A Podium Finish!

Annual releases are a tricky one for me. Although I always tend to get them (it’s a rule right?), I have to say that some years, there isn’t much that the developer does or can do that makes the game look or feel totally different. I’m also going to be honest with you right from the start. My knowledge of F1 as a whole is limited. I used to watch it quite a bit when I was growing up. Michael Schumacher is the one driver that sticks out, a true legend of the sport.

With the F1 games, I’m not too experienced with them. I played a little of F1 2017 but that was very little I must say. However, this past month, I’ve gone into full F1 2018 mode, having the chance to get numerous hands on and interviews with key people in the series and how they have gone about with development of F1 2018. Once F1 2018 arrived on my PlayStation 4, I was eager to sit down myself and fully dive in to a proper F1 simulation. After extensive play of the game this past week, I can safely say that that F1 2018 is the most realistic Formula One game I’ve ever played or seen.

The first thing that’ll stand out in F1 2018 are the visuals. Codemasters have hired a new Art Director this year with Stu Campbell coming in to oversee the visual side of things with this year’s F1 title. Stu and the team have done such an amazing job in recreating the visual aspect of F1. The most impressive thing that I took away from F1 2018 visually was the weather effects and how that in turn effects your overall performance in the race weekend. I was cruising at Silverstone in my British Grand Prix in Career Mode, finishing a respectable 8th place. The sun was shining, there was no clouds in the sky and it was just me, my F1 racing car and the track ahead. It looked glorious. Even the little details like the sun shining a bit too strong on one side of the track were present. It made you think about where you want to position yourself on the track.

On a the other side of the scale, I was playing at the Circuit Paul Ricard. This is a new track in F1 2018 and it is perfectly recreated, all down to every little detail. Well, I played this track a couple of times with rainy conditions and it completely changed my approach to the game. I’ve played a lot of racing games in my time where weather effects didn’t make a difference in the way the races handled. When it’s raining in F1 2018, the way it replicates itself on the screen is like nothing ever like I have played before. When me and my opponents were in a pack (all 20 of us), it was so difficult to see, but in a detrimental way to the game. It was like you were actually there yourself. The mist coming off the temperature of the cars causing your vision to be impaired was something that would be there in real life F1. I was finding myself looking at different parts of my screen just to see if I could get a better understanding of where I was heading and where I would need to brake, turn etc. F1 2018 is the first racing game ever to fully engross me in that experience.

All other visual aspects of the game are perfectly replicated. Speaking to Lee Mather at a recent Codemasters event, Lee explained how beneficial the relationships with the teams and drivers have been to the overall development of F1 2018 and it really shows. Tracks, Drive models, F1 cars (both modern and classic) really stand out. Nothing has been left here without having 100% detail attached to it. It’s the most impressive racing game that I have seen on this generation of consoles, that’s for sure!

The visuals aside, for me, the most important part of F1 2018 was how it performed on the actual track itself. With me not having much F1 gaming experience, I was a little worried to say the least how I would fare. I understand that Codemasters want to make a game where hardcore fans of the sport can get the most out of the game. What I will say is that F1 2018 caters for every single skill level there is, it will hold your hand as much as you want it to, as you get to grips with the mechanics of the game.

F1 2018

I’ll admit, for the most part of my experience so far with F1 2018, I have the assists all turned on. You can judge me all you want but when you have it on fully manual (Oh hell yes, I’ve tried it!), you may as well be in the car yourself. There are so many factors that you have to take into consideration, not to mention have your eyes firmly on the track. Fuel, Engine, Tyres, the new ERS system. What is good about all of this is that they are all easily gained access to via a single button press (O on the PlayStation 4) in order to get to grips with everything. If you are playing with all of the assists turned off, you’re going to want to have this menu open at all times.

Even though I had my assist level set to Amateur, I still had to think about when to put my Engine at the highest level in order to think about my fuel. Do I want to put the engine into rich mode and go all out to try and get that podium finish? Or shall I be more conservative in the last few laps, making sure that I have enough fuel in the tank to finish the race. These are decisions that you are going to have to make on your own. You’ll get aided by your assistant back in the garage who will advise you on what to do and when to make a pit stop but all in all, it’s your decision that will make or break where you finish in the race.

What I liked about the mechanics of F1 2018 is that each car felt different. From the Mercedes F1 car to Sauber’s car, each of the cars available in the game had a distinctive feel about it. Senior Car Handling Designer David Greco and his team have done a fantastic job this year. Not only making each car have that unique feeling to them, but also relaying that back to some of the F1 classic cars. It’s mechanics like this that make each race weekend unpredictable. Racing Melbourne, I was 12th and the adrenaline I felt trying to catch up with 11th was something that really excited me about F1 2018 and thinking further ahead, playing it with friends online.

The biggest mode in F1 2018 is of course the Career Mode. Career Mode sees you choose a team you want to ride with for the forthcoming season and try and make sure you are win that coveted F1 championship at the end of the season. One of the main additions that Codemasters talked about was the addition of media interviews with Claire. Claire will be hitting you with the questions along your F1 career, and how you answer them questions (which are time-limited) depends on what reputation you get in the world of F1. Will you show Sportsmanship or Showmanship? That all depends on how you feel answering the questions that are set out for you.

It’s a system that works, it’s a system that makes you think on your toes, especially when you have come out of a grueling race weekend and Claire wants to turn up and ask why you were disappointing in your race. Whilst you may want to swiftly tell her to go away, it’s about enhancing your reputation, not only with the team you are with now but with other teams that may approach you at the end of the season.

These answers you give in the interviews can also effect the people that work in your garage. Are they refusing to increase your power even more? Tell Claire about how your F1 car isn’t powerful enough and it will come up that your team has noticed your answer. It may work against you in the long term or it could force the team to think about improving you even more. What I really do like about the Career Mode is the R&D development tree in place. I’m a massive fan of RPGs and to have like a development skill tree in F1 2018 is fantastic. You can obtain improvements to your car by spending resource points. These resource points can be obtained on how well you do with races and other events that come up in the season.

However, the way you develop your car via the R&D skill tree is a little bit of a risk and reward system. At the end of each season, there will be rule changes that will enforce new rules of how your car has been set up. You have no idea how these rules will effect you until they come into place but you could go full force into improving the durability or chassis and find out that you can’t use them in the new season. I really like that about F1 2018 and how again, it’s like a risk/reward system.

Looking further, Codemasters have promised that they have made many improvements to the online side of things, mainly thanks to the new Super Licence that they have set up for F1 2018. This will make sure that fairer players who don’t do anything but try and run you off the track have a better and fairer rating. In turn, you’ll be matched with players of a similar standard, in turn making online multiplayer a lot more fun and a lot more realistic in terms of getting the chance to play out a very decent race weekend. Due to the game not having launched at this time, I haven’t had the opportunity to test this out just yet but will update this section once the multiplayer has been tested out fully in the next couple of weeks.

My time so far with F1 2018 has been nothing short of exceptional. It replicates the sport of F1 perfectly. It’s made me open my eyes up to F1 as a whole and I can only imagine a new generation of F1 fans will fall in love with this just like I have. Simply Sublime!

Bettsy’s View

I was pessimistic about F1 2018, not in terms of the quality output the team at Codemasters would produce, but in how the creators could top the superb F1 2017 and keep the series fresh. (Which is an issue many games have).

After spending considerable time with the game at exclusive events recently, learning about the new inclusions and the development aspects, I can see that future games will continue to innovate audiences as the game goes forward with the yearly installments.

F1 2018 is a delight to play and also watch. It brings out a competitive nature in me (that with exception of football games) most other games do not.

A.I provide a real threat to race position. They will take risks, defending and holding their race lines, whilst providing a real thrill due to an unpredictable fight where you can’t quite be sure whether to just go flat our for the overtake or perhaps wait more cautiously for a drs opportunity.

In this years game the visuals continue to impress year after year with improved camera scanning technology used to scan drivers, cars tracks and more to  provide the most realistic sim ever.

The weather system is a neat feature of the race experience. Racing in dry sunny conditions, the build-up of clouds in the sky would leave parts of the circuit looking duskier, with shimmering in the air from the hot weather atmosphere, which would result in distorted long distance views.

When experiencing a hand’s on earlier this week at Codemasters HQ, zipping around the fantastic Paul Ricard in the middle of a rainstorm, with puddles on the road, tiny raindrops trickling off the car’s gorgeous paintwork and visors steaming up as visibility becomes somewhat awkward. It really showcased how splendid the weather system has become.

Career mode takes the meaning of an authentic experience to new levels, with a depth and social A.I experience (Claire the interviewer) not seen ever before in a racing game. As for the online modes, the super license and matchmaking options are moving that aspect of the game in the right direction, to help push through potential eSportes racing stars of tomorrow.

To summarise F1 2018 continues to raise the bar and is the ultimate experience to be had.