We’ve previously covered the Formula One video game franchise along with the fall and rise of Codemasters on the blog. Their most recent effort, Dirt Rally, showed that some of the greatness of classic Codemasters games still remained in Birmingham which was a much-needed revelation after the underwhelming F1 2015. Now that they’ve had time to work on the current-gen Formula One games, can F1 2016 live up to the expectations of gamers and F1 fans alike?
Let’s take a break from the on-track action in Formula One and look at the virtual world of Formula One. Codemasters is the current licence holder for the Formula One video game series. The racing game specialists have held the rights to F1 since the 2009 season and while gamers have been happy, not much has changed over the last six years. Last year, satisfaction bottomed out with a barebones effort in F1 2015.
In their second year on the PS4 and Xbox One, Codemasters has to deliver a far superior experience before fans give up on them. They recently released a survey looking for feedback on previous games and ideas for upcoming ones and have brought in prominent members of the community for a private beta test. However, it’s still worth giving them some more longform feedback.
On a few occasions on this blog, I have discussed the ever-changing priorities of Codemasters. The British developer has long been recognized as one of the top racing game developers but often shifts their priorities between making arcade-style games and more simulation style games. In the past, I’ve taken to calling Codemasters games “pseudo-sims” because while they tend to be more realistic and difficult than arcadey racing games but not as intense as games like rFactor and iRacing.
I should say, that was the case until I got to Dirt Rally. While Dirt 3 was much closer to a sim than the likes of Dirt Showdown, Dirt Rally feels like it goes to another level beyond that. It might not be as detailed or difficult as the likes of iRacing but that doesn’t mean it’s pick up and play, either. Of course, that’s definitely not a bad thing.
Anyone that follows my writing over on etg. sister site The Lowdown Blog knows that I’m a racing fanatic. Two wheels, four wheels, even more wheels (European truck racing is surprisingly awesome), road courses, ovals, dirt, I can settle down and watch anything. So naturally, I had a lot of toy cars growing up and had a lot of toy car races.
This brings me to Toybox Turbos. While many people liken the game to a modernized callback to Codemasters’ Micro Machines, their first iconic racing game, I thought of Toybox Turbos to be just like the toy car races on the floor at home. But does a childhood call back, whether it’s to a video game or little plastic or die-cast cars, make a great game.
While they started as a bit more of a racing sim company, Codemasters transition to the pseudo-sim (not a hardcore racing sim but far from a simple arcade racer) has come with massive critical acclaim. The launch of the Dirt series from the Colin McRae Rally franchise and the transition of the sim TOCA Race Driver series to Grid were met with praise from critics and gamers alike.
Then 2012 happened. Someone at Codemasters went a little crazy and decided that more arcade-style racing games were what Codies needed to get to the next level. The result was Dirt: Showdown, F1 Race Stars and Grid 2 all being released in quick succession. The pseudo-sim gameplay had been replaced with arcadey minigames, shallow gameplay, and a disregard for proper racing and the laws of physics, respectively.
While the F1 franchise motored on, the rest of Codemasters’ IP floundered without a direction. The company’s move from sim to arcade was backfiring with critics and fans. So Codies did something rare for the games industry: They listened to their fans. The gamers who were fed up with the direction of Codemasters would get their way with the latest iteration of the Grid franchise. Getting away from the arcade/floaty driving style of Grid 2, Grid Autosport would be a return to the more sim style of racing that Grid and the Race Driver franchises were known for.
I have to admit that I was excited about the prospect of a Formula One inspired karting game. It was so un-F1 that how could it not be cool? You’d be powersliding cars around turns, firing weaponry straight out of Q Branch at competitors and racing on suped-up versions of real race tracks. That would be spectacular and would be on my must-buy list ahead of F1 2012.
Then I played the game. While Codemasters tried to balance between staying true to F1 and true to the karting genre, it didn’t quite work when it was all put together. What could have been a spectacular entry in the pantheon of Formula One racing games and karting games unfortunately turned out to be a bit of a dud. Continue reading