When it comes to racing, both Codemasters and Formula One competitions can be counted on for intense, compelling experiences. Combine the two, and you should be in sim racing heaven given Codemasters’ experience in the genre and the sheer speed of F1 matches. Even though past Codemasters titles (both within and separate from the F1 series) have presented some pretty impressive races before, F1 2014 fails to introduce anything new to the series while retroactively taking away established modes and generally coming across as a bare bones, overly pricey update of a previous entry.
Of the new tweaks that have been added, the Career Mode has one of the better features. Rather than starting with a single team and slowly working your way through various others, each of the 11 teams is available from the beginning, granting more options for play right from the start. Each team is ranked by difficulty and based off of the teams that competed in the 2014 season, letting you work with current champions or fan favorites from throughout the year. It’s also nice to be able to choose the length of a season, giving you the option to play through a few races rather than an entire season. Furthermore, Career Mode also offers an interactive hub full of news, emails, updated statistics and player info that racing fanatics will eat up.
Despite these updates and holdovers from previous titles, the Career Mode is incredibly uninspiring, failing to offer anything other than a series of race weekends with your chosen team. While you could technically find some replayability by playing through the career with each of the teams, it’s easier to start up the Grand Prix mode and dive right into the action, customizing difficulty, race length and the amount of involvement from you, including the ability to either include or skip qualifying races. It’s not terribly different from the Career Mode, but it’s nice to be able to fire the game up and set up any race you want with any team you want.
F1 2014 also comes with the standard Time Attack and timed races, not really adding anything that other racers don’t have. What makes up for this lack of innovation is Codemasters’ solid track record of gameplay, with each race playing out as an intense battle for top honors. This season’s cars handle smoothly and allow for plenty of customization, including the ability to turn on or off various assists, making each race’s outcome feel like a genuine product of the effort you put into it. Of course, that’s not to say that F1 2014 doesn’t come with its fair share of frustrating catch-up AI or incredibly steep difficulty curves, as Codemasters makes sure that all of their sim racing titles are barely accessible to anyone who doesn’t already enjoy the genre.
In fact, this becomes perfectly clear when the game throws you into a qualifying lap right from the beginning, using it to determine which difficulty you should play at. This is before any of the camera controls or any of the nuances of the title are explained, and the slightest bump off course finds F1 2014 recommending very easy mode. This mentality follows you throughout the game, and while the harsh challenge leads to some sweet, sweet victories, it’s definitely not a title for the uninitiated.
Yet despite its difficulty, F1 2014 will still have you plotting out when and where to pass your opponent, which augmentations to add to your car for each track and how best to take and keep the lead. The cars look gorgeous as they rush through the tracks, and while the environments aren’t exactly breathtaking, the new locales, including Sochi and Austria, are welcome additions to old favorites.
As much fun as the core gameplay remains, it still doesn’t mask the fact that F1 2014 offers next to nothing new for fans of the series. Aside from the additions of racers, teams and locales from the 2014 season, almost nothing new has been added, and other modes are oddly absent for no reason. The F1 Classics content has been stripped away, despite it being one of the more entertaining additions in the last entry. It also doesn’t help that F1 2014 is only launching on current-gen consoles, especially since Codemasters has made certain to avoid next-gen consoles for some odd reason, despite this being their chance to overhaul the series. Although it’s far from an ugly game, it doesn’t quite measure up to recent genre releases in aesthetic appeal.
The sound design sadly doesn’t kick in until the races begin, with the sound of engines roaring serving to heat up the competition, but otherwise it’s both recycled and dreadfully boring. Dialogue from the pit crew tends to get repetitive fast, and the music is minimal to the point of hardly being noticeable. That said, music is arguably unimportant to a racer, as it’s much better to create your own playlist and find what pumps you up the most.
It’s hard to call F1 2014 a bad game, because at its core it still remains a competent racer and manages to offer some intense moments because of the nature of the sport. However, it’s basically a retread of last year’s edition, albeit with less features and not enough new ones added in to replace them. With an imminent next-gen Codemasters title hopefully looming on the horizon, it’s hard to recommend this to anyone but the most diehard fans of the series. If you were absolutely head over heels with the 2014 season and want to relive all of it with your favorite teams and drivers, then you’ll find what you’re looking for here. Anybody else could pass this by without missing a lot.
This review is based on a PS3 copy of the game, which was provided to us for review purposes.
Despite a solid core of intense races bolstered by beautiful cars, F1 2014 fails to add anything new to the series while removing features that made previous titles more robust and more fun.