F1 2018 is the fourth iteration of F1 in the current console generation. F1 2017 was an excellent title and deservedly received a 9/10 from us. The foundation was set and I was keen to see how various elements would move on, besides the challenge of integrating the halo, so how did it do?
On first glance you would be forgiven for thinking you had in fact loaded up F1 2017. Save for new imagery and THAT theme tune, the menu format and the overall feel in colour scheme is identical to last year. Thankfully that is where the similarities to 2017 stop. F1 2018 is an accomplished title with the refinement that F1 2017 lacked.
Visually, F1 2018 is a clear step up keeping its 60fps and 4K output but now featuring additional visual fidelity. From carbon fibre detailing and textured tyre blankets, to the early morning mist hanging around a circuit with dust, sparks and various particle effects seen flicking off cars as well, all very impressive, though there are still a few rendering issues akin to what was seen in F1 2017 which is slightly disappointing. Whether you like it or not, the halo appears to be here to stay and features in the game, but rather surprisingly from the T-cam view it doesn’t impact the racing at all and in the cockpit view there is an option to remove the central pillar entirely which brings a nice halfway solution to what could have been a significant drawback. Replays are also of note, with the annual improvements getting closer to the TV presentation with every iteration, now displaying the cars from a single view down some of the longest straights, such as that in China, all very impressive.
The career mode has been given a noticeable overhaul in F1 2018. Not completing every practice programme does not hinder your development opportunities – a crucial factor for career progression. The tech-tree is far less complex and it is easy to develop multiple parts for your car simultaneously through a season. It feels more real and replicates that notion of continual development we see in the sport. There is also the dynamic that the technical regulations can change year-to-year thereby upsetting the grid order and resetting your technical development. A nice touch.
Interaction with the media has been brought back into the game for this year through the means of time-pressured interviews. You are however greeted by quite possibly the most annoying interviewer who quite frankly comes across as a bit ditzy. F1 has an official reporter in the shape of Will Buxton – scrap the fake interviewer and get Will onboard. The interviews themselves though are good fun but you have only 10 seconds to answer. Too much information to digest and answer in my view – a few more seconds would be nice.
Contract negotiation is now a key feature in career mode. The power now sits with you to dictate your terms and to show other teams your desires. At points in the season you can set targets to achieve, position yourself better in the team and in return get favours from the team to help you progress. It motivates you to progress through a season and beyond and stops the career grind becoming repetitive.
The race weekend themselves though are fairly untouched from last year. You do get a new practice programme in the form of ERS, but otherwise it’s the same. It would be nice to have some unusual programme requests such as a systems test (drive out, do one lap, drive in), consistent speed (drive a lap within a speed window), maybe some circuits you have to complete a lap running at full throttle for a minimum percentage of the lap? Practice programmes should be tailored to each circuit so hopefully Codemasters will develop this further.
Handling was already well balanced and this year maintains that. The input lag from a wireless controller has been reduced and it does feel a lot more responsive – so much so that the Azerbaijan circuit is now enjoyable to drive! Meanwhile handling with a wheel is intuitive and well implemented, there are elements that can be improved in terms of ffb through longer corners and when leaning on the tyres and getting that feel for various tyre and brake temperatures.
The HUD has only had a few minor tweaks. The DRS activation has moved to a dial instead of a bar – it’s not as good and you often miss the preparation for it. Details on tyre temperatures and their stresses during a lap are now included. A big feature added is ERS and best of luck to you in being able to use it with ease. You are required to put your engine in a mode multiple times throughout a lap in order to harvest and use energy to aid performance. It is difficult to do that and keep a flow on track – there is an automatic mode if you need it.
F1 online has always been more of a battle of the Pastor Maldonado wannabe’s in years gone by, but Codemasters have adopted a GT Sport style super licence this year with two ratings on your profile: Skill Rank and Safety Rating. The result being that you will be placed into lobbies of drivers of a comparable skill level and also of similar safety. Be clean and you’ll race with fellow clean racers. Good job.
Rolling back the years
F1 2018 extends the collection of classic cars this year with notable additions including the Brawn GP BGP-001, the Williams FW25 and classics from the early-to-mid 1970s. Opportunities to drive these come through a season campaign or you can arrange standalone events. Though the F1 fan in me wants to see lesser known cars feature in this list from teams such as Jordan, Ligier, Benetton, Toyota, Jaguar and Stewart, this is still a bolt-on feature with no real meat to the bone.
F1 2018 is a solid game and builds on the incremental updates to the franchise year-on-year. F1 2017 was already an excellent product, so you would really need to invest time in the career mode to get the best out of this year’s title and enjoy the subtle improvements buried within.
Codemasters need to focus on the experience of being an F1 driver. The Super Licence for online is great, but where is the Super Licence for the career mode? I want the option to be a test driver for season one; I want to choose an allegiance to an engine manufacturer or choose to go it alone, and I want to be part of a team’s racing academy to define my career, all to earn crucial licence points that will hopefully result in an F1 drive.
If I race badly I want to be called to the Stewards Room where an interrogation could result in a pass or major penalty, and I want flashbacks to be limited – having them either on or off doesn’t sit right with me. The animation sequences during the coverage need to be updated – having experienced the same ones now for years. The teams should have different faces and when has the TV feed ever shown celebrations in a garage at the end? As you cross the line I want to see my guys on the pit-wall cheering, along with the chequered flag being waved from the overhead gantry. Finally, I want to drive the parade lap in its entirety and complete the slow down lap into the pits. That is the F1 game I want to see, that is the complete experience of being a modern F1 driver.
All of that is still missing, and so despite being a great product and arguably one of the best F1 games ever made, our score reflects the potential of what F1 should be and what it can be.
- A refined version of last year’s title
- Improved career mode
- Graphically superb
- Intuative handling model
- Not enough new content to set the game apart within a franchise
- A few rendering issues
- Annoying interviewer – Lee McKenzie she is not
- Same practice modes from previous years.
F1 2018 is an excellent representation of Formula One and its annual update again improves on what was before it, while accurately delivering an unsurpassed experience into a licensed series. If you already own F1 2017, it might not be an essential purchase, however despite the limited development time of an annual cycle, Codemasters continue to deliver a quality product. Future iterations may require bigger steps in terms of improvement, no doubt the critical fanbase will keep them on their toes.