The folks at Codemasters have been knocking it out of the park with their F1 games of late.
The F1 2017 game is widely regarded as the best showcase of the sport in a video game in recent memory but that title has now been claimed by F1 2018.
I don’t say that lightly because F1 2017 was as close to perfect you could get but this new game takes the best bits from F1 2017 and builds on it.
Fresh from the academy
As with all F1 games, the Career mode sees you starting out as a grunt.
Players are able to choose which team they’d prefer to race for and as with past games these teams have goals and expectations that you must meet.
In past games your driver was referred to by your team’s name so for instance, “On pole we have, a Sauber, Hamilton, Bottas…” and it wasn’t very nice on the ear.
This year players are able to select an audio name that David Croft and Anthony Davidson will say during races but the range of options isn’t that great.
Despite saying “Brendon” numerous times, that audio name isn’t available. Even more common names seem absent. There are however some cool names such as The Engineer, Mr. Monaco and The Joker.
After creating your driver you are introduced to the basics of the game. Instead of a lounge area in the paddock as in 2017 the player is now in the control room. Here players are able to look around (which still has no point) and access a workstation. Here you can read emails that contain information for the next or current race (the smartphone from 2017 is gone), upgrade your vehicle and check your trophy cabinet.
The biased motorsport media
When you start your career in Australia you meet Emma and are also introduced to Claire, a motorsport journalist who will check in with you from time to time and conduct interviews.
The interviews with Claire are timed and your responses have an impact on the game.
For example, after the opening race in Australia I commended the chassis team for the stability of the vehicle. This resulted in upgrades for that department being cheaper and faster.
The flip side of this is criticising a department leads to upgrades taking longer and being more expensive.
It’s quite clear which responses will have a positive or negative influence but sometimes, you just need to tell that aerodynamics department to up its game.
During your interviews with Claire you will also be given the chance to respond as a showman or a sportsman and certain responses can lose you respect with another team. Haas hates me because I called Grosjean an idiot and if I might’ve ruined future contract prospects because of that.
Teams will favour either a showman or a sportsman (this is outlined at team selection) and you will garner or lose favour depending on your responses to these sorts of questions.
Coasting the corner?
Ahead of a race weekend various cutscenes will play out featuring the drivers from the previous teams. These cutscenes play out in exactly the same way as they did in previous games albeit with better graphics.
On that point, people don’t look as garish as they did in past games but they also don’t look as good as games where people are more prominent. The cars are gorgeous though, as always and lighting is incredible, especially at night or in the rain.
AI is a lot more aggressive than in the F1 2017 and will fight for position in and out of corners and passing rarely goes uncontested with fake-outs and blocking aplenty.
While earning resource points in F1 2017 was a chore in F1 2018 upgrading your vehicle is faster thanks to you earning more resource points per race. This puts less emphasis on “what can I afford right now” and more on “what does my car really need right now”.
There are not massive changes to F1 2018 but rather incremental improvements that really help to round off the entire experience. While this might be starting to get a bit long in the tooth for fans of the series it’s hard to criticise a formula that works, and works well.
A word on the multiplayer
As far as multiplayer goes F1 2018 becomes more of a destruction derby than a racing game once you enter the unranked multiplayer lobbies.
Codemaster’s has tried to solve this with the Multiplayer Super License.
Simply put, this tracks your skill, how cleanly you race and how long you’ve been racing for.
The skill level is determined by your Rank which is in turn determined by the folks you beat. Beat a driver with higher skill and you could get a better ranking. The cleanliness or Safety Ranking checks how long you can race between prangs.
The more you race, the better your Super License is and the better your ranking will be.
I have jumped into one unranked multiplayer game, had an over-eager Ferrari ploughed into the side of me coming into Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps on the first lap and decided that perhaps the Career is where I should stay, for my own sanity.
F1 2018 is very much a game for fans of the sport. That having been said if you’ve ever had even a passing interest in the sport this game is worth checking out.
What the F1 games do really well is merge the technicalities of the sport with the joy of racing around iconic circuits such as Monaco, Monza and Silverstone at 300kmph. There is as much joy to be found in the technical aspect of tuning your vehicle’s setup and queuing up upgrades as there is in winning a race.
Whether you are a hardcore racing fan or a newbie that wants to get as close to a F1 car as some of us ever will then F1 2018 is the game for you.
This game will suck you in and before you know it will be overtaking your gaming life-like Ricciardo going into a corner.
Disclaimer: The reviewer purchased a copy of F1 2018 on Steam. A code was not provided by the publisher.