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Average and no innovation!!
on 17 October 2014
I'm writing this review from the perspective of having played F1 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. I bought this game last night along with a few friends at a local launch party and have been playing it for around 6 hours through the night, doing a few career races, multiplayer and co-op besides testing out a few of the scenarios and time trial.
It may say F1 2014 on the box, main menu and indeed the commentator may even say this is 2014 several times throughout the game; the sad reality is that it just doesn't feel like a new game and I'll explain why. First, a bit of background info before I review the game based on what I've see so far:
I can remember back in 2008 when the new partnership between Codemasters and F1 was agreed and everyone of an F1 and gaming persuasion immediately started to drool with anticipation. Despite several issues in the original game back in 2010 it was by and large a huge success and a great starting place, aided because we didn't have anything to compare it to. Subsequent outings (2011/2012/2013) have all brought new things to the franchise besides the new look cars and driver line-ups although even the most hardened of F1 gaming fans would have to admit that the changes over the years have been evolutionary and not revolutionary and that's being generous!
Out of the previous 4 games, 2013 was clearly the best one principally because of the new classics area which featured cars from the 80's and some old school tracks like brands hatch, aside from that the changes between each one has become less and less obvious as time has gone on. Graphically 2013 was a very nice looking game and you could tell they had spent a good amount of time working on the tracks and the scenery around them but also the shadows and lighting effects/reflections on car bodywork which certainly added to the feel of quality and value. There were several game modes in 2013 along with Career and multiplayer sections and 2014 is no different with multiple challenges in scenario mode like win a race in the wet while on slick tyres for example besides many more, it's all pretty standard stuff that we have seen before and there is little innovation between last years game and 2014 in this regard. The young driver test at the start of last years game has been replaced by a driver evaluation test around Monza and it feels too short especially as this is suppose to assess which difficulty you are best suited to and considering the cars and handling are different you would expect 3-5 laps minimum even for those making a return from previous games. Season Challenge mode returns, essentially a shorter version of Career (the tracks are fixed and not random) in which you compete against chosen rivals for the win. Personally I've never understood the point as if you want to play career, why only do 50% of it? Incidentally you can now do career mode at different lengths I.e. 7 or 12 races etc. Sadly they have also removed the whole classic section to the game which was a huge success in 2013 and in many ways was the most fun and interesting part especially for those returning to the series.
Career mode is virtually by and large a carbon copy of 2013 (which was a carbon copy of 2012) but with new looking cars and different looking engineers although your engineers voice is identical, that said unlike last year you don't have to start in a low order team, you can instead start in whichever car you want, this does reduce the importance of driving well to get a better car and I don't understand why they've done this. The cut scenes before and after a race remain the same with the same driver reactions which is a disappointment to be honest and you still can't customise your helmet (only select a premade one). The ability to create your own setup like wing adjustments, camber and toe settings along with ride height and brake balance and save it is identical and many of the set ups I have ported from 2013 seem to work with a little adjusting here and there, although it must be noted that they have removed the ability to change gear ratios which seems stupid especially for hardened racers like myself that like to tinker.
The ability to set fuel loads and pit stops before the race also remains the same, so does the ability to shift the brake bias and fuel mix while your in the car. So what do the cars look like and how do they handle? They look really good and match up well to how they look in real life; engine noise wise they are completely different to any of the past games and I'm sure it will be a 50/50 split between those that think it sounds right and those that think the cars sound like high pitch lawnmowers as suggested by one friend, personally I think they sound like a vacuum cleaner that is blocked. You also have to contend with 8 gears and more aggressive breaking (which is a surprise because you would think the brake-by-wire system would be less responsive). You will more than likely find yourself braking much later than normal into a turn or chicane which as I have already found does naturally create a more aggressive style of driving. I love the dashboard LED screen on many of the cars and it gives an added incentive to drive using the cockpit view.
So onto a topic that many will want to know about, tyres! The tyres in combination with the new high torque hybrid engines do provide better performance especially with ERS system but you will find the cars are looser at the rear than before especially when going through a turn and accelerating. As someone that uses manual gears I do find the tyres easier to spin, not helpful at the start of a race. Thankfully the tyres seem to last similar distances to those we see in real life despite the wheel spin which is encouraging and certainly from the racing I've done so far means tyres going off the cliff are less of an issue although they still go through a graining stage. Wet weather tyres seem to react the same as last year in terms of grip and endurance although there is still too much overlap between the intermediate and full wet tyres in my view. Tyre graphics as they wear away are marginally improved over last years game but not by much, indeed I would say graining is most noticeable during a pit stop, personally I would like to have seen more detail for example if you go over a grassy spot, the grass sticking to the tyre for longer and reducing the grip on offer but sadly the realism in this regard remains the same.
The AI itself is another area of interest to many, certainly back markers seem to have been given an extra brain cell and now get out of the way ahead of time and indeed legendary AI do seem even more aggressive than before yet that aggressiveness hasn't been met with intelligence, they still collide into you and the "spin glitch" from 2013 has made a return, certainly in one race I was taken out that way by a random player. What is the spin glitch? If another cars front wheel touches the side pod area of your car you automatically spin, to add insult to injury you will more than likely end up with a penalty for something you didn't create and if you have flashback available (ability to rewind time and see what has occurred and try again) all to often you can see it was the AI's fault, so given the game knows the AI hit you and not the other way around, how can it judge that you were to blame? Difficulty wise the options remain the Same although they have added an ultra easy setting with unlimited flashbacks for novices. The easy setting from last year was as easy as could be with the AI offering zero challenge so why they need to add a new difficulty to make it even easier is beyond me.
Speaking of Penalties, the whole system is exactly the same as last year, in fact in certain areas I would say it's worse. The leaving the track warning system and invalidating your current lap is a complete joke during time trial and qualifying especially when you didn't leave the track, I was lead to believe that provided if you have a tyre still touching the white line you are on the track? The corner cutting issue is exactly the same as last year too but what I can't understand is if your car is inside the bollard and touching the white line then how can it be right that you get punished? This problem is exaggerated during a race when you can be gifted a straight penalty even when the AI in front of you took the exact same line and didn't get penalised.
The adaptive weather is similar to last year too but that's not a bad thing as the system worked and worked well, varied conditions out on different parts of the track do have a positive impact on spicing up the race and watching a dry line appearing does look impressive, also worth noting that if you go onto slick tyres early when the track is drying out thinking it'll pay dividends, be aware because if you hit a wet patch you do notice a sharper drop off in terms of grip compared with 2013.
Multiplayer is as good as ever with you having the ability to join a quick race (best avoided unless you want to get taken off at the first turn) or create your own session with everything being changeable from race length, rules, weather and you can add in AI drivers to fill any slots that are free should you wish. Sadly because the game still operates on a peer to peer system and doesn't utilize dedicated servers, online stability is exactly the same as last year so don't expect any improvements and stability will very much depend on your network quality and the connection to others in the same lobby.
Pros: 2014 cars/2014 performance/ 2014 tracks * added graphical depth to the cars and tracks over 2013 and I particularly like the LED screens on some cars steering wheels * They've made dry tyres less responsive in wet weather conditions meaning pitting early is crucial * tyres seem more realistic in my opinion * You physically see the track rubbering in with a racing line appearing * some parts of the AI have been improved and they are more aggressive during qualifying * some new scenarios * Co-op mode and online is as fun as ever!
Cons: Too much has been copied and pasted from the 2013 game * To make the game suitable for 3 year olds they've removed the Williams "Martini" livery so the car is plain white with some blue lines and it looks rubbish (to comply with alcohol advertising restrictions) why not allow a disclaimer in the game so you can have the livery if you agree you are over 18? * the Mclaren looks like it did during testing at the start of the year and not how it has looked for the past few months * Season Challenge mode (mini career) returns and is as pointless as ever * They've removed classic mode (Wtf codies?) * car handling feels heavy compared to 2013 especially using a controller * Penalty system will drive you crazy and still punish you even when you do nothing wrong * AI are too predictable albeit quicker * AI are ridiculously fast in wet weather conditions (unrealistically so) * Damage engine is identical to 2012/2013 * No engine failures/ car problems * Can't adjust gearbox ratios like last year * lapped cars don't unlap themselves under the safety car like they do in reality * No ability to record and watch a whole race from trackside or keep the same camera angle * Still no dedicated servers and the disconnects online are as bad as ever (from the several online races I've done so far) * The achievement list is essentially the same as last years game and someone needs to buy the developers an imagination * identical menus, emails and voices used throughout * No Next Gen version yet again!!
VERDICT: Last year when I reviewed the 2013 game I said it was the best F1 game to date and if you have never played an F1 game then it was the one to get but it was hard to justify upgrading if you had 2012 unless you were a diehard fan like me. This time around I really do find it unforgivable how little the game has moved forward. Essentially you are getting last years game but with 2014 cars and none of the issues or bugs have been sorted, added to that they have removed classic mode which was one of the best things about last years outing. I have to be frank and say that I think it is incredibly lazy and cheeky of the developers to essentially release this game and say it's new because it isn't.
You can tell what has happened here, they were developing the next generation game and probably decided it wasn't quite ready so rather than rushing it out they have chosen to take last years game and update it to feature the changes from this year. They could have used it as an opportunity to resolve past problems but instead have chosen to leave them in, it's not like they had to make 2014 from scratch so they've had plenty of time to address the list of known issues, so to leave them in makes it even worse! As a result it feels like a con and to charge £35 for this, given the percentage of recycled material, not just from 2013 but also 2012 and even before that is a joke.
If you have 2013 then I would honestly keep your money this time around and wait for the F1 2015 which is suppose to be coming out early next year and will be the first "next gen" game. If you are new to F1 then given that 2013 is relatively cheap to buy I would probably recommend that game as buying this is encouraging developers and publishers to be greedy and/or lazy!
To anyone that has experienced last years game and Codemasters lack of understanding towards fixing known issues, this whole game feels like a smack in the face as they evidently haven't listen to fans on several key areas, indeed my racing league submitted a list of fixes and suggestions to Codemasters via their forum and by post last year and evidently it's fallen on deaf ears.
Bottom line: As an avid gamer and F1 racing fan my friends and I are very disappointed in how this game has turned out, the fact that codemasters have made no attempt to improve this game whatsoever is unforgivable on multiple levels, the game is average at best and gets an F for innovation and improvement and has been aimed at newcomers to the series, returning fans will be disappointed!