F1 2015 first impressions: Exactly the game racers wanted

The long awaited officially endorsed, Formula 1 video game, F1 2015 is now available. From 12:00am this morning, Australians got their hands of the game. If you chose to...

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The long awaited officially endorsed, Formula 1 video game, F1 2015 is now available. From 12:00am this morning, Australians got their hands of the game. If you chose to pre-order, and pre-download, you would have been playing by 12:01am, for others it was later in the day, but after spending 8 hours in the game and playing 7%, it’s time to take a moment to reflect on the experience so far and give you my initial impressions.

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Weather

New in 2015, the weather has arrived. A wet track offers far less grip than a dry one, so you have to be a lot more cautious on the loud pedal. So far my racing has only been on intermediate or dry tryes (options and hard), so I can’t tell you what it’s like to drive in full wet conditions. What I can tell you is that it doesn’t seem like weather events are dynamic, that is come and go in 15 minutes.

It seems if you start a wet race, it’ll be wet for that whole race. As we know, part of the toughest strategy is selecting the right time switch to different tyres based on changing conditions. Hopefully this can be addressed in an update.

Graphics

There are times where this game looks fantastic, like when you’re sitting on the grid, waiting for the 5 lights to turn red, as the rain droplets reflect the sponsor logos on your polished cockpit. Then, there are other times on some tracks, when you’re in the middle of a race and you notice the muddy, washed out texture qualities and resolution of objects makes it feel like last year’s game engine.

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Game Modes

To have this game be released mid-season is an interesting prospect. With the season incomplete, Codemaster’s, the developers don’t have the capacity to deliver the full results of 2015 to allow gamers to race against. In an effort to address this, you have a decision to make when you start the game, the 2014 or 2015 Season.

Once you’re into the main menu, you have a bunch of options to choose from:

Championship Season

The regular, primary option for people to start with. This takes you through the tracks in the same order as the 2015 Calendar. Of course you get to choose your favourite driver to play as. Choose carefully as you can’t change this later without starting over.

These races are approachable, but at times, still feel long, depending on your position in it. If you select the right skill level, you’ll be challenged and it’ll be thoroughly enjoyable. I’m currently 5 rounds in most races are 14-15 laps long and that’s the race itself, which is on top of your qualifying and your practice sessions.

Pro Season

This mode is without a doubt, for the professionals. The hardcore enthusiasts that want absolute realism and that’s because this race mode removes all other camera options other than 1st person, cockpit view. It also means you’ll be racing with no assists and full 100% length of races. Driving fans will be familiar with playing races between 10-15 minutes in length, but when you’re doing 50+ laps of a track, you’re in for hours at a time.

This is a massive commitment, most enthusiasts won’t endure, but is fantastic to see it included for the most elite drivers. Personally I’m not sure I’d every complete this game mode, I simply don’t have the time, hopefully there’s some mega XP waiting for your if you win the season.

Quick Race

This option is perfect when you have 5 minutes spare and want to race, or you want to try your favourite track without having to race your way to it. It also lets you choose your favourite team and driver. Thanks to it being a fully licenced game, all teams and driver’s are available. The driver models are pretty janky by today’s standards. You can make our the likeness, but it’s certainly never going to be confused as video of the actual drivers.

Multiplayer

There’s already complaints flooding in about the lack of local multiplayer in this game, but that’s certainly not new. Games in general have been transitioning away from local multiplayer modes in favour of online modes that require each player to own their own copy. It’s not hard to understand the commercial reasons for this, that said, it’s still something that should be included.

When playing online, you select the race style your after and the game begins searching for hoppers. Generally I found this to be successful most of the time, particularly after the game was released in the US and other countries. Racing people on the other side of the world is always fun, but only if there’s no lag.

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Tracks

Naturally the Formula 1 season begins in Australia. For me it’s a great track because it’s so close to home, but shortly after firing up the game, I did head to more historic tracks like Monaco which is crazy hard as it should be.

There’s enough content at the track to make it feel believable in your peripheral vision, but if you’re paying attention to it, the environment is not great, not by today’s standards. For the most part, Project CARS is far more detailed and has far higher resolution textures and detailed people in crowds.

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Computer AI

You get to select the difficulty for computer AI, so I was ready for racing to get excited while I experimented, and it did. When the AI (or computer controlled drivers) is set to the dumbest modes, they can and do crash into you. Give the AI some more brain cells and you’ll find yourself in the middle of an ultra competitive race.

I’ve already had plenty of times where I battled corner after corner centimetres apart from the wheels of other drivers, this is the experience I wanted from F1 2015 and thankfully it delivers.

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DRS

There are parts of the track that you can use the Drag Reduction system. If you’re following the car in front within 1 second at the detection point, you’ll hit a button to open the rear wing and which streamlines the airflow through the car and results in a decent, yet not obscene speed boost. When you hit the go button on this, you’ll want to be watching your change lights and be very ready to shift gears, and fast.

This feature works as it does in real races, it provides more interesting racing with more passing and if you’re the benefactor, you’ll be climbing up the grid.

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Damage

Turn the damage to real and you’ll quickly find real race events happen. You’ll loose parts of your front wing in tight corner and it’ll effect your aerodynamics, considerably. Mid-way through the race, you’re likely to feel your tyre degradation and get brake fade and handling changes as your fuel burns down.

If you’re not careful, you’ll crash and terminally damage your vehicle. If things go bad enough, you can have an accident when you basically kill the driver from excess geforces, at that point your slam into the wall with mean the race is over.

Probably the most concerning implementation of damage I experienced was on lap 14/15 in a race and I got a flat tyre. I had gone past pit entry and went from 3rd in the race, to finishing 13th. I don’t believe I hit anything, it just happened. This does happen in real racing, so if the game is accurately representing what we see on TV, then these kinds of events should happen, they just suck when they happen to you. Perhaps I should have changed the default pit strategy from a 1-stopper to a 2 to ensure the rubber made it to the end.

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Controllers

If you ready any feedback thread for Project CARS, there’ll be a long list of irate customers who complain about the handling. I think driving fans (myself included) have been spoiled by Forza for too long. Now as multiple driving games hit the market, we’re having to re-wire our brains. Thankfully the F1 cars are nothing like the GoKarts in CARS, the game can be driven with your regular Xbox One controller.

With that said, that’s boring. Knowing the linup of racing titles landing this year, I invested in a Ferrari 458 steering wheel and pedals from Thustmaster. These are phenomenal with F1 2015 and provide so much more of a realistic driving experience. Chances are if you’re into driving games in any kind of serious way, you’ll have you’re own already, so absolutely use those over a controller.

If I had to give you a tip, it’d be to make sure you leave traction control on, After 10 of the most frustrating laps of my life, I decided spinning thanks to stomping on the go pedal, wasn’t so fun. With TC enabled, you can plant your foot and the car sticks to the road as you’d expect. Sure this may not be 100% driving simulation, but the good news is, the game can bend either way, depending on your preference.

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Overall

So after spending time with F1 2015, I have to say the game is resounding success. If you’re a fan of the sport and a fan of racing/driving games, this should absolutely be on your must buy list, and soon. If you have a steering wheel setup for another form of driving, and are on the fence about F1, then my suggestion would be to wait for the more diverse range of racing types in Forza 6, which isn’t too many months away.

It is a shame they couldn’t have found a way to increase the graphics quality, certainly in the Xbox One version. The screenshots from the game on Codemaster’s website are almost certainly taken from the PC version, which makes me think the developers are still struggling to yield the performance they want and need from current consoles, despite only being a couple years old.

Finally, this is a very small thing, but it does seem strange that everywhere else from the cars, to the track signage, to the driving suits, are all covered in official sponsors, the champagne that adorns the podium, isn’t G.H.Mumm like in real life, it’s a generic label.

The game is available now for Xbox One, PS4, PC and via Steam.

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