So here’s the thing: I can’t drive. It’s an anxiety thing — I get too worried that I’ll lose focus, cause an accident, that sort of thing. But virtual driving? No problems. Who cares if I slam into the wall?
Driving a Formula 1 car takes a bit of nuance and care though. And in previous F1 games, I thought I was capable of getting around the track pretty well. But F1 2016 has a new set of tutorials designed to teach you how to drive properly. And bugger me, driving properly is something I cannot do.
The F1 series was in a bit of a lull with the transition to the PS4 and Xbox One, but since then it’s started to improve markedly. That’s particularly the case with F1 2016, which has further overhauled the career mode with a suite of features not too dissimilar from Formula One Championship Edition back on the PS3.
The basic idea is to further overhaul the way practice sessions works by giving you various objectives that earn research points. Those points can then be invested into various aspects of your car, improving its downforce, fuel efficiency, output and so on over the course of a season. The objectives, however, are basically tutorials for each track. One’s a simple circuit around the course that just asks you to hit a good racing line, while another is a test run so your engineers can project how fast you’ll be in qualifying.
And then there’s a tyre test. Good God, the tyre test.
A basic principle of Formula 1 is that you can’t spend an entire race trying to set the fastest lap all the time. Tyre conservation matters. And to that end, F1 2016 has a special tutorial that’s designed to teach you how to do laps at a reasonable pace without annihilating your tyres.
But the game can only give you so much feedback. In the end, it’s still trial and error, lap after lap, screwing up corner after corner.
That’s how long it took before I was comfortable to proceed to my first race. That’s how much time I spent replaying practice session after practice session.
It’s madness, but I love it.
Anyone who plays tons of Dota 2, League of Legends or StarCraft will understand that there’s a certain appeal to repeated failure. When it all comes together at the end — whether it be a co-ordinated gank, a perfectly timed build order, or predicting the next few seconds of gameplay in your head, only to watch it all unfold exactly as you planned — it’s addictive.
There’s nothing quite like it. It might actually be the best feeling in video games — the feeling of victory, after many, many failures.
F1 has the same joy. Braking at the perfect time, gently nudging on the left thumb stick to corner as smoothly as possible, accelerating at the right time, nailing the perfect racing line. F1 doesn’t have the toxic connotations that the Dota and League communities suffer from though — although arseholes who slam into the back of you in multiplayer is another matter altogether.
I’ve still got so much to learn. I’ve got bugger all knowledge when it comes to cars, so I’ll be relying on the Steam Workshop when it comes to car setups. And my FIFA-esque penchant for wanting to pick the worst teams and rise up through the ashes is not the best strategy for beginners when it comes to the F1 series.
But that constant trial and error, that ever-too frequent reminder of my ineptitude and lack of co-ordination, is part of the fun. So I’ll keep slamming into walls. Blowing the engine. Screwing up the tyres. Redoing a single practice session for hours on end. Whatever it takes.
That’s the fun of racing.