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(Pocket-lint) - Rebooting a Formula One videogame franchise is a tough task, almost by definition: with F1 games, authenticity is the name of the game, so the way any new game looks and plays is never going to differ radically from its predecessors.

However, with F1 2015, Codemasters has at least managed to pull off a mini-reboot of the franchise. It's the first Formula One game specifically designed for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Crucially it's also the first to arrive in the middle of a Formula One season as opposed to just before its end. Is F1 2015 therefore the perfect Formula One game, or just a better-looking pit stop for the series?

New season meets new-gen

Codemasters has spoken extensively about how the extra memory built into the current-gen consoles has allowed it to make considerable improvements to various aspects of the game and, gratifyingly, you witness the evidence to support that assertion almost instantly.

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Even jumping into a Quick Race (a handy way of assessing unfamiliar tracks, such as Mexico, returning to the F1 calendar for the first time since 1992) is enough to leave you marvelling at the increased amount of sheer feel you get from the cars.

Little slides – inevitable given the torquey characteristics of this year's crop of cars – when you accelerate too eagerly out of slow corners, say, can be caught with a satisfying moderation with a dab of opposite lock (even if you're playing on a joypad rather than via a steering wheel/pedals combo).

The force-feedback has become noticeably more accurate too: stick a wheel on a kerb and you feel it with startling clarity. As a result, you feel instantly in control of the cars, and much more attuned to their vagaries.

Accessible to all

As you explore F1 2015, the next thing that becomes obvious is that Codemasters has done a great job of creating a game with plenty of appeal to players whose driving skills span the entire spectrum.

Codemasters / F1 / Bandai Namcof1 2015 review image 8

Those who tend to leave the supermarket car park with a new ding on the bodywork can crank up the traction-control and anti-lock braking (things which real-life F1 cars don't have any more) to the max, and won't have to worry about feathering the throttle after slow corners. Which feels a bit like cheating, but makes the game accessible to all.

At the other extreme, you can turn all the driver aids off, bringing about a startlingly accurate-feeling simulation of the cars, which demands considerable natural ability if you're even going to keep them on the tarmac.

We eased ourselves in with the traction-control on its medium setting (which still gives a fairly authentic feel, as you can't just bury the throttle indiscriminately after each corner), braking assist off but anti-lock braking on. That gave access to plenty of cornering speed, as full traction-control drastically slows down your progress through the corners.

Codemasters / F1 / Bandai Namcof1 2015 review image 7

Although F1 2015 doesn't overtly punish you for cranking up the driver assists, but as you learn how the cars handle, it's difficult to resist the urge to roll them back.

Professionally punishing

There's plenty for the steering wheel-owning hardcore, too. Most notably a new game mode entitled Pro Season, which forces you to switch off all driver aids and use the (excellent) cockpit view.

On the multiplayer side, you – and most probably your mates – can now take part in full-length practice sessions at each track, learning the track and swapping setup tips in the process. As ever in a Codemasters Formula One game, you can tinker with setups to your heart's content – another feature which only the hardcore will explore.

No matter your level of driving skill, there are other welcome new features which the move to current-gen has brought. For the first time, you get to play as one of the real-life drivers, rather than yourself, which means that, at last, you get to witness proper podium sequences, with the drivers spraying champagne and so on.

Codemasters / F1 / Bandai Namcof1 2015 review image 10

No matter your level of driving skill, there are other welcome new features which the move to current-gen has brought. For the first time, you get to play as one of the real-life drivers, rather than yourself, which means that, at last, you get to witness proper podium sequences, with the drivers spraying champagne and so on.

The sequences in which you leave and enter the pits are much more akin to what you see on TV, too. Unfortunately, the renderings of the drivers as they cavort on the podium are just a tiny bit off – the Uncanny Valley hasn't quite been bridged there. But for the first time, you at least feel that you're getting your just awards for achieving podium finishes.

Designed with detail

Another vastly improved aspect of the game is the feedback you get from your race engineer – in past iterations of the game, it was a tad random but, in F1 2015, you're given all the information you need about cars in front and behind, impending pit-stops and so on.

It's important to decide on your race strategy before the race lights go out, since tyre-wear is much in evidence; in the latter stages of races, you find yourself sliding around wildly (as do all the other drivers). Again, that reflects the current nature of Formula One perfectly.

Codemasters / F1 / Bandai Namcof1 2015 review image 13

Although, unrealistically, we had a couple of instances, when accepting the team-defined strategy, in which we were stacked behind our team-mate at routine pit-stops, which was annoying. On the Xbox One, you can actually use the Kinect to speak to your race engineer, bringing up a menu of stock phrases from which you can pick; it recognises them with impressive ease.

F1 2015 isn't devoid of niggles though. There's a Flashback system which you can use to rewind time, but it's hopelessly over-complicated. You can opt to turn it off which, we suspect, most will. Besides, making your way back through the field after an indiscretion is great fun.

The artificial intelligence (AI) of computer-controlled drivers is noticeably more aggressive than before too. Competitors can't be bullied out of the way and expected to fall dutifully into line astern, so we often found that they clipped the back end of our cars, yet seemed to escape punishment, whereas we were given time-penalties for nothing more than wheel-to-wheel action. If the cheekiness of the AI annoys you, you can crank its skill level down (there are three settings).


Overall F1 2015 is a triumph. It is, unequivocally, the best Formula One game ever made, whether you're a complete novice or own a set of racing overalls in real life. It simply looks and feels more authentic than any of its predecessors.

But there are a few niggles. The rewind Flashback mode is more like a drunken nightmare than a beneficial tool, while the artificial intelligence seems somewhat harsh with some collision penalties. Still, you'll learn to avoid such indiscretions, and with detailed controls to adjust all levels of driving you'll soon be storming around the world's best tracks whether total newbie or seasoned professional.

And, finally, we get to play an F1 game while the Formula One season is still unfolding, rather then when it's ended. That means the chance to drive the Mexico track, for example, before the real drivers. You could, indeed, plausibly argue that the game is better than the real thing.

Writing by Steve Boxer. Originally published on 10 July 2015.