It seems like Codemasters have timed it well to release F1 2018 in the middle of the sport’s summer break. Liberty Media might be new to running the sport but the geniuses at play have had the license now for almost a decade. In that time, we’ve seen some great looking games be hampered somewhat by curious omissions, AI decisions and peculiar bugs. Have they finally strung it together for this year’s model?
Modes remain the same as last season with career mode having a considerable overhaul. You’re still picking a team and developing your car but now, what you say in interviews, has an influence on the team’s direction. In a move straight from the Telltale blueprint, you’re interviewed at the end of sessions commenting on how your car’s performing. From these answers, it’ll impact how your team perceives you, how different aspects of R&D view your feedback and how your relationship with your teammate develops.
It’s an interesting idea that gives each session more context. Sadly, there’s a point where it starts to become an inconvenience and it’s not a robust enough pool of answers to really work. If you crash in a session , you’re not allowed to blame yourself or respond to it as a racing incident. Having to pin that to a department or blindly ignore it is a terrible compromise. For the most part, it relates to your actions well but, after charging to the title in my first season, the interviewer gives another generic questioning, rather than commenting on your achievement. It’s a slightly suspect system that’s clearly in the first year of execution.
Aside from that, rivals aren’t assigned to you automatically, allowing you to pick someone to act as your nemesis. The points you accrue in these competitions come from every session but they seem to be weighted differently than last season. You can batter a rival in a season and maybe see a slight advantage. Smaller things like fastest laps seem as valuable as a race win which just doesn’t seem appropriate.
On the plus side, contract negotiations can be triggered throughout the year, rather than having to wait for your contract to run its course. The opportunity to re-evaluate your worth to a team is great and should hopefully alleviate finishing a season strongly only to see the likes of McLaren and Sauber queue up for your services. Overall, career mode seems a lot more active than in previous seasons and it keeps you feeling involved on a day-to-day basis.
Visually, F1 2018 keeps adhering to the high standard as previous games. Codemasters know how to get the best out of the Ego engine and this year sees a little more depth to the colour palette on offer. They’re not as enamoured with rain this season with precipitation appearing likely at the most usual haunts. You see a lot more overcast days at the track. The trees that lead up to Monza’s Ascari chicane cast some realistic shadows and the car models are brilliantly detailed. Sound also remains stellar with the older machinery sounding thunderous and cars bottoming out on long, bumpy straights.
Handling has seen some improvements too. The rear of the car feels a lot more stable and predictable. You’ll still lose traction if you push your luck but you’re not so worried about powering out of corners. To be honest, I do miss that feel and, when it comes to the classic machinery, they start to feel a little tame. There’s a new element of strategy with the deployment of ERS. You have control over how much you want to use at a time, much like engine modes. You can reserve some for crucial moments of attack and defence but, for some, that might too much to manage. It can be cumbersome as you button your way through the menus to trigger it.
The racing itself seems typically competitive. They seem mostly aware of you, although I’ve yet to run foul of them looking for gaps where they aren’t. I’ve heard reports of their aggression getting the better of them but, at least at medium AI, they’ve not been punting me into oblivion. If anything, they seem fairly at home with one another and the only incidents I’ve seen has been raised by yours truly. I do wish they had a little more character. Having seen these drivers their whole careers, I’d like to see some of their style shine through. I want Bottas to rue an opportunity at the front, Verstappen to go for any chance he’s given and for Grosjean just to have one of those days. It’s hard to tell drivers apart when they seem to adhere to the same behaviours.
Despite this, the racing remains enjoyable. The lack of a virtual mirror will be the bane of wheel users as they put their life in the hands of the threat indicators or crane their necks back to view the on-car mirrors. It might be worth leaving flashbacks on for the odd mishap, just in case. If you’re after competition with real people, online looks to be stable although there’s nothing new from last year.
Codemasters have done a great job recreating the atmosphere and keeping this representation of the sport feisty. There’s still going to be some questions surrounding the AI at higher difficulty and the absence of an on-screen mirror feels like an unnecessary change but, the on track action feels a lot tighter and accessible.
+ Tight, competitive racing.
+ Career mode now feels more involved.
+ Handling seems a lot more predictable and stable.
- Race management feels clumsy with the addition of ERS.
- No virtual mirror means you often aren't aware of cars behind you.