Great games always use their engines as backdrops for the stories we can write. F1 2016 tells a lot of stories, and yes, even the first racing weekend of the season can include all the twists and turns Formula 1 has to offer. But let’s cover the basics first, let’s come back to that race later.
Remember F1 2015, the tech demo lacking content? While last year’s instalment felt like a crash just after the start, F1 2016 easily goes the full distance, although there are a few safety car sessions in there as well …
First of all, content-wise, there are no more previous season or classic modes any more, but F1 2016 comes with a massive career mode at its heart, making you really feel like a F1 driver – and you’re not just living the triumph and victories, the crashes and technical failures, you’re also having to work hard for it to make your success happen. Oh, and sometimes, spectacular, yet physically not absolutely correct crashes happen:
If you’re like Rabidgames and you pretty much suck at racing games, the game actually poses quite a challenge even on easy and with all driving assists activated – you really need to focus throughout the circuits, and in races, one tiny mistake can mean ruined tyres and being 10th instead of on the podium! F1 2016 is a game that asks you to study the tracks hard before you can reap the rewards.
While you can create your driver, the creation suite is a rather sad state affairs – maybe 12 face models with hardly anything to change, a few helmet designs, and that’s it … a bit sad for 2016. But hey, at least you can lead small countries such as Luxembourg or San Marino to their first ever Formula 1 victory! Afterwards, you can choose your team freely now in F1 2016 – but be careful, a top team Mercedes expects you to become world champion while Manor is happy with you grabbing perhaps a point or two …
But as soon as you created your driver and go through the first tutorials, the depth of F1 2016 shines through – while you can simply jump straight into your first free practice session to get to know the track, you can also play around with the settings to get to know which car settings suit your playstyle best. As a nice and well-integrated bonus, you can also earn points by fulfilling certain conditions throughout the weekend – from learning how to get your tyres working to outracing your dedicated rival, those points will help you developing your car throughout the season, so it is highly recommended to do so.
Back to the first race weekend of the season – after using the free practice sessions to get accustomed to the circuit and the gameplay of F1 2016, and after noticing the AI drivers have never heard about making way for faster cars the hard way, Rabidgames managed to qualify the Toro Rosso on the pole – which is quite easy with a somewhat decent lap on easy difficulty.Choosing 25% of the original distance, which equals 15 laps in Australia, felt long enough for the first race.
The formation lap went a bit wrong though after getting overtaken by a few cars that didn’t make way which is part of the regulations, yours truly failed at the start and ended up 4th … Only to get back to 1st within a few laps, unfortunately damaging the front wing so when boxing after lap 8, the front wing had to be changed which kicked Rabidgames’ Luxembourgian driver back to 7th. After a few overtakings and a few cars boxing though, it was back to first place.
But then came the rain. Visually beautifully looking rain, and rainy conditions is where F1 2016 looks stunning. Problem is, rain and old tyres aren’t exactly a fun combination, and while Ricciardo could be fought off after he made a mistake and left the track after a collision, Räikkönen felt comfortably fine with the rain. Fortunately, the rain became so hard that the box recommended putting on intermediates in the final lap, which was insane as Räikkönen didn’t pit so with both cars struggling, Rabidgames managed to somehow slide the car to the chequered flag, meaning a historical first race victory for Luxembourg!
Truth be told, doing all of that on easy and with most assists activated might diminish the feat, but for a racing noob, it still felt hard and challenging. F1 2016 asks quite a lot from inexperienced racers on easy difficulties, where mistakes are punished quickly. Yes, you can rewind to before the accident, but that’s really cheating now!
As you can see, lots of things can happen in F1 2016, and that was just one race! However, the A.I. is far from perfect and while you pretty push a car off the tracks, sometimes you get punished for leaving the track although lost time and positions … which seems odd.
Apart from the career mode, there’s a season mode with all current drivers (feeling kind of superfluous), a custom race/season mode, time trials which let you race against others players’ online times, and then F1 2016 also offers multiplayer (single races or an entire championship, that’s up to you) with up to 22 drivers. One weird thing is that A.I. cars become transparent during online races, which is a very weird design choice … But apart from this and some lag that can appear at times, it is actually lots of fun to just watch online races, too, as quite a few pan out like the one below:
So, who should play F1 2016? The obvious answer is Formula 1 fans, of course! What better way to start into a race weekend than power on your console and get to know the track yourself so you can laugh at drivers making mistakes later? Or maybe just spend a few races crashing into that one driver that always gets you mad?
Furthermore, the game should also be suited to racing pros who prefer Assetto Corsa, Forza or Gran Turismo, but then again, it’s hard to say how hardcore F1 2016 is when you’re not a big racing fan yourself, and it’s also difficult to judge the flaws of this game (A.I., punishment system, online lags) against the competition.
One thing is for sure though – for the best experience of F1 2016, a racing wheel is almost mandatory – while it is okay in the dry with new tyres, as soon as you have wet conditions and/or older tyres, the controller just feels inaccurate. Obviously, you should be a die-hard racer who keeps playing racing games for a long time …
Rabidgames admits: For amateur console racers, F1 2016 offers a lot, but it may offer a bit too much as well – if you don’t really know the tracks and just want to play the game in short bursts, you won’t go too far with the game. If you have patience and you’re willing to learn every nook and corner of the F1 business though, this game and the drama, the victories and the defeats of Formula 1 should be yours. And please, for the love of Ayrton Senna and the other greats, let’s have another team but Mercedes win races!