The PC version pulls ahead with richer options and superior performance.
Any number of people you ask – at least among fans of Codemasters’ F1 titles – will tell you that F1 2015 wasn’t quite the game they wanted. However, when you go back further, it’s interesting to note that even F1 2014 wasn’t that highly rated either. It’s worth noting that this is from a gameplay perspective and with F1 2016, the development team at Codemasters Birmingham corrected course with its career mode, number of circuits and Virtual Safety Car.
It’s still interesting to note just how visually, there’s not a whole lot of graphical uniformity across different versions of F1 2016. The EGO Engine 3.0 which drives the visuals behind this year and last year’s edition is actually a modified version of the Neon Engine seen in Colin McRae: Dirt and it’s meant for more realistic physics and damage simulation. It was developed using Sony’s PhyreEngine and is used primarily to create larger scale environments. At the end of the day, the name of the game is realistic racing. Even if F1 2016 doesn’t adhere to the same level of quality across different versions, how does it perform to accommodate its engine’s goals?
Let’s look at the console versions first. As expected, both versions target 60 FPS with the PS4 version running at 1080p resolution. The Xbox One version is at a lower horizontal resolution (vertical is still 1080p) and unfortunately, unlike recent games like DOOM and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, there’s no temporal anti-aliasing to really mask the difference in image quality. You would probably balk at an anti-aliasing solution from those games being used for F1 2016 (and it’s there – just not on consoles like with those games) but the point is that if such a temporal component were used, there would be almost no noticeable difference between the image quality of both console versions. In its absence, it’s the PS4 version that wins out with its crisper and sharper image quality.
The console versions instead use SMAA to get rid of jaggies. Another thing in common is that even while targeting 60 FPS and not necessarily being locked at said frame rate, both versions suffer their fair share of frame drops. You’ll notice some heavy drops throughout and it’s odd that neither can really maintain a clear 60 FPS. We expect future patches to try and improve this because while it’s not unplayable, it most certainly detracts from the F1 2016 experience.
Then again, as with older racing sims and even till now, it’s the PC which offers the most graphically reliable performance. The PC version of F1 2016 is no exception. Its various graphical settings are pretty wide-ranging, giving you the ability to set post processing, motion blur strength, crowd details, mirror details, screen space reflections, vehicle reflections, skid marks, how the skid marks blend together and much more.
Performance-wise, we took F1 2016 for a spin on our usual test configuration – an Intel Core-i7 5960x with 16 GB DDR3 memory. The CPU choice helps avoid any bottle-necking and tests were further conducted on a variety of different graphics cards at 1080p, 1440p and 4K resolutions to determine how will optimized F1 2016 is across the board. The average frame rates can be observed below:
GTX 1080: 115fps
R9 390x: 74fps
GTX 1080: 95fps
R9 390x: 56fps
GTX 1080: 56fps
R9 390x: 34fps
We’re satisfied as a whole with the PC performance for F1 2016, especially considering the graphical options available. However, as noted above, we’re not exactly blown away by the quality across multiple platforms. Granted, games like Forza Motorsport and DriveClub have the advantage when they’re developed with specific platforms and hardware in mind. However, look at Forza 6: Apex and compare it to Forza Motorsport 6. While the former definitely showcases graphical improvements, the latter doesn’t really lag behind all that much in terms of image quality, frame rate performance, anti-aliasing and attention to detail.
With F1 2016, it’s plain as day that the PC version is superior – which was expected but still. The PC version has better anisotropic filtering than the console versions which results in more detailed objects and textures. Shadow quality is also superior and temporal anti-aliasing is indeed included in the PC version (while absolutely absent on consoles). Even the overall quality of the anti-aliasing is better than the console versions’ level of SMAA.
Again, in terms of gameplay and fun, F1 2016 is a definite step up over previous iterations. The combination of realistic racing and damage models goes a long way towards immersing the player in the experience, even if it’s not going to exactly dominate over the likes of the upcoming Forza Horizon 3 or Gran Turismo Sport. The PC version is the winner in this marathon and if you’re gaming on consoles, then it’s the PS4 version which wins out thanks to its higher resolution and superior image quality. The Xbox One version settles into last place but it’s a shame to see both console versions suffering from frame rate hitches. Hopefully as the months wear on, we see patches from Codemasters to improve performance on consoles.