There’s a specific time of year that those gamers inclined towards F1 get a little bit giddy. It’s around mid-year when Codemasters announce the launch date for its latest installment in the F1 game franchise. To build anticipation to a fever pitch this is also underscored by the release of dev diaries and beta testers who clog up your timeline with content of what’s to come. It’s that simultaneously joyous and painful period just before you get your own hands on the latest that Codemasters has to offer.
There’s a bit of wistfulness too for F1 2017. After all, it was such a great title. But the nostalgia doesn’t last long. For as soon as you’re strapped into your virtual F1 2018 cockpit, you drive out on track, and set off on your first flying lap that nostalgia is replaced by a giddiness matched in wattage only by the mega grin on your face.
From the first fire up of F1 2018 the most evident change is to its graphics. Everything from the track surface to the way tiny blades of grass stick to your rear tyres (following a slight off at Variante Ascari) has been impeccably overhauled. The general in-game atmosphere is so comprehensive and nuanced that it doesn’t just make the player/driver feel as if you’re switching between different circuits but truly racing at a wholly different venue complete with its own ambiance and iconic features. And that’s just the visuals! If this isn’t enough to make you buy F1 2018 then the audio on it will be. I am ready and confident enough to say/write that F1 2018 has the best sounding engine notes of any racing title on the market. Have I played every racing game on the market? No. But I don’t have to in order to know that the audio of F1 2018 is head and shoulders above the rest. That subtle whine of the turbo, the spike in revs when you ramp a kerb you shouldn’t be on, and the unmistakably exhilarating pam…pam…pam…pam…pam…as you whip down the gears is a thing of beauty.
The handling model in F1 2018 also feels improved and importantly more immersive. The overall and accurate edge, no pun intended, to kerbs and your inability to simply ride them at will adds a level of realism and challenge that was missing from F1 2017. Clout the kerbs at Singapore consistently and it’ll come not only a cost for your laptime but will likely eventuate in you getting better acquainted with the wall.
The AI aggression too has been ramped up. There is no more sticking to the racing line as you close up and ready for a pass. Now the AI will hug the inside line tighter than their favourite granny. And that’s not all, even if you do manage to send it at the expense of compromising your speed on corner exit the AI will be there and more than ready to bang wheels if it means keeping or getting back their place. Pulling off a clean move against the more aggressive AI gives a true sense of satisfaction further ratcheting up the sense of immersion.
Career mode remains as one of the biggest draw cards for a F1 title. In F1 2018 there is much more to consider. First, you get to choose a team. Do you want to go for Mercedes and dominate Hamilton-esque? Or do you want to slum it at the back of the grid and build up your team? The choice is completely yours. Once you do make your selection you’re thrust into the world of F1. From team expectations, to R&D, to paddock interviews everything requires a level of micro-management very much akin to real-life Formula 1.
The practice programs, through which you earn precious resource points, remain with the challenging addition of ERS management. That’s right, in F1 2018 the player/driver can choose to have full control of the ERS. There are five modes of deployment/harvesting in total under your control and it’s a rather involved process to figure out the perfect lap-by-lap strategy for it. But it’s a challenge and there is, arguably, nothing more that F1 gamers love more than that. My only gripe with this addition is that the ability to swap between ERS modes is confined to the MFD (multi-function display) where you also manage engine maps, brake bias, and the differential setting. I would’ve liked to see the player/driver given the option of mapping the ERS management to a button/toggle of your own choosing.
Something else that seemed to have not received an abundance of attention is the helmet customization. It’s a fairly innocuous gripe and it doesn’t detract from the game. But I do wish there was more freedom in terms of helmet design so as to personalize your experience even more. Perhaps Codemasters would even consider allowing players/drivers to choose the colour of their gloves and racing boots in the future too.
F1 2018 is something special. Codemasters have achieved and delivered a truly amazing title that even the most ardent of naysayer cannot legitimately criticize. It’s not an easy thing to capture the nuance and emotion and passion of such a beloved sport but Codemasters have achieved it, and brilliantly so.
The speed of technological development and the simultaneous evolution of gaming mean that gamers continually ask for more. More features, more realism, more immersion. The great news is that F1 2018 is more.