F1 entered a new V6-powered era at the start of 2014, with dramatic rule changes shaking things up further. So has Codemasters done this season proud with its new F1 2014 game? Here are five things I love and five things I hate about it:
With this year’s seismic F1 changes, Codemasters has done a great job with its game’s handling characteristics. The steering is heavier, meaning a less responsive car, and there is a lot more wheelspin thanks to the decreased downforce levels and increase in torque.
There is still a bit too much downforce for my liking, but the cars are now more challenging to drive, even with assists like traction control left on. Lock-ups are very easy to do and it’s now harder to string together a clean series of laps, which makes the game more challenging for avid gamers.
Classic content was a great new addition to last year’s game. There may only have been 11 cars and four tracks from the two eras, but it brought a whole new level to the game, which is something I was hoping would be expanded further for this year. Despite proving popular with gamers, it wasn’t expanded, however, being removed altogether. What gives?
Last year’s game saw graphics step up a level, and the same has happened in 2014, although the step up wasn’t quite as high. The pre and post-race cinematics are smoother and more detailed, which is pleasing, however.
The new tracks (Red Bull Ring, Sochi Autodrom and the returning Hockenheimring) look stunning, particularly in wet weather conditions. Sure, there are a few things that need tweaking here or there (like the mirror details), but overall improvements have been made.
The in-game-controlled cars have been tweaked to drive more aggressively and competitively. They’re more defensive during battles for position, but are, at times, too cautious. This is most noticeable on the first lap where the AI cars seem to be held back, or where they brake too aggressively, which is frustrating to see as a competitive gamer.
There have been a number of small additions to F1 2014 that have made it even more customisable than before. New names, nicknames and helmet designs have been added for when you first set up the game.
Meanwhile, scenario mode has been expanded and you can now choose from three career mode options – a short (seven races), medium (12 races) or a long (19-race) season. You can also choose any team for your first campaign.
Despite trying its best, Codemasters was unable to secure the full Williams Martini Racing FW36 livery in the game, hence the absence of the iconic red stripe on the car. It could have been so beautiful…
On top of the AI being more aggressive and competitive - on the whole - they also make mistakes and retire from races with mechanical problems. Running off track and onto marbles mid-race also affects your grip for about half a lap afterwards, which is more realistic than we’ve seen before.
While small improvements have been made, poor crash physics in Codemasters’ F1 games continue to frustrate. It takes a big hit to lose a front wing endplate, and it’s nearly impossible to lose a wheel.
The phrase if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it seems to have been in the minds of those developing F1 2014, and while I preferred the interactive paddock and motorhome menus of F1 2010 and 2011, the current style is simple and easy to use, something that’s important for a game with such a wide audience range.
There are a few details in F1 2014 that annoy me. Firstly, when racing in the cockpit or T-cam views, the footage in the mirrors is pixelated and quite poor. The steering wheels are all the same (unlike in real life when several teams run the previous model), while the power-unit sound is too quiet on off-board views.
F1 2014 is a good game. It’s fun to play, but the step up from last year’s title has been disappointingly small.
Whether or not it’s a game that’s worth forking out £35-£40 on is up to you, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of people skip this game and continue playing F1 2013 before buying the new-gen release early next season.
Good effort Codemasters, but you missed the mark this time round.