Launching F1 2015 in the middle of a race season is an odd choice. Traditionally, every game in the F1 series has been released well into the fourth quarter of the year, when the driver’s and constructor’s championships are a foregone conclusion. This is the first sign that F1 2015 is a total shift in terms of how Codemasters is working this licence, and it could mark an important switch in how the games align with the race season in future.
Instead of building up your driver like in F1 2014, you now choose any driver from any team and finish a season with them. It’s Ridge Racer-ish in that respect, but there’s no change to how the team interacts with you based on the avatar you choose, because they barely interact with you at all. You do benefit from a very attentive crew chief who fills you in on important details during the race, but the rest of your team are voiceless.
Championship, Time Trial and Quick Race modes are included as well as “Pro Champion” mode, which turns off all the HUD elements, restricts you to the helmet cam, and turns up the AI difficulty. The debate online about Pro Champion mode goes two ways – one camp says that it’s a good idea because it adds more options for hardcore simulation fans, the other laments the fact that those options are only available in Pro mode (which I agree with). There is a way to disable the HUD outside of this mode, but the option is hidden under “Session Options” when you’re in a race.
There’s no local split-screen multiplayer, so you won’t be playing this with friends on the couch. I couldn’t get multiplayer to work in any fashion, so I wasn’t able to play with friends online either. Unlike the approaches other recent racing games have taken, F1 2015 removes a lot of the choice from the player; you can either participate in preset events, or create your own race weekend, but there’s no server list to browse. Hmm.
The biggest overhaul comes in the form of a fantastic physics model. The physics effects work really well: the cars handle sharply and precisely, and even with a controller there are definite changes to how feedback is delivered to you. Tyre wear and placement on the track are also improved, so the cars should handle much more realistically when you’re playing this with a racing wheel.
Despite being a showcase for the new EGO 4.0 engine, F1 2015 doesn’t have lots of eye candy, and compared to other games released in 2015, it isn’t as visually impressive, perhaps as a result of needing to build the game for current-gen consoles as well as the PC with a target 60fps frame rate. The tyre smoke effects are really good, but the water kicked up behind the cars in rainy weather doesn’t look great up close (it’s very sprite-like in appearance).
The damage modelling isn’t finely detailed and occasionally it reaches Fallout-levels of peculiar, with front wheels that shoot off into the distance in a crash. The crash detection may also need some fine-tuning, as I’ve seen multiple cases where it just doesn’t work at all. I recall one accident in particular, which not only caused the Red Bull Renault I’d just crashed into to become a ghost car, but it later completely disappeared. The AI is also particularly aggressive, hitting your rear almost on cue when you’re braking into a tight corner.
I reviewed F1 2014 in January, so there is that feeling of playing the same game again, but F1 2015 is very different in a technical sense. It flows much better during races, and it definitely takes inspiration from Project Cars with the soundtrack which tries to be more rock than techno (there’s homage paid to Knight Rider in one track). I wouldn’t say that it’s great, but I would say that F1 2015 is slightly better. For now, think of it as a fantasy football type of tie-in to the current F1 season, and don’t expect too much from the multiplayer at this point – that will take several weeks to settle down and begin maturing as bugs are ironed out.