Game reviews: F1 2015 and Tembo the Badass Elephant
The seventh edition of the official Formula 1 game remains subpar, while Tembo the Badass Elephant is a throwback but also a game of decent modern depth
Formula One isn't exactly the most engrossing sport for me. Men in souped-up cars zipping round the same circuit for hours is far from my idea of prowess, except in the patient endurance of boredom. But it has legions of fans. And where there's an obsession, there's always someone to cash in.
For the seventh time, however, the official F1 video game has disappointed its tiny but spendthrift fan base with a subpar game. We normally wouldn't even have covered such a predictable outcome, but the industry has been awash with news of how developer Codemasters overhauled the gameplay mechanics.
And it's true: F1 2015 (Codemasters) isn't as bad as previous years - it's worse. Whereas previous releases tried to drown out poor performance with a variety of options - arcade-style fun, obsessive realism, multiple careers, even vintage cars - here, that's all been culled back to two modes: full realism in Pro Season or custom realism in Championship Season.
OK, maybe they're targeting that fanatical niche. So why make driving mechanics simpler and handling easier? Why have AI drivers constantly crash into you like angry cops chasing a felon? And why give the entire game a TV screen-like visual blur that bizarrely replicates the experience of watching the sport rather than participating in it?
It's very confused, especially the PC edition, where many long-time fans have moaned about glitches, crashes and even dedicated steering wheels not working. Console versions, like those available on the PS4 and Xbox One, are marginally better with smoother controls and multiplayer options that sometimes work (not always, though). But the problems here are now far past minor internal issues or even Codemasters' supposed overhaul.
The problem is in the entire concept of an F1 game in a thoroughly saturated racing world. There's no shortage of great car games out there, from the breakneck free-for-all fun of arcade-style racers through to the obsessive perfectionism of realistic simulations. So why bother putting out something so mediocre year on year, just to target a small sector of F1 fans? The answer, sadly, is that they continue to buy it.
Tembo the Badass Elephant
Don't you miss the good old days? When you were a hopped-up hedgehog or a little Italian plumber, racing through ridiculously surreal worlds, eating mushrooms, collecting gold rings and dancing to zippy eight-bit music?
No? Don't remember those? Here's Tembo the Badass Elephant (Game Freak) to remind you, both a throwback to that era of addictive side-scrollers but also a game of decent modern depth.
You're an elephant, obviously, and your goal here is to barrel through various cartoon-like levels in your oversized frame. Careening through brick walls, stampeding across abandoned vehicles and generally wreaking safe havoc as a massive animal in a comic book world, in a game fit for both adults hogging the controller and children crying on the couch, desperate for a quick go.
Granted, like many a classic side-scroller, this is a great game in short bursts. There's a definite rhythm to Tembo's thrills, as shown by its hyper-quick romp through the first few levels.
But it's not always fun and games. There are nitpicky issues, and pick the nits we shall. Tembo is at least five full hours of campaigning - which doesn't sound like much from the get-go, but once the pace starts to wane, the perfectly timed jumps become less frequent and the AI enemies all that much more difficult, Tembo feels a lot less "badass".
That's not to say it's not as fun, just that the initial excitement starts to wear off a bit. What got hearts racing - an oversized elephant and ridiculous amounts of carnage - has now turned into a challenge and requires some sort of effort.
Tembo is still a generally fun game. The name is goofy and a little ridiculous, the pace a little skewed as it alternates between fast and frustrating, and the gameplay slightly off for a fun-for-all side-scroller. But this is prime classic gaming at its modest finest.
And if you're a true gamer
with children on your team, you'd be the opposite of badass if you didn't educate them in the ways of the past.