- Apr 13, 2014
This year's new F1 regulations represent some of the most radical changes to the sport since it began.
The F1 division at Codemasters has promised to represent these substantial changes in their final installment of the series for the older consoles (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3). They will start fresh for the new consoles with F1 2015 available only on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. So, F1 2014 aims to be more of an update to 2013 with some added features than a complete new game, as they will shift their attention towards next year.
So does F1 2014 deliver? Or is it left languishing in the gravel like the 2014 Lotus?
The game starts off with a bang. Powerful thundering music, excellent sounds and fly by shots of cars, as always the opening video is quite impressive. Following that, the game launches you directly into the driver evaluation test at Bahrain, which is also somewhat impressive. Between the fact that you are driving at night under the lights around the track, and the fireworks booming in the night sky it makes for a truly epic scene. Codemasters' budget allows them to implement some great features. They have rain (which also looks quite good), fully animated pit crews, a dynamic track, and all the official sponsors to make for very good visuals. When you go off track the car jumps accurately, with the sudden loud sound of the gravel. When you spin and are passed closely by other cars at high speeds, yours shakes with the draft of the passing cars.
But once the immediate awe of the visuals subdues, other things begin to become apparent...
The first thing I noticed was, with the sound of the fireworks, audience and random ambient noises, I could hardly hear my engine unless it was at peak rpm. Yes, the cars are quieter this year... by 11 db. They have gone from approximately 145 dB (which is only slightly quieter than a jet engine) to 134 dB which is still over the threshold of pain (130 dB). Although this is "quieter" it is still dangerously loud and can cause hearing damage quickly without hearing protection. This effect seems somewhat overdone, so much so that at lower rpm's it can be very difficult to hear the engine of your own car. Upon letting off the throttle the car became near silent, with only slight, quick noises on downshifts.
Next, I noticed that the virtual wheel was making movements (as much as 20°) when cornering or going over bumps and kerbs, that my wheel was not making. After many tweaks to the force feedback (FFB) settings, I was not able to get rid of this effect.
Once the driver evaluation was complete, I was recommended the most difficult setting of "Very Hard", which I chose. Hoping the FFB issues were steering assist and are related to the difficulty, I tried a single grand prix to see if it had changed. It had not.
As someone who is a member of the "simracer" group, this was especially annoying. If it is due to bumps or kerbs, I should be feeling it in the FFB. If it is steering assist, it should be off, as it is set to "off" in the settings. However, it has been discussed many times that these games are "simcade" and not a true simulator, as they do aim to a more casual gaming audience. So with this in mind, I continued on.
The user interface has not changed from previous years, so navigating it is no problem. Game types are primarily the same also, with Young Driver Challenge replaced by the Driver Evaluation Test and shorter career options (I was not able to test this feature). All in all, it is very familiar to those who have played F1 2013 or even 2012.
It was apparent that they had tried to emulate the effects of reduced downforce, and more torque, requiring more precise manipulation of the throttle. Sadly, the FFB felt numb and disconnected, making this effect difficult to predict and control. Despite, the tendency to oversteer at every opportunity, it didn't seem to ever get out of control and go all the way around. This made it feel overdone yet restrained at the same time, as odd as that sounds.
It would appear that Codemasters may have not given this game the time it was due, as it lacks a certain attention to detail. If you are a casual gamer you probably won't notice at all, and shouldn't be deterred by this. But to a full blown F1 enthusiast or fan, they can be quite obvious. One example is visible in the screenshot above. Look at the steering wheel in the Lotus, you will notice it is the same as (or very similar to) the wheel used in the Mercedes. The real car does not use this wheel, it uses the same wheel from the previous season, with a red led display, rather than the black and white lcd used in the game.
All in all it is not a bad game. If you are a casual gamer, or F1 enthusiast, you will most likely enjoy F1 2014 thoroughly. Here at RaceDepartment however, many if not most of our readers, prefer the challenge and reality of a simulator. For those who call themselves "simracers", I'm afraid this game doesn't quite stack up. With the FFB feeling numb and lifeless, the virtual wheel making movements I'm not making, and the sounds out of proportion, it just doesn't provide the immersion we crave. In even the closest racing moments, you never get that feeling in your gut. The feeling when your pulse goes up, you start to breathe slightly heavier, and you start to sweat. The feeling you get, when it feels real.
Join the discussion in our F1 2014 forums, and get racing in our F1 2013 clubs & leagues while you wait for October 17th! While you're at it, why not check out some awesome videos and screenshot in our F1 2014 gallery?
If you would like to have your product or game reviewed, contact me at ryan.ogurek[at]racedepartment.com