F1 2014 is a stop-gap. By skipping new-gen systems, it lacks the appeal of a visual and tech upgrade, yet also lacks some of the standout content of last year's entry, meaning this game feels more like a DLC update than a fully-fledged entry to the series.
Lacking the excellent Classic Content of last year - which brought with it iconic cars, drivers and circuits of the 1980s and 90s - the cars and tracks of 2014 act as the only significant update, along with an increased push on accessibility for new players in the form of the Evaluation Test. F1 2014 feels like DLC padded into a full game in order to compensate for delayed arrival of the series' next-gen debut.
For F1 devotees and newcomers alike, it's difficult to justify picking up 2014 when considering the significant disparity in content between it and 2013. Being able to feel the difference in how the modern spaceships on wheels handle compared to the 80s and 90s cars was a joy last year, and is sorely missed here. Unless you're a stickler for having the latest tracks and team line-ups, 2013 offers the same great racing experience, but more of it.
Even the animations in cutscenes have remained the same. You'll still shake hands with the same gormless pit crew, regardless of which team you're racing for. Your same (white) driver will lower into his car and have the team tinker with sod all before each session while the same instructor chirps in your ear, exactly like in F1 2012.
Another long-standing issue for the series has been its inability to match the feel of a Grand Prix weekend outside of the race. The excitement of the sport lies equally on and off the track. Formula One relies on how drivers, press and fans react to events as much as the events themselves. I want to know rival's reactions to incidents, and try to get in their heads by talking to the press. There isn't much for the player to do other than turn up and drive, and the series is desperate for a much-needed injection of personality.
While the distinct lack of change is a bad thing for the majority, one place this isn't an issue is the racing, which has always been excellent. Learning the nuances of every track on the calendar is a welcome challenge, as well as adjusting to whichever team you've joined, and trying to outpace your nearest competitors. Being able to select rivals is still fun, though it's a shame you can only select from those ahead of you in the championship, and not those necessarily in better cars.
The sound of each car is also a great match to the real thing. Many were unhappy with the sound of the new engines last year, and granted cars like the Marussias can sound like a cat is stuck somewhere inside, but Codemasters stays true to the roar of the modern vehicles.
With the new Evaluation Test, you're now given game settings based on skill, a much more efficient way of testing than in previous F1 games. Even still, a bit of tinkering may be required for you to create the perfect balance, but you can retry the test as much as you like for a range of different teams.
F1 2014 feels like something that needs to exist while Codemasters works on rebuilding the foundations for next-gen. There's much less here than in previous entries, so it's hard to justify picking it up to anyone outside of hardcore F1 fans. F1 2013 now feels like the pinnacle of the series on 360 and PS3, and for those looking for the evolution of F1 games, you're going to have to wait and see what the developer has up its sleeve in 2015.
Version tested: PC
How to make F1 next-gen
The F1 series is set to make its next-gen debut in 2015, with Codemasters revealing it is rebuilding the game "from the ground up".
With the exciting prospect of a brand new F1 game on PS4 and Xbox One, here's some of the things we'd like to see in order to make F1 a truly next-gen experience, and improve upon the disappointing F1 2014.
While Codemasters offers some thrilling racing, the F1 series fails to do much else beyond that. There are no interviews with the press, no player choices (other than which team you join and your race rival), you can't engage with other drivers, don't receive team orders, nothing.
As stated above, one of the biggest parts of a race weekend is hearing from the drivers following a key moment. How does Lewis Hamilton feel about Rosberg's cheap tactics? Does Kimi Raikkonen feel at all? Getting a sense of not only the track, but the drivers on it and the emotion of the fans towards them would really set a context for every race.
2K's NBA series offers some great narrative touches in its MyCareer mode. 2K15 includes voice-acted dialogue with team-mates, interactions with managers and GMs and choices which have ramifications on both the court and in the boardroom. The F1 series would really benefit from a similar twist.
All-new animations and characters
After every race we see the same two or three animations. Getting out the car in victory or defeat, shaking hands with pit crews, or simply walking away in disgust. F1 needs a total refresh of cutscenes and greater diversity for character models. I'm tired of seeing the same guys operate my car, and greeting them the same way every week.
Give me camera shots of my crew in the pit watching the screen, Christian Horner watching the monitors and the family in the stands watching with equal parts anticipation and fear. In much the same way that other sports games try to replicate the presentation seen on sports channels, F1 should do the same.
If I manage to win a race, or even make it to the podium after a hard-fought battle, you better believe I want to see my guy be awarded his trophy and dowsing the crowd below in champagne. I even want to be able to shake my Dualshock 4 to fizz up the bubbly then use the Sixaxis to aim it at my crew. Ahem.
Ignoring the obvious double entendre, this is another example of more being needed in the overall package of an F1 game. We need to feel completely encapsulated in the weekend, and celebrating a win is a key component of that. Imagine if in FIFA, when you won the Premier League, there was no trophy-lifting ceremony. Madness.
Greater driver customisation
Right now, you can choose your driver's name, audio name and helmet, but he's always a generic white guy.
Being able to create a character that feels uniquely my own will go some way to building a game that is more than driving. Being able to customise race, gender and all the other basic features of other sports games would be a nice start. Yes, a driver spends much of his time wearing a race helmet shouldn't mean we can't customise the face underneath, and they're not going to be wearing the helmet should they get on the podium, are they?
Dynamic Pit Strategies
Any fan of Formula One knows that races can be won and lost on a team's pit strategy. Seeing which team blinks first and starts the domino effect of tyre changes is a big part of any Grand Prix. Right now, the F1 games only allow you to choose on which lap you will pit before a race, and include some of the most courteous pit crews in history.
Too many positions have been conceded because your team refuse to let you out as another car approaches from hundreds of yards away, or doesn't change its strategy because your rival is due to pit in at the same time as you. Being able to adapt not only to changing weather conditions, but also other team's strategies would add some much-needed spice to race day.
Bring back Classics
Classic content was a great inclusion in F1 2013. Although some key faces were missing - like the legendary Ayrton Senna - the ability to race around in 80s and 90s vehicles as other former drivers was a great addition to the series. The sudden absence of this huge component in the immediate sequel is strange, and hopefully it can make a return in 2015.