Formula One isn’t exactly the most engrossing sport for me. Men in souped-up cars zipping round the same circuit for hours is far from my idea of prowess, except in the patient endurance of boredom. But it has legions of fans. And where there’s an obsession, there’s always someone to cash in.
For the seventh time, however, the official F1 video game has disappointed its tiny but spendthrift fan base with a subpar game. We normally wouldn’t even have covered such a predictable outcome, but the industry has been awash with news of how developer Codemasters overhauled the gameplay mechanics.
And it’s true: F1 2015 (Codemasters) isn’t as bad as previous years – it’s worse. Whereas previous releases tried to drown out poor performance with a variety of options – arcade-style fun, obsessive realism, multiple careers, even vintage cars – here, that’s all been culled back to two modes: full realism in Pro Season or custom realism in Championship Season.
OK, maybe they’re targeting that fanatical niche. So why make driving mechanics simpler and handling easier? Why have AI drivers constantly crash into you like angry cops chasing a felon? And why give the entire game a TV screen-like visual blur that bizarrely replicates the experience of watching the sport rather than participating in it?
It’s very confused, especially the PC edition, where many long-time fans have moaned about glitches, crashes and even dedicated steering wheels not working. Console versions, like those available on the PS4 and Xbox One, are marginally better with smoother controls and multiplayer options that sometimes work (not always, though). But the problems here are now far past minor internal issues or even Codemasters’ supposed overhaul.
The problem is in the entire concept of an F1 game in a thoroughly saturated racing world. There’s no shortage of great car games out there, from the breakneck free-for-all fun of arcade-style racers through to the obsessive perfectionism of realistic simulations. So why bother putting out something so mediocre year on year, just to target a small sector of F1 fans? The answer, sadly, is that they continue to buy it.