By – John Williamson

F1 PC 2015 Review He

Codemasters has retained the coveted F1 license since 2010 and gradually honed the physics model, tyre scaling and AI complexity via iterative updates. Unfortunately, F1 2014’s development was fairly tumultuous and signified a major step backwards due to the incredibly easy handling, lack of classic content and passive AI. According to Codemasters, a large proportion of the series’ floundering revolved around the computational limits of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. F1 2015 has been heavily marketed as the first “next generation” F1 experience which fully utilizes the enhanced capabilities of the latest consoles. As a result, expectations are extremely high and Codemasters has altered their release schedule to launch the game mid-season. This is a cogent move as enthusiasm for Formula One games is greater and allows people to re-enact memorable races. The question is, can F1 2015 redeem Codemasters’ reputation and become the definitive depiction of modern Formula One?

The physics engine in F1 2015 is beautifully engineered and poses a significant challenge. Applying the throttle requires a smooth driving style to eliminate wheelspin and maintain maximum grip. This involves feeding the accelerator in a gentle manner and sticking to the racing line. If you adopt an overly aggressive approach, the rear end steps out and forces you to correct the car’s position. Even with traction control enabled, it’s relatively easy to spin out which makes lesser-skilled players learn the fundamentals of consistent driving. As always, it’s imperative to remain on the racing line to gain maximum traction as the marbles offline reduce grip. For the first time, corners such as Eau Rouge feel complex and based on skilled throttle control.

F1 2015’s braking points have also been improved and I didn’t encounter any instances where the optimal braking line was unrealistic. In the past, certain circuits like Yas Marina contain absurdly late braking points which easily catch you off-guard. Consequently, the fastest delta times comes from an earlier braking phase and increased exist speeds. The steering sensitivity is another highlight as cars never feel glued to the track. As a result, you need to constantly make small corrections and experience a suitable balance of oversteer and understeer. This depends on a team’s aerodynamic package, and track setup. Compared to F1 2014, the steering is stiffer and takes a few races to adjust to. In my opinion, this is a positive step because corners feel less synthetic.

F1 PC 2015 Review Sum

Modern Formula One is dominated by tyre wear and a driver’s ability to make each stint work in a strategic way. For instance, the main dry compounds are option and prime, with soft, hard and super-soft being the primary choices. Selecting the softer tyre is quicker but contains a higher rate of degradation. This means you need to manage your tyres and know when to push at 100%. Unfortunately, the tyre scaling in F1 2015 is quite poor and I’m very disappointed by its primitive inclusion. To test the tyre model, I completed two races with a completely different focus. During the first, I intentionally reduce my lap delta by 2-3 seconds and compared the tyre wear to 100% qualifying laps. While there was a difference, it was incredibly small and didn’t reflect the tyre saving mode. Therefore, it’s possible to go full-pelt on a new set of tyres and make them last for a surprisingly long period. However, when the tyres start to degrade, you can feel the grip reducing which makes cornering rather difficult. This is fantastic, and forces you to assess various strategies. Although, my main gripe as mentioned before, is your driving style has a minimal effect on tyre wear rates.

Strangely enough, the AI appears to suffer from very minimal tyre wear and can easily find extra levels of grip around the circuit. On the Legend difficulty, this is blatantly obvious, and it’s infuriating to see drivers breeze through corners without struggling to apply the power. On another note, the AI is useless with cold tyres and unable to increase temperatures on outlaps. This means, their pace is reduced and makes them an easy target after a pit-stop. It’s not all bad though, as Codemasters made it quite difficult to perfect corners with cold tyres and you must tread carefully during the first few laps.

The Codemasters F1 series has been characterized by extremely passive AI even on Legend difficulty. This meant you could position your car in on the inside or outside line and still remain in-front, despite being 2-3 seconds a lap slower. After 4 years of disappointment, has this finally changed? The answer is yes, but in a way that defies belief. The AI in F1 2015 is very aggressive, to the point of being a complete farce. For example, other drivers will regularly position their front wing into your rear tyres, slam into your sidepod or make dangerous manoeuvres. In fact, I can’t remember completing a race without being hit by an AI vehicle. Frankly, it ruins the racing and forces you to restart races over and over again. It’s staggering how basic the AI is because they clumsily try a move on a section of track without overtaking room, instead of remaining in the slipstream and out-braking on the next corner. Thankfully, it’s not completely terrible, as AI cars tend to overtake each other and fight for position. Additionally, they never give up a place and try to overtake back on their line. It’s just unfortunate that the balance is wrong and doesn’t reflect the delicate nature of F1 cars.

F1 PC 2015 Review 4

Bizarrely, the AI manages to get away with a number of severe incidents due to the atrocious damage system. While it’s hard to believe, you can become involved in a major crash without a scratch. Usually, the AI comes off better and never experiences any mechanical issues. Officially licensed F1 games can only reproduce a certain level of damage due to safety protocols but F1 2015’s model barely exists. Subsequently, this makes the racing very arcade-like, and doesn’t penalize reckless driving moves. In real life, the smallest contact would cause a puncture and large crashes result in an instant DNF. Compared to 2013, and 2014’s damage model, F1 2015 is very basic, and wholly unrealistic.

Another monumental problem which still exists from the previous titles is the penalty system. The system is devoid of consistency and often penalizes the wrong driver. For example, at Silverstone, an AI driver missed the braking zone, ran off the track limits and smashed into me when rejoining. Unbelievably, I was given the penalty for unsportsmanlike behaviour despite maintaining the racing line! On other occasions, you can cut parts of the circuit and receive nothing, not even a warning. The one major flaw I encountered equates to cheating during a qualifying lap. Instead of cancelling a lap where you gain an unfair advantage, the penalty is a warning! This allows you to cut certain corners and gain 3 seconds per lap, and still retain that time and qualify first. In fairness, this didn’t happen every time so could point to a glitch.

It’s difficult to escape the sense that F1 2015 is a rushed mess and nowhere near ready for public release. Firstly, there isn’t a safety car or virtual safety car whatsoever, which is like producing a first-person-shooter without ammo. In Formula One, the safety car is essential to bunch the pack up during incidents and add a sense of drama. The safety car was in F1 2014, and F1 2013, so why has it suddenly disappeared? Surely, Codemasters already has the assets. Also, F1 2015 has scrapped the career mode which let you start as a rookie driver and work your way to the top through multiple seasons. Classic cars which proved to be very popular have also been removed, and the incredibly fun Time Attack challenges no longer exist. The only saving grace is you can compete in 2014 and 2015 seasons, but content wise F1 2015 is sorely lacking.

F1 PC 2015 Review Sum

F1 2015 features a total of 5 game modes; quick race, time trial, championship, pro season and multiplayer. Quick race gets you right into the action and has a number of variables including race length, qualifying format, weather and assists. Strangely, the track loads in the background and automatically goes to the next session once complete. This means if you leave your PC idle for a while, then you cannot alter the race variables. The time trial mode is extremely disappointing, and feels tacked on. All this involves is a run around each circuit without fuel or tyre wear and compares your times against other players.

The championship is based on a single season, either in 2014 or 2015 and revolves around your favourite team or driver. While this is the meat of F1 2015, I would much prefer to create my own racing superstar from scratch and try to attract the better teams through impressive performances. The pro season, is identical except all assists are disabled, and the AI is set to Legend. Even on the pro season, the team has unrealistic targets which irked me very quickly. One notable example was in the low field, Marussia, and the team felt anything under 15th place would constitute failure. In reality, a Marussia is hopelessly slow compared to the mid-field.

The multiplayer aspect is plagued by cooperative desync, hitching and a myriad of game-breaking bugs. Codemasters matchmaking system is shockingly slow, and can take up to 45mins for a race to load. Not only that, I could only access quick races, and there was no settings to choose assist options or other custom tags. Also, the netcode is appalling with cars randomly flashing into your FOV, crashing into invisible walls and even flying into the air! Honestly, the multiplayer is unplayable and this is not just caused by the behaviour of other players. Codemasters have to acknowledge how poorly optimized the netcode is. How can you expect people to concentrate with cars dancing all over the circuit? Please note, that F1 2015 doesn’t support split screen local multiplayer either.

F1 PC 2015 Review 5

From a technical perspective, F1 2015 is the worst of the series by a huge margin. Its presentation is sorely lacking and utilizes the same podium sequences and intro videos every time. This gets old rather quickly, but at least you can skip these sections. To sum up this game, all you need to know is bugs, bugs bugs! Many users have encountered an assortment of glitches and I personally have seen at least 5-7 glaring examples of the game lacking polish. I’m sure long time fans of the series will be ecstatic when I announce that the pit-stop bug from 2010 has returned. If you’re unfamiliar with this, the AI is so tentative and won’t release you until every car has exited their pit garage. As a result, you could enter the pit in 1st and come out last! This only scratches the surface of the issues in the pitlane, as I’ve seen AI cars crash into each other, and even drive around into the wrong pit box.

Controls wise, F1 2015 natively supports the most common wheels on the market including the Logitech G27 and Thrustmaster T300RS. I didn’t experience any input lag and surprised to see my Fanatec Clubsport Pedals working so seamlessly. However, there are a number severe issues when using a controller. In my case, the Thrustmaster GPX Lightback was detected but mapped incorrectly and wouldn’t accelerate even after manually setting up the control scheme. Luckily, I managed to find another user with this problem who discovered an unusual solution. To make my controller work, I was forced to launch F1 2015 with it unplugged, and insert the USB cable when the game reaches the menu screen. Furthermore, using a controller can actually reduce your maximum speed on the straights. In theory, you can opt for the digital keyboard controls but I wouldn’t recommend it.

F1 2015 is clearly a huge visual leap on the current consoles, but the PC version looks identical to last year’s effort. The tarmac doesn’t contain any close-up detail and there’s a general muddy hue throughout the environment. That’s not to say the visuals are terrible, but it’s easily eclipsed by Assetto Corsa and Project Cars. Overall, the graphics don’t appear to be very sharp. Despite this, Codemasters have integrated a wide array of options including SMAA, x16 AF, Particle Quality, Ambient Occlusion, Crowd, Vehicle Quality, Smoke Shadows, Light Quality, Post Process Effects and loads more! This is an impeccable options menu and I applaud Codemasters for the copious supply of settings. There is also support for 16:9, 16:10 and 21:9 resolutions and a windowed mode. The performance at 3440×1440 at maximum settings using an i7 4770K, 16GB RAM and GTX 980Ti was solid and never dipped under 60fps.

F1 PC 2015 Review Sum

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

F1 2015 is unquestionably, a monumental disappointment marred by technical shortcomings. Furthermore, I’m bewildered by the removal of the career mode, time attack, classic content and safety car. To be brutally honest, F1 2015 resembles an early access game in its earliest development phase and I cannot fathom why Codemasters have limited the game’s longevity so dramatically.  F1 2015 was designed to be revolutionary but ended up emphasizing how the series has hit a crisis point.

F1 2015 Technical Summary:

F1 PC 2015 Review Sum

  • Time Played – 19 hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 3440×1440
  • 4K Support – Yes
  • Frame Rate – Unlocked
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – Littered With Bugs
  • DRM – Steamworks
  • System Specs – i7 4770K, 16GB RAM, 6GB GTX 980Ti
  • Control Scheme – Thrustmaster TX458 and GPX Lightback, Keyboard
  • Saved Game Location – \userdata\286570\local\savegame
  • Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam
  • Demo – No
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