I’m not a fan of taking a couple of days off from working on the site and leaving people hanging, but sometimes a mixture of shitbox racing on Saturday nights, as well as messing around with a new game get in the way of pissing off fanboys on a daily basis here at PRC.net.
It’s probably a good idea to start the week off by addressing the elephant in the room: Codemasters unleashed Formula One 2016 upon the world three days ago, and aside from some pretty catastrophic hardware issues that were quickly rectified with a pair of emergency patches, a whole bunch of sim racers have been pleasantly surprised with the title. This is a rare occurrence for the current group of individuals working under the Codemasters banner, as the quality of games released after their 2011 masterpiece, DiRT 3, have taken a tangible nosedive towards mediocrity. In particular, the licensed Formula One titles were typically met with scathing reviews by hardcore Grand Prix fans for an abundance of technical issues and lackluster artificial intelligence; the lone entry in the series worth playing (F1 2013) was merely saved by the inclusion of historic bonus content.
With Codemasters receiving a unanimous thrashing by both critics and fans alike for shipping an empty, shallow, and most notably broken game in F1 2015, the general consensus from multiple online communities is that Codemasters have redeemed themselves as a developer thanks to F1 2016. Ideally, we’ll have our resident Formula One aficionado Sev give the title a proper shakedown in the coming days, but for those wanting a final verdict right away, I can assure that it’s really fucking good. This is basically the vision everybody had in their minds when Codemasters acquired the license back in 2009; it’s just a shame it took so long to get to this point.
Anyways, for those of you who’ve purchased the game and have spent the majority of the weekend turning laps, you’ve probably figured out that the computer opponents are absurdly quick on higher difficulties, and like all modern racing games, that final bit of pace will be picked up in the garage menu. However, the five baseline setups F1 2016 offers in the garage menu as a quick fix rarely warrant any on-track improvements, and since it’s a Codemasters game, you just know real-world setup tricks probably won’t work here. This is a game rooted in reality, but the physics have indeed been manipulated for mass market appeal. Personally, I don’t mind them one bit. The game drives a bit like the old FSOne mods for rFactor; much simpler compared to the other stuff out there, but in the context of a huge game with ruthless AI and a massive offline career mode, it’s nothing to complain about. I saw someone on reddit make the comment that the game is “70% simulation, 30% arcade”, and that’s a pretty accurate summary.
My only word of warning, is that Codemasters appear to simulate turbocharger behavior by tying it directly to your own personal throttle input. With traction control turned off, you simply can’t roll on the throttle and still turn competitive times as you would in other simulators. It’s like the game engine intentionally ignores the kind of light throttle input you’d use on a similar car in Automobilista or rFactor, and amplifies anything over 50% pedal input to exaggerate turbo behavior. The result is that you more or less can’t modulate the throttle at all. I’m usually against turning on assists in any type of racing game, but F1 2016 is simply unplayable on a competitive level without turning traction control to the Medium setting. This still lets the car wiggle around a whole bunch on exit, and you’ll indeed need to wheel the thing to post a respectable time, but getting rid of traction control entirely in the pursuit of realism will straight up fuck you over from winning much of anything in F1 2016.
As is the norm whenever I load up a new game, I went straight to F1 2016’s Time Trial mode as a way to figure out what kind of lines, setups, and driving styles are needed to be fast in this strange new world. The Time Trial mode in F1 2016 functions much like Forza Motorsport’s Rivals feature, where the game throws you the ghost car of a player just a few spots ahead of you each time you improve your personal best, and it’s a fun little diversion from the main meat of the game. As an added bonus, you can copy your rival’s setup for use in your car at the click of a button, and you’re also welcome to bust it open and make changes as you wish – something Forza doesn’t let you do. What you can probably deduce from the above screenshot of the Interlagos leaderboard, as well as the title of this post, is that Columbia University’s Mattress Girl is one hell of an F1 driver.
After about two hours messing around in Time Trial mode, I can safely say that real world setup techniques that you’ve used across other racing simulators indeed work in F1 2016, there’s just a limit to their overall effectiveness. Climbing through the leaderboards while left to my own devices, I was initially able to stick to basic modifications that I would use in other sims as well to earn a couple tenths here and there. So I can imagine someone who’s strictly an offline player actually enjoying the Career mode in F1 2016, as the adjustments you’ll make to your car in between sessions actually make sense. However, once I got into the elusive Top 50, all hell broke loose, and I pretty much had to load other people’s exploit setups to remain competitive.
Let’s take at what I adopted from CQR Takumi to snatch the record at Interlagos.
I’m quite satisfied with the aerodynamic values you’re forced to use. The front wing setting can remain somewhere in the middle at 7, while the rear wing can be lowered to 5. This obviously makes the car a bit unbalanced given the fact that you’re generating more downforce at the front than the rear, but what you’re trying to achieve here is the magic number of 341 km/h in 8th gear while in a DRS zone. If for whatever reason you can’t hold on, you can run 6 or 7 clicks at the rear. Anything higher, and you’ll lose speed.
You can get away with a fully locked differential while using the medium level of traction control. Again, these cars are basically unplayable at competitive speeds without TCS, so just throw these numbers at the car and be done with it. Don’t frustrate yourself when you don’t have to.
Maximum negative camber at both ends of the car is the way to go, even on high speed tracks, as cornering performance is infinitely more important than tire temps or straight line speed.
You’ll want to stiffen the front end of the car – both the sway bar and the springs to the maximum value – while the rear end remains as soft as possible, and I’m told this is close to what the real cars are running as well. Even though the values may appear absolutely crazy, this stabilizes the car to an extent you simply won’t receive with a conservative approach. Ride height numbers can be left at 5 clicks on each end; I’ve gone lower in my own testing, and it’s made me slower, presumably thanks to bottoming out.
Brakes are actually quite integral to your success in F1 2016, and even though the tire model is incredibly simplified compared to the plethora of modern simulators available, the four wheel drift you want to achieve on corner entry still exists and is highly beneficial. You’ll want to leave the brake pressure at 73% and always give near-full pedal input at the 100 metre marker to slow the car down in time, though dialing the brake bias back to 57% lets the rear end of the car break free and points the nose towards the apex when you lift off the pedal on corner entry. While on-track, the game allows you to adjust the brake bias in increments of 2%, so use 56% if you’re confident in your driving abilities, and 58% for a conservative approach that won’t allow the car to slide as much. Yes, you can feel the difference between those two values. Pretty impressed at that, to be honest.
Oh boy, tire pressures. This one’s pretty easy; the lowest possible tire pressures give the highest amount of grip. During my own personal testing, I played around with jacking these up a bit to increase straight line speed, but the lack of grip in the corners negated pretty much anything I’d attained during the speed sections. Drop them to the minimum value and be done with it.
Lastly, we have the weight distribution, which again is a setting which relies on an extreme value. You’ll want to push all the ballast towards the rear of the car, so the back end doesn’t slide around a whole bunch on corner exit. This is a setting I do not recommend deviating from; I’ve tried values towards the center of the slider, and it just doesn’t work. The car handles like shit.
In conclusion, setups in F1 2016 are pretty simple once you’ve tossed this baseline, record-holding setup into your game. You can run this configuration basically anywhere in the game, and be met with satisfactory results which place you well ahead of the competition, online or off. Some people will surely cry that this game lacks simulation value for how little work you need to do in the garage area, but in my opinion, it’s really no different than any other modern simulator in terms of developing a baseline before making minor adjustments. I’ve been using a similar theory to my setups in both Automobilista and RaceRoom Racing Experience, so this isn’t exactly unfamiliar territory.
When it comes to adjusting this setup for use in other locations, there are basically two things you need to change to accommodate the particular track you’re visiting.
- You can leave the rear wing at 5 clicks on most tracks, I’d bump it up to 6 or 7 for places with a lot of technical corners – or if you can’t keep the rear end under you.
- If you’re confident at a particular track and need a few tenths, lower the brake bias to 56% instead of 58%, and really attack the corners with both heavy/late braking & heavy/early throttle applications.
Enjoy the game, and we’ll have a full review up at some point. You can grab the setup for F1 2016 off the Steam Workshop by clicking HERE.