from – I picked up F1 2015. Much like MX vs ATV Supercross Encore, Assetto Corsa, Wreckfest, Project CARS, and Need for Speed Underground 3, F1 2015 is not a phenomenal title by any stretch of the imagination. Codemasters latest entry in their now long-running franchise only serves to reinforce the notion that racing games as a whole are going downhill in a hurry, and your average forum user recommending these games or downplaying negative reviews have no bloody clue what they’re talking about.