Codemasters’ annual F1 update has arrived on Xbox One, PS4 and PC – does it offer enough of a novelty to warrant a purchase if you already have F1 2017? Read our review of F1 2018 to find out.
The F1 license is an interesting one for Codemasters. While their rally racing games have enjoyed plenty of competition in recent years (including other licensed games like WRC and Sebastien Loeb), their Formula 1 games generally go about their way unchallenged. What often happens in similar situations is that developers can get lazy, but Codemasters has clearly tried to add plenty of new stuff into this addition.
Of course, the mandatory ‘roster update’ is there as well. New tracks have been added (and tracks like Sepang have been taken out), the correct riders are on the correct teams, and the new rules and regulations are in full effect. This also means the “halo” around the driver’s seat is there to protect him, but you can turn this off if it bothers you too much when driving from a cockpit view.
Tracks have been meticulously recreated again, and look spectacular – especially during replays. It’s a driving game staple to make sure every screenshot released is from a replay, but F1 looks great when racing as well. The game’s weather effects are also impressive, which is particularly true for rain races. This of course also affects how you drive, but F1 2018 isn’t a hardcore sim and probably won’t appeal as much to fans of some of Codemasters’ rally games or titles like Project Cars or Assetto Corsa.
Instead, F1 2018 sits in between arcade and sim – which I believe is the sweet spot for a game like this. It’s a sport that attracts millions of fans, many of whom aren’t sim racers but would happily jump at the chance to virtually engage in the sport. For those who are more seasoned racers, the game offers plenty of customization options to make the game more challenging – though the cars are nowhere near as challenging to control as real F1 cars. We should all be glad they’re not.
A lot of this year’s improvements aren’t necessarily on-track developments, but rather in the way careers/campaigns play out. Stepping into the shoes of an F1 racer now means also having to talk to the press, and thus shaping your personality. You can choose to come across more sportsmanlike or more showman like – and these choices have consequences. Blame the team, and they’ll be less happy to work with you – even though fans might appreciate your honesty. It’s a novel idea that translates to different areas of the campaign (including R&D), but very often it’s crystal clear what the impact of a choice is going to be – Codemasters isn’t exactly subtle with the narrative here.
Another big change is the “Championships” mode, which lets you select different racing formats that include the option to drive classic F1 cars from bygone eras. This means you’ll get the iconic McLaren cars from the seventies and nineties, for instance, which is excellent for the nostalgic F1 fan. What’s also a lot of fun is that the car handling for these modes is drastically different than how it is in the main campaign/career mode. Not merely a reskin of the big bulk of cars already in the game, it’s challenging to play these cars (especially with the driving aids turned off) having to change you tactics for braking and overtaking – purely on how the car handles. If you like your challenges to be more objective-driven, then the Events mode puts you into specific situations that are time-limited in how long they’re available for – which should squeeze some extra lasting appeal out of the game.
F1 2018 might not offer a giant leap forward to the franchise, but plenty of new content was added besides the annual roster update. The “Championships” and “Events” mode should appeal to long time F1 fans and those looking for a quick fix next to the career mode, and the interview mechanic is a nice addition to the career – even though it comes in a somewhat unpolished form this year (narratively speaking). It’s the best F1 game by default, but that doesn’t mean Codemasters didn’t improve on last year’s edition.