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F1 2014

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Developer: Codemasters
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing/ Racing (Simulation)/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

The occasion of a new F1 game is always a good reason for fans to celebrate, and itís become a grand tradition many years running. Codemasters at the wheel ensures the racing experience will be authentic and thereís a lot of new content packed into this yearís outing. The fact that the game is releasing on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 along with the PC version means that this is a last-gen experience on console. The graphics arenít level setting for the most part, but where they lack in crisp visuals, they make up for in overwhelming amounts of detail. Every aspect of the race experience, from inside the car to trackside, is modeled lovingly to please an audience that knows all too well what the sport is supposed to look like. There are elements of live broadcast woven throughout the game to make the Career aspect of F1 2014 more believable.

One very distinctive (perhaps the most distinctive) element of F1 is the sound these turbocharged monsters make as they gun the throttle and whip around tracks at speeds in the hundreds of miles per hour. F1 2014 reproduces perfectly the sound of the engine, but also channels in radio chatter and tiny realistic touches like the sound your wheels make running across different surfaces. As simulation goes, you wonít get closer to the experience of racing F1 unless you actually hit the track in real life. Based on the level of skill and practice required to master real-life racing, itís unlikely most of us will have that chance.


Gameplay:

Second best to getting on the track is strapping in to the virtual experience, and F1 2014 delivers better than any game yet in the series. Whatís done right this year is that the learning curve for new players is effortless. The game begins with a small interview and a test drive that combine to set a larger number of parameters for you. Longtime fans will know that part of the appeal of F1 games used to be that they shipped with the expectation people would want to tweak everything. This time around, most of the tweaking goes on under the hood, so you can get right out and begin your career. The immersion in Career Mode is remarkable. News reports and updates (including email) from your team managers lends a feeling of authenticity that we really appreciated. The solo experience includes deep customization in how you go through a season or tackle the championship, plus thereís a large online community once youíre ready to step up your game.

Playing against 16 other racers is pretty awesome under any circumstances, but F1 2014 has always been more like the racing equivalent to chess. Youíll have a chance to learn tracks and hone your skills alone before going up against a field of others. Progression is logged and saved into the community leaderboards and youíll also find the small career scenarios a nice distraction when you donít feel like going online. Thereís a great balance between the time youíll spend honing your skills and building reputation through Career Mode, to the point where you feel ready to test your abilities in Multiplayer. Matched play helps keep things challenging and not humiliating, but new players will still have to grapple with the fact that some of us have been racing these fast beauties for going on six years. Donít expect to gain expertise overnight.


Difficulty:

The idea of being expert in F1 2014 is a funny one, because this is probably the most humbling form of racing you can try. The cars handle realistically, which is to say on a hair trigger, and the slightest hesitation or overcorrection will send you at best into the grass and at worst into a tailspin. You can cheat the system somewhat by driving aggressively, but you wonít win consistently until you drop the demolition derby tactics and start investing time in learning to maneuver, draft, and feather the controls.

Where F1 2014 shines is the way it automatically sets the levels according to your demonstrated experience. From the first lap, youíll be judged and your setup will change accordingly. After going through a few seasons in Career Mode, youíll find that the game can flex to meet your newfound abilities, which is a great thing. Nothing feels cheap, but thatís not to say that fans of other racing titles can just pick up F1 2014 and get down to business. These are special rides, to be sure.


Game Mechanics:

The interface feels very stripped down compared to past years. That broadcast approach we mentioned earlier shows up at intervals between races and during loading, which can make the entire experience feel more interesting. The old clunky menus inside of menus used to toggle or adjust settings have been replaced by elegant sliders and simple toggles that control handling and adjust your build to match the weather and the track conditions. All the explanation around customization is built into the game, rather than requiring you to consult the manual. The traditional controls are intuitive, or you can quickly set up a racing wheel for that extra realism.

F1 2014 meets the reality of todayís F1 racing nicely with current player rosters, the classic Austrian Spielberg track, and the brand new Sochi Autodrom. Even though we in the US tend to think of F1 as a snooty version of NASCAR, thereís a ton of drama and rivalry, and itís all contained in F1 2014. Those following the seasons on television can now sit down and be immersed in the same world through Codemasterís new chapter in this epic game series. Weíve typically said that F1 was an acquired taste and thatís still true, but if youíre going to try and acquire it, this is definitely the time to jump in.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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