F1 2014 / 23rd of September 2014
In relation to most other sports related games Codemasters F1 series is somewhat unusual, in that its annual release is set towards the tail end of the Formula One season it bases itself upon. And in a sport that fluctuates to such an extent from year to year, where anticipating which teams will be successful and who will struggle requires almost supernatural foresight, this decision to release the game at such a time appears to be both a bold yet sensible one. This year’s particular iteration, F1 2014, will see release on October 17th for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, and will be the fifth multi-platform game since Codemasters secured the license to racing’s most prestigious discipline. The reason I bring this up is that this season, as anyone who follows Formula One will know, saw the biggest rule change to the sport in its sixty year history. So as you would expect Codemasters have their hands full ensuring F1 2014 remains as true to real life as its predecessors.
Thankfully the series remains as authentic as ever, as the game’s sleek U.I. and opening scenes will attest. While having the freedom to watch the current Formula One season play out has allowed the developers to tailor the base difficulty of each team. Race as the Mercedes - this year’s dominant force - and the challenge will be somewhat easier than had you sided with last year’s victors Red Bull. The specifics of each team’s cars strengths and weaknesses have also been recreated, with the likes of the Mercedes and Williams both excelling in straight line speed, while others such as Ferrari and Red Bull have a greater dependence on cornering speeds. It’s may not sound all that remarkable, but had the game seen release earlier in the season then - based on the previous year’s standings - the performance of teams such as Red Bull and Lotus could have been greatly exaggerated.
Authentic updates such as these are what one might expect from any annual franchise, but improvements to the series, the inclusion of new features and more content are what justify the model. The drastic rule changes to this season necessitate the inclusion of the new ERS (Energy Recovery System) as does the addition of new tracks to the race calendar, such as the Sochi Autodrom and Austria’s Spielberg circuit. But the most significant change that veteran players will notice is within the game’s new career mode. Codemasters has opted to abandon the prolonged Young Driver Test, instead throwing new players into a hot lap of the classic Monza circuit and using their performance as a benchmark to gauge the appropriate difficulty level. This along with the new option to select a condensed career mode, allowing players to create a seven or twelve race season, appears aimed at encouraging a more pick up and play orientated approach. Ideal for those who enjoy Formula One, but don’t have the time for three day race weekends and a nineteen race season.
As well as these changes to the career, there has also been additions to the other various modes F1 2014 is set to offer. Various time attack and trial modes will be available, but the most interesting once again appears to be the returning scenario mode set to offer twenty differing scenarios of varying difficulty. Players are dropped straight into live races with a pre-defined scenario which you’ll be expected to overcome, such as recovering from a crash and using fresh tyres to regain your position before the race ends. It’s a nice addition once again, and the variety of scenarios on offer will give players a brief window into how the real drivers might feel during those racing moments where almost everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
As the level of content within F1 2014 has been built upon, one would expect the standard of the game’s visuals to improve considerably as well. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case, as this year’s release looks almost indistinguishable when compared with F1 2013, although one can argue there’s simply no more power left to be squeezed from last-gen consoles. Sadly the visuals won’t even have the chance to improve on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 as F1 2014 will not be arriving on next-gen consoles this year. The reason for this failure to bridge the generation gap is, according to Codemasters, due to next year’s entirely next-gen F1 game being developed from the ground up with an all new engine.
In any case if you’re eager to experience the drastic changes to this year’s Formula One season for yourself, or still don’t feel the need to make the jump to next-gen then F1 2014 may very well be one of the most promising racing games available. Despite its homely looks the content on offer and the sheer thrill of an F1 race weekend is sure to entice fans of the series. On top of that, the inclusion of the more accessible gameplay options may well attract those who previously enjoyed the series, but couldn’t justify the time investment. With the likes of Forza Horizon 2 and Drive Club set to light up next-gen it appears the road is clear for Codemasters series to continue its strong showing on Xbox 360 and PS3 before next year’s instalment makes the transition to next-gen consoles.