In an industry where high-production value games are marketed to the widest possible audiences, it’s refreshing to play something as focused as F1 2018. Codemasters latest entry into the franchise is a game designed from the ground up to satiate fans of Formula One racing. And while those who err more on the side of arcade racers will come up against a steep learning curve, there’s eventually a good time to be found here for everyone.
There aren’t currently any developers out there that can compete with the pedigree of Codemasters racing game output. Their 30 years of experience in putting out technically impressive racing titles is unmatched in the industry and F1 2018 is no exception. All the minutiae of the world’s biggest motorsport are recreated here in loving detail. Cars, racers and tracks have all been updated to reflect the current year of the F1 circuit. Accurate engine and surface impact sounds and excellent reflections tech really helps to sell that feeling of scenery whizzing by as you reach incredible speeds around the world’s most famous circuits. Though the garage interiors and podium celebrations have been recycled from pervious entries, the side of track detail has been beefed up with more foliage and improved lighting. Overall the presentation is excellent as always.
Whatever your thoughts are on the racing simulator genre, you can’t argue that Codemasters doesn’t use every part of the animal when putting out their yearly F1 titles. At times it can feel like F1 2018 is as much a micro-management sim with cars as it is a racing title. Whether this is a point for or against the game will depend on how much of a motorsport fan you are. Those eager to dive into the nitty gritty of F1 racing will be thrilled with the Career mode, which completely immerses the player in every detail of the professional racers life. From interacting with engineers and sponsors between racers, giving interviews to further your public image or monitoring the condition of your car in real time during a race, there’s very little of the F1 experience that has been trimmed out. However, more casual racing fans, who are looking to simply fly down the Yas Marina straight and crash into a wall at 300kph could be frustrated with the extra fluff here.
The EA-like iterative nature of the series’ yearly entries may leave those who purchased F1 2017 with some doubts as to whether there is enough new content on the table here. The straightforward nature of the game content means that the developer refined the racing aspect of the series years ago and is restricted to making small tweaks to the formula. The Malaysia circuit has been dropped in favour of Germany’s Hockenheimring and France’s Paul Ricard, and the AI has been tweaked to respond more defensively to you trying to pass them. The classic car selection from F1 2017 has also been expanded with several new cars from the 70s. These have been (accurately) designed to drive much differently than their modern counterparts, with players able to throw them into corners with great abandon compared to the almost sticky handling of the modern roster. For those eager to jump into the multiplayer, the Super Licence system has the right idea with attempting to match players of similar skill and temperament, however many players are reporting that the actual implementation of the matchmaking is poor, and the multiplayer experience overall buggy at this stage. This is a shame for those who will tend to skip through the management sections of career mode, as it mostly just leaves the time trail and grand prix modes as a no fluff way to jump into the action. Another new addition is the ERS mechanic, which deploys a drag reducing spoiler on straight sections of the track to maximise your speed. Balancing the reward of this boost with decreased manoeuvrability coming into the next corner adds some nice variety to each race. Everything else about the F1 formula from 2017 is back and untouched, which is great, but might lead to a slight feeling of fatigue from series veterans.
If you’re a fan of Formula One, then your purchase of this game is probably a forgone conclusion. There isn’t another developer operating today with the racing pedigree of Codemasters, who can combine the excitement of the world’s most powerful motor vehicles with the minutiae of research and development and contract management. For new fans coming into the series, I would still recommend F1 2018 provided they understand that Mario Kart this is not