This is the sixth officially licensed F1 title Codemasters has developed, and yet the franchise is no further along in giving fans of the sport a title that ascends the podium as the definitive, benchmark for the series. Instead, this is another title that races well but doesn't have the feature set to sustain interest.
F1 2015 is the series' first title for the latest systems, but given how far we are into the generation I'm not giving it a pass – especially since its lack of an attractive feature set has been endemic. Unlike past games in the franchise, this entry has no historic cars, scenarios, or options for a shortened season. We don't even get a good tutorial to support what otherwise are the bare essentials: season, quick race, multiplayer (but no offline splitscreen), and time trial modes. The game features a Pro Season where all the assists are turned off, the transmission set to manual, the camera is locked to cockpit view, and the A.I. and race length are cranked to the max, but my masochistic side is only a sliver of the whole.
The main Championship mode has the option to switch between the 2014 and 2015 seasons, but this doesn't deliver the full breadth of a season or a career. Not only is there not a create-a-driver option that lets gamers create their own legacy by building up through the ranks, but Championship mode doesn't even explore the four walls it encased itself in. For instance, you have objectives, but meeting or not meeting them is irrelevant, and your teammate is similarly inconsequential. There's no tension in the garage or out on the track, and nothing is at stake between the two of you. I liked how in F1 2010, the leading teammate got to dictate the team's R&D direction. Without some kind of larger context, even getting a podium finish has an uncharacteristic hollow ring.
Developer Codemasters Birmingham at least gives drivers something to chew on thanks to the cars' handling and the graphics. Not only is the sense of speed palpable, but the heart gets going accelerating out of the turns and riding the brakes into the corners. I like the option to mix the assists from race to race, since it lets me figure out the best way to make the game challenging without being undrivable.
Even on a dry track, you have to be careful with the cars' power coming out of the turns depending on how much traction control you use, and during races a few commands come in handy. With the d-pad you can change your brake bias and fuel mixture, and make some calls for your pit stop. Moreover, you can request information from your engineer (who dispenses some useful info during races) such as a full race update, the weather, and how much fuel you have left. I admit, however, that it was hard to tell if the fuel percentages I was told were accurate and if changing the fuel mix during races made a difference.
F1 2014 come out last October at the end of the racing season, and although this year's title comes in the middle of it, and on new systems, it feels like the developer has been sucked into a black hole. F1 2015 is now the second game that's directionless and doesn't take the license forward. The thing is, even when the franchise was on a comfortable streak last generation, it still didn't know what it wanted to do. Many of the features absent from F1 2015 I mentioned earlier were transient, appearing with fanfare one year and gone the next. The series needs to stick to something and evolve instead of constantly trying to change things up and getting nowhere as a result.
Once again, Codemasters has created an F1 game that's true to the studio's driving pedigree, but fails on other fronts. It looks nice and drives well, but unless you're so caught up in the F1 season that you absolutely have to sate your cravings with a video game, you may have already played this game and put it down.
Note: This review pertains to the Xbox One version. The game is also available on PS4 and PC. As of this writing, the PS4 version is experiencing technical problems, though developer Codemasters says it is working on a patch.