With just about a decade of license exclusivity under its belt, Codemasters is set to release F1 2018. So what does Codemasters look to bring to the table with F1 2018? For starters, a deeper and more immersive career mode, incredibly detailed venues, and a deeper, more authentic experience to the community. At the same time, It seems to be getting harder to keep adding and adding to the acclaimed series, so refinement of the foundation is where Codemasters spent a lot of its resources in order to make the game feel fresh.
What I Like
When creating a sim-based racing title, one of the most important questions will always be “how does the car handle in regards to a controller and wheel?” Thankfully, the answer to this question is exceptionally well for both, on either console. The handling in an F1 simulation-based title needs to be precise, controllable and tight as most venues on the schedule have multiple types of turns that require the user to adapt quickly and precisely — all while needing to be cognizant of your opponents at the same time. It can be a daunting task for sure, but thankfully F1 2018 gives the user remarkable control that is adjustable as you grow more accustomed to handling, as well as the surroundings. In both my time with the DualShock controller for PS4 Pro and the Elite controller for Xbox One X, the control was tight and responsive. This allowed me to focus a bit more on my opponents, as opposed to struggling to maintain control of my vehicle. I also tested the title out with my Logitech G29 wheel for the PS4, and while it did take a bit to adjust, eventually it felt as good as a controller — if not better.
Just as important as vehicle control, is how the vehicle reacts to the environment and the opponents surrounding it. On this front, the car truly feels connected to the surface of the venue, and reacts accordingly with the type of surface, whether that is the track, sand, dirt or a curb. Another huge plus for Codemasters and the F1 series is the remarkable skill level of the AI, and its ability to be smart, competitive and fair all at the same time. Depending on the level of difficulty one is playing on, you will routinely find yourself fighting off AI opponents that are trying to take advantage of your mistakes. Even better, you will see the AI make mistakes that open windows of opportunity for you to overtake them. It can be a beautiful game of chess if you have the AI dialed in for the difficulty that matches your skill level. From the controls to vehicle performance and challenging AI opponents, F1 2018 hits on all cylinders when it comes to delivering the full package of racing authenticity.
Rarely do I promote presentation and graphic fidelity of a game as something I love, at least not enough to devote a full category to it. In this case though, it is definitely warranted. I have tested and reviewed F1 2018 on both the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, and while the One X may have a slight edge in the graphics department, both console versions look aesthetically beautiful. Whether it’s the incredibly detailed vehicle models or the meticulously re-created venues, F1 2018 is one of, if not the best looking sports video games of this console generation. I found myself totally immersed in the photo-realistic environments, and if you are like me, you’ll end up tinkering in the photo and replay modes often. The game is simply astonishing to see and hear in action, and at times had me believing I was watching an actual F1 broadcast on TV.
As beautiful as the game is in action, the presentation is just as strong, especially in career mode. The developers have included a full race-weekend breakdown, including feedback and instruction from your team, a full track discussion, fly-overs, track difficulty, and problematic areas of the track. On top of the weekend venue breakdowns, the game also provides inclusions of grid-walks, garage work and podium celebrations. Combine of all this together and you can spend hours on just one race weekend alone, if you choose to do so.
There are few sports titles out today that offer a career mode as deep and engaging as the one found in F1 2018, and for me, none do it better than F1 2018. Building on the new inclusions to career mode in last year’s title, Codemasters has taken the experience to a whole new level. On top of meeting your team’s required weekly expectations on the track, you will find yourself having to beat your rival in weekly categories, focus on research and development, be involved in contract negotiations, and do weekly on-camera interviews that require specific types of answers that help promote you and your team in a way that’s suitable to the team’s expectations. When added together, the career mode in F1 2018 is truly a living, breathing ecosystem that encompasses the user and creates a dynamic environment that is nothing short of addictive.
That being said, the obvious goal in career mode is still to collect points for both the driver’s championship and the constructor’s rankings, but Codemasters has tweaked enough to make it feel fresh again. The pre- and post-race interview inclusion could have gone a bit deeper, but overall, many will find themselves spending a large amount of time with this mode.
As deep as the career mode is in F1 2018, the online suite of game modes and offerings takes a backseat to nothing. The game offers the standard ranked and unranked races, and again, this year includes a full online customizable online championship that can be created with all human drivers, or a combination of AI controlled cars and human opponents. The online championship also allows the championship administrator to save the progress at any time, and start right back up where the group left off at a later time.
On top of standard races and online championships, users will also have the ability to participate in an “Event.” An Event is a downloadable, one-off race that will place the user “in the thick of the action, with specific and tailored objectives.” Along with all of these options, there is also an online leaderboard to see how well you compare with friends and the community. Overall, the online options are plentiful, customization is strong, and in my short time spent online, the servers responded flawlessly.
What I Don’t Like
I struggled to list accessibility as something that would be considered a negative for the game because Codemasters actually provides a deep set of options to make the game as easy or as hard for each individual’s liking. That said, the game requires one to learn the nuances of each and every venue, how the car handles at each and every turn of each venue, and to understand how in-race car options affect the vehicle’s performance. The game does an incredibly solid job of walking one through what all of it does, what it means, and when to utilize these options, but still, it’s a lot to take in at once. And for someone new to the series, it could be overwhelming. Now having said all of that, the lower the difficulty you play on, the less effect these various elements will have on your individual experience. The most important aspect for beginners or newcomers to the series is to take the time to learn the mechanics of the game, view and follow the tutorials, and give yourself plenty of time to acclimate yourself to the rules and expectations of F1 racing.
I truly appreciate the level of immersion and detail that Codemasters includes in the F1 series, and F1 2018 does nothing but enhance that appreciation. The authenticity captured in this year’s game is unmatched, and in my honest opinion, this is the best racing title to ever make it to console.
That’s definitely a bold statement, but for me, an honest one. When you include the depth of the title, the online options, the customization, and the immersive career mode, I struggle to think of any other racing title that delivers such a complete package.
Forget whether you love, like or hate F1 racing, F1 2018 is about the racing experience as a whole, and what an amazing experience it is.