It wasn’t all that long ago here on PRC.net that I posted a rather glowing semi-review of Formula One 2016. Now while Codemasters have traditionally shit the bed when it comes to their annual big-time open wheel release, and y’all have every right to be skeptical about the quality of the product, this is the first time in seven iterations that the European team have pushed out a Formula One title that’s actually worth every dollar spent. That doesn’t mean there aren’t hilarious glitches or bugs found deep within the title, but F1 2016 is a game you can fire up after work for a few hours, and nine out of ten times thoroughly enjoy the time spent with it.
But in the pursuit of fairness, it’s only right for us to discuss some of the technical issues that have been discovered by avid Formula One fans over the past few weeks since the title’s launch. Longtime reader Ruben Galvez Lopez has sent in a nice piece to us, outlining what he describes as an ugly mole in an otherwise fairly solid product.
This time, I’m writing to you in regards to Formula One 2016. After reading so much positive stuff about it, I decided to give it a chance. Overall I am very happy with it, last time I’d played one of these was in 2013 and I was fed up with the series. It was always the same story, year after year – small steps forward in the handling side, but the same huge problems lurking in the shadows: track limit abuse and exploit setups. The AI wasn’t especially good either, so you couldn’t enjoy yourself properly in single player modes, and the other two problems I mentioned made a mockery of online multiplayer.
Now it wasn’t as bad as that video they sent you about Forza Leagues where people were plowing through tire barriers, but it was still bad enough to cause a fuss on the forums. The ideal racing line in the game had nothing to do with the line the real cars were running; you were always using the grass and the turf to cut or extend the track, and if you didn’t do it, you were giving away precious space on the track.
I have to start by saying that I’m enjoying the game; it has plenty of improvements over the last Formula One release I played: the damage sensitivity is much higher – so you can’t go around tapping walls, and you must avoid contact with other cars. Also, most of the setup exploits where you would always be faster with extreme values are gone. There are also manual starts, virtual safety cars, the car development feature… The list is very long, but Codemasters did a very good job cramming everything we wanted into F1 2016.
But I can’t avoid being disappointed about one particular detail, and that’s how the game treats track limits. The cars don’t react at all to curbs unless it’s on a heavy traction zone, and that means the fairness of the races depends entirely on the corner cutting detection feature. I’m not a fan of this, physics should be enough in most cases to police the track. These are single seaters; they are very stiff, very low, and these traits will keep you on the track by themselves most of the time. This isn’t the BTCC.
If you are a fan of the real series, you can see the shitstorm that is created every time a corner is modified and the runoff area offers the chance to be used. You get discussions about what to do: placing sensors, monitoring how many times each driver goes off, letting them drive as they like… these corners create absurd situations for the stewards and fans alike.
In this game, thanks to the lack of proper reactions to curbs, every corner is “that corner.” The track limits become blurry and you are constantly driving in places where a real F1 car could never drive. I don’t know how much this bothers players that are not too fussed about the real thing, but I for one cringe each time I see a car going up Eau Rouge with two wheels on the grass, or riding these huge sausage curbs they use in some slow turns as if they were not there at all.
To display how much of a difference this makes, I created this video above, where in the second half, I compare the real racing line and the ideal one in this game. To be as fair as possible, I did it on a track where the chances to cut are average; there are circuits where it’s much worse, and there are circuits that won’t allow so much bullshit.
I can understand this is not a hardcore driving simulator or anything, and I don’t mind if the physics aren’t 100% accurate, but I don’t think this stuff has a place in a Formula One game. It’s as if you released a NASCAR game with decent handling and features, but the fastest way around the track was grinding the outside wall at full power. Fans of the real thing would probably be fuming.
I have to say you’re correct. During my career mode races at Melbourne, Montreal, and Monaco, I felt I could get away with a lot of track limit violations that would have otherwise warranted pretty severe post-race penalties if I’d tried them in various online racing leagues. I don’t think they affect offline racing all that much, as the AI cars will always run their line, and it’s up to you whether you want to use certain exploits to catch a car or pull away from the field, but obviously it becomes a problem when you take the show online. Personally I don’t understand why developers are struggling with track limit implementations as of late. Both Project CARS and Forza Motorsport 6 had this problem as well; I’m hoping it boils down to a bad line of code than putting a literal idiot in charge of out of bounds rules. Otherwise, we’ve got major problems behind the scenes. I mean, at least F1 2016 doesn’t let you plow through tire barriers, so there’s that, but thinking back to how I was allowed to take turn one at Monaco without the game penalizing me, it was basically the same thing.
I think the theme of your submission, or at least the title of it, allows us to talk about Formula One 2016 in a much more critical manner, so I guess I’ll sort of transition into that topic. Don’t get me wrong, this game truly is fantastic, but over the past couple of days I’ve been hit with a few Emails outlining various problems with this game, and it’s important to round them all up for our readers.
At the fifteen minute mark in this video, when the safety car is deployed, the AI proceed to crash into each other before coming ghost cars. It’s a scene fairly reminiscent of Assetto Corsa, though the cars don’t fully retire from the race.
Then, there are the executable crashes. According to another tidbit I received not too long ago, all owners of F1 2016 regardless of the platform are struggling with an abundance of instability issues. This is something I personally haven’t come across; the game crashed once in seventeen hours of gameplay, but PRC.net reader John C. writes that the problem is so widespread Codemasters are actually reluctant to acknowledge it, aside from mentioning that if the next patch does not fix the stability woes, Codemasters will require people to send in crash reports to them. This obviously isn’t a good thing, nobody wants to pay to be a beta tester, they paid for a finished product.
Again, this isn’t stuff I’ve experienced – in fact, the game has performed quite well for me aside from occasional stuttering in claustrophobic big crash situations – so it’s hard for me to launch into a tirade over F1 2016’s quality. However, that doesn’t mean these issues don’t exist. While F1 2016 is easily the best open wheel racing game ever made by Codemasters, there are numerous reports of hiccups here and there that serve to detract from the overall racing experience.