Tough but Fair
If I’m strictly speaking about how much fun it is to race around when F1 2015 is acting like it should, there’s absolutely no doubt that this is a must-play for racing aficionados. Unfortunately, much like the endless farm fields of my home state Wisconsin, there’s a lot of bull crap to wade through to get to the good stuff. While there’s plenty to like here, most of it is rendered useless by the fact that F1 2015 is yet another offender in the sickening trend of unfinished games being released as a complete product.
F1 2015 is a game that can appeal to both hardcore sim fans wanting to fret over and deal with minute details like aerodynamics and tire wear, to more casual fans whose interests stop at steering and acceleration. Luckily, no matter which of those two categories you fall under, the game delivers fun, intense races. While it’s possible to make the experience easier by ramping up things like traction control to make things more forgiving, F1 2015 is at its best when you challenge yourself to really take on the small things as much as the other racers. While F1 cars are known for their speed, it takes a light pedal foot and delicate hands to maneuver these mechanical beasts through their domain. Add in trying to monitor wear on your vehicle and dynamic weather, and the game strikes a lovely balance between being tough and being fun.
One element of the game that I was pleasantly surprised with was the race engineer, who speaks to you with tips and information during your races. Normally these kinds of mentors or guides end up being a nuisance, providing repetitive or obvious lines that distract from my immersion. Here though, I found the aid to be genuinely valuable. He’d let me know when someone was approaching from behind (I’m terrible with monitoring my rearview mirror), suggest subtle changes to my racing to help shave off a few seconds (which is nice, as the AI is generally very solid and tough to exploit), and let me know when my car was getting a bit worn. On top of it all, the voice actor pulls off his lines very organically, making the whole experience that much more immersive.
Not Many Ways to Play
One issue I have with F1 2015 is that there are really only two ways to play. Hop in a one-off race in Quick Race, or pick a driver and race a season as them. Though Championship and Pro seasons are listed separately, they’re really just the same thing with different difficulty settings. Championship lets you customize assists and such, and Pro removes them and forces you into the in-helmet perspective. I’d really love to see a true career mode where I can either pick a racer or (better yet) make my own and take them through a multi-season career. There’s also no local multiplayer of any kind - something I don’t use particularly often on my PC, but a mode I appreciate when I do have the desire to take on a friend. Only having two true game modes (along with online multiplayer I suppose, which, unfortunately, is a bit too laggy for my tastes) seems a bit bare bones for a game this many entries into its franchise.
Playing F1 2015 is a game of Russian Roulette. It’s as if each race spins the proverbial revolver to decide how it’s going to perform. Very rarely do races perform moderately with mild hiccups; things seem to either go perfectly smoothly or are terribly buggy. The most common issue I’ve encountered, and it’s happened in somewhere around 50 percent of the races I’ve competed in, is a drop in the frame rate to somewhere to around 3 frames per second. It seems to happen most often early in races when cars are bundled together going through turns, and it makes it impossible not to end up spinning around or crashed into a wall. Each time it happens I’m set back a good ten seconds from the rest of the racers, and I have to either start the race over, or try to claw tooth and nail just to not place last.
Other issues that are present, though were significantly more rare in my experience, include the game freezing or crashing itself to the desktop. These issues are totally game breaking, and that’s not okay. When I encountered these issues I hit the web to confirm others were having the same problems, that it wasn’t just an oddity or something wrong with my PC. It turns out that forums and the game’s Steam page are understandably flooded with customers irate that the game they paid for - the game that was released by its developers as a complete product- has issues that stop it from performing its basic functions.
When working properly, F1 2015 is a fun racing game that looks nice, handles well, and provides a pretty authentic feeling F1 racing experience. However, a video game is a product like anything else, and if I were to buy a TV that showed static half the time I watched something on it, or a book with every other page ripped out, I’d be in a furor and people should feel the same when they buy a game that doesn’t function half the time. It’s a lie, plain and simple, from a developer willing to take people’s money under their assumption that they’re buying a complete product, not one that might be work as intended in a month, week, or year. As I understand, the developers have already released some patches to address issues, and they plan to release more, but as of the time of this review the mentioned issues are still at hand. No matter how fun a game is, or how hard the developers worked on it, I can’t recommend someone buy a title that doesn’t work.
Setting allow for players of all skill levels to find the right challenge level, the race engineer is genuinely helpful and aids in immersion, and the AI is generally very solid.
Game modes are very bare bones, and glitches render the game’s positive elements null when they appear, which is frequently.