I’ve had a few brief comings together with the F1 series over the last few years, but with a franchise and a sport so heavily focused on refinement rather than revolution, I often find myself holding back for each generational leap. After last year’s stop-gap, F1 2015 moves Codemasters racer to the next-gen Ego Engine 4.0.
What that means to you and I is painstakingly realistic graphics and scarily in-depth physics updates. And out of the box, F1 2015 is a stunner. I was running this cranked up on a GTX 970, and this is easily one of the finest looking racing games out there. It might not have the stunning vistas of DriveClub or the urban sprawls of Need for Speed, but the attention to detail here is unparalleled. Everything from the camera angles to the minutest details on the race-cars is present and correct, delivering the thrills, spills and deep-dive stats that Formula 1 fans love.
Performance-wise I’ve given F1 2015 a go with both a 750 Ti and a GTX 970. Both cards handle it great, but until Codemasters issued a day one patch there was some extremely spotty performance on the 750 Ti. That all seems to be sorted now, and the one thing you’ll need to watch out for is memory. F1 2015 is a bit of a hog, and this is a case where 4GB RAM just doesn’t quite cut it for the higher settings.
The racing itself is true to form. Don’t go in expecting constant overtakes and the ability to breeze past your opposition, you’re in it for the long haul. Where F1 2015 excels is in those longer races. You can do shorter five-lap ones if you wish, but once you shift up to 25% or 50% of real races, this is where the meat of the game lies. It’s all about prolonged concentration. Taking advantage of circumstances shifting in your favour, and capitalising on every mistake your fellow racers make.
As usual there's a glut of racing modifiers to pitch the difficult appropriately. So if you fancy more of a challenge you can switch it to manual gears, get rid of automatic braking and racing lines, or you can revert to a more arcade-style racer with a few changes. Codemasters has even included its rewind feature from many of its other racers, this time with the potential for unlimited uses. From my experience the greatest thrill came from trying to get a more realistic experience, albeit with unlimited rewinds. This allowed me to constantly go back and learn from my mistakes, tweaking my driving style until it became more natural to me.
That’s the racing and the presentation then, the crux of any driving game. F1 2015 excels in both areas, but where it really begins to suffer is in the dearth of options available to you. The choice of modes is anaemic, limiting you to playing through either the 2014 or 2015 F1 seasons in Championship Season or Pro Season modes. The latter has full races and no assists, but both amount to the same deal; picking a driver and making your way sequentially through every race. If you don’t fancy that, then there’s Quick Race and Time Trial modes. And that’s your lot for single-player. This is quite a jump down from previous F1 titles, which had involving driver campaigns which would take you from zero to hero over several years, managing sponsorships and team deals etc. You can’t even create your own racer, you have to use one of the licensed pros. All there is instead is the option to play a one-off season with an established pro. Hardly the sort of progression curve you dream of for a game.
The multiplayer itself is a little spotty. In F1 2015 you can choose various tiered difficulties to race in based on what level of assist you want. You then just play through a standard race against one another.
It’s a crying shame that’s a fantastic racing experience lurking beneath this shell of a game. There’s an undiluted thrill to racing at 200mph; it’s intense, nerve-shredding work, demanding damn near perfection from avid racers. Codemasters normally has an excellent track record when it comes to feature sets, which makes it even frustrating when it feels like we aren’t getting the whole package. Having waited patiently for that generational leap, my advice to you would be wait for the no-doubt feature-packed version next year. That is unless you’re a die-hard fan keen for those roster updates, at which point you’ve likely sold yourself on F1 2015 regardless.