It was around this time last year where I got my hands on F1 2017 and produced my first official review for Respawning – In that review I outlined a racing simulator orientated towards F1 specifically, that was almost perfect beside a few things… One year later and F1 2018 is here; has it improved over last year’s showing (The short answer is yes, but to see how well, keep reading…)?
The obvious thing to look at first is the way that the game looks – On the surface, the game looks incredible, partly because I’m playing it on PS4 this year rather than forcing my Mac to do things it’s really not designed to do… This time the game is fully built in with 4K support, and if you have a HDR TV or monitor, then the game can become incredible. Even on a TV without HDR and running at 1080p, the game looks stunning. Overall, there is a noticeable difference in the way that the game looks. There are also graphical additions like a better depth of field, and then there is a load of real-world effects like dust being kicked up by cars and a heat haze coming up off of the track on a hot day.
Another thing that makes the game look better are the new models that have had to be rendered because of some new restrictions placed on the real-life cars. Specifically, for the ring that goes around the cockpit called a “Halo”; while it is a safety feature IRL, in the game it can be quite distracting having a large part of the screen blocked by a pillar. Fortunately, in-game, the pillar can be removed, removing the blind spot for players that may not wish to have an experience exactly the same as a real F1 driver. The bonus in both cases is that the performance of the car can be mildly improved by turning it into a mid-car spoiler.
Talking of performance, that’s something that’s been drastically improved in this game as well. The cars feel almost more arcadey rather than what I, (Someone with zero real-world driving experience) would have expected, based on previous iterations of the game. Personally, I prefer this because of my play style within other games, but I can see that it may end up being less popular with people who want a more sim-like game. I also have no personal experience of the game with a steering wheel, so I have no idea of how this may affect it.
It’s not just the feel of the car that has changed but also the AI behind all of the other drivers – It’s more inelegant and can perform moves that are often seen within a real race like blocking attempts to overtake by closing off the racing line, or early and late-breaking before corners, more like how position fights work out realistically. This is even tuned driver by driver as well, for example, a driver might be a little more enthusiastic about cutting you up over another.
It’s not all in vain though; we have new toys! In 2009, the FIA approved the use of a KERS system that enabled the charging of an onboard battery, by capturing energy that would normally be wasted while braking. Codemasters has now also been approved to include the current version of the system into the game. I present to you, the ERS system. A control similar to the fuel mix settings, that when adjusted can either give the vital boost of power needed to pass the annoying car blocking your every overtakes. That being said, it also needs to be charged, so it’s not like an infinite boost of nitrous.
This isn’t the only new feature in the game this year though, the official race calendar has expanded again with the return of two Grand Prix, France and Germany. This returns the number of tracks to be raced to 21, a height that hasn’t been seen for 2 years. Returning again, we also have a range of classic cars that can either be used in a series of invitational events between each Grand Prix, or in a series of race scenario playlists where you can race a short championship that has special rules, like the winner of the previous race starts in last. My favourite vehicle of the lot to be included though is a DLC featuring the 2009 Brawn GP car that dominated the year’s races… Plus there’s the scream of the old naturally aspirated V8.
That being said, the old V8 was great, but we now have engines that can handle far more power. This is seen within the new R&D Upgrade tree, featuring upgrades for the new ERS system. The biggest improvement to this tree though is that the price of the upgrades are way cheaper, increasing the speed that the car can be improved through the season. This feature also now means that you can finish a single race within a 30-minute session, and still get great performance out of the cars as you progress.
If you wish to race the full three practice sessions, qualifying and race, then you’ve really got to work for the resource points – While in practice there are 6 different programs that can be run that will teach you the track, show you how best to look after tires and even give you an idea of where you will come in qualifying based on how fast you can go round the track. There is, of course, a new program to test how efficient you are with the adjustment of the ERS system to push you to get a higher average lap time. The way that points are given is a little different this year as well. The biggest change is that you are awarded points in the order of programs that you complete, but each program gets you 10 fewer points than the one before. Anyone who’s quick with maths there will see that the last program won’t get you any points, it’s completely up to you if you want to complete it, but if you do, you’ll be able to gather more data to help your race.
All of this so far has meant that the game is significantly better than the previous games, but the features so far are not even why I’m really excited about this game. In my review of the 2017 game, I said that the one feature that I really wanted to be returned to the series was the inclusion of the media, giving interviews that would have an effect on both your appearance as a character, but also an effect on the moral of the entire team. This means that the pit crew can become faster because they’re happy with the way that they are being represented on screen – It can also affect the performance of parts that are still being developed in the factory, giving them a little extra boost when attached to the car… But for me, this is what maximises the immersion of the game. There is now a well-rounded simulation of what it’s like for a real driver getting out of the car and then having to be cross-examined on how well you performed on the track. This feature makes that game and gives me a reason to say that this is the best racing experience I have ever had, and that’s with a gamepad controller and no steering wheel that can only increase the immersion (Yes brother, I am jealous of your steering wheel).
That being said, the game isn’t perfect. I have run into more bugs with this game than I did with 2017, but none of them has been as disruptive as any I had before. The worst one being two drivers considered backmarkers achieving times 15 seconds faster than Riccardo in a practice… Besides causing me to not get a trophy, there was nothing that stuffed me up too bad. This game is something that I can wholeheartedly say I will be playing all year, and it definitely deserves the rating I’m giving today. In short, give Codemasters all of your money.
I give F1 2018 a: