The latest F1 iteration from Codemasters lifts the bar even higher than last year’s offering did – F1 2017 is now available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. We tested the PC version, using a variety of control options including gamepads and steering wheels.
If you’re a casual fan of Formula 1 racing, then you’d be forgiven for assuming that a new season just brings an annual roster update with the latest drivers and car decals, but there’s actually a lot more to it than that. Regulations change every season, and this year has seen some important changes that are all reflected in Codemasters’ digital recreation of the sport – and they are changes for the better when it comes to how enjoyable the videogame version has become.
Because of tweaks to the standards that the cars have to adhere to and changes in the tires that are used, this season’s Formula 1 cars are faster than before – which can be seen in the real life sport as well as in the game. This makes the sensation of speed better than in last year’s version, creating a stronger rush of adrenaline as races unfold and the overtaking starts to commence. This doesn’t mean that you’re looking at a more arcade-like experience though – this is still very much a simulation kind of game, although you tweak the game’s settings to be more forgiving if you prefer to not bother with too much of the technology and setup behind the actual racing.
In our review of last year’s version, we commented on how there wasn’t enough on-track drama in the game when compared to the real thing. Too many cars reaching the finish line, very few to no collisions unless a player car was involved, that sort of thing. This year still sees the AI cars behave very well, but I did experience more of a dueling sensation in the two seasons I played through.
An important part of these duels comes from your ability to develop your car (and team) along different paths – with RPG-like tech trees available that allow you to improve performance in a variety of ways while at the same time making sure your cars stays reliable enough to get through the race in one piece. To help with the latter, your team of engineers will also be providing you with in-race audio tips that can help you survive with an in-tact gearbox or a set of tires for just a while longer.
Both inside the career mode and outside of it, F1 2017 also sees the introduction of a small range of “classic cars” from previous F1 seasons – going back 25 to 30 years. Of course, the introduction of these cars appeals to feelings of nostalgia in the same way that the inclusions of legendary players do in NBA or FIFA titles, but they also handle differently and are an integral part of the career mode through the invitational events that you can take part in. These don’t affect your regular season, but they are fun diversions and a great demonstration of how different these racing monsters from the past feel compared to what you’re driving in the current season.
The technical performance of F1 2017, at least on our test PC, was excellent – very smooth framerates and detailed visuals (especially during the TV camera-style replays). The scenery generally isn’t too exciting, but to appreciate how good the game looks I’d advise checking out a race in the Monaco level – which is now also available as a nighttime alternative. There are three other alternative tracks as well, but Monaco’s always a spectator favorite as the only true road-based race in the season.
While most of the changes in this year’s version are subtle, they are all for the better. This makes F1 2017 an even better game than the 2016 version was, even though it owes part of that to changes made in the real-life equivalent of the sport. Although the actual races don’t always offer more excitement this year, the videogame version succeeds in doing just that.