In recent years, it’s fair to say that Codemasters have done a great job of rebuilding their reputation with the F1 series after the disappointment of F1 2014, with each year since bringing a remarkably improved experience to the annual racer. With F1 2018 almost upon us, it’s time to head into the latest entry in the fast-paced racing series and it’s fair to say those yearly improvements don’t look to have stopped just yet.
Much like previous years, F1 2018 has multiple different game modes to enjoy, with six available in total. This year’s modes include Grand Prix, Championships, Time Trial, Event, Multiplayer and of course everyone’s favourite, Career.
For me, the go-to option was always going to be Career mode. As someone who has already spent countless hours racing almost every car through every track on previous entries, I was keen to jump straight in at the deep end and go full on into the lengthy seasons that the career mode brings. For anyone wanting to just dip their toes in and get used to the way things work and the way cars handle though, or anyone just wanting something a little less daunting, then the Event mode is a great place to start. In Event mode, players have the option to compete in a one-off downloadable race scenario with unique objectives tailored to the experience that are set to throw players into the thick of the action, and a leaderboard is also included for those who want to be a little more competitive.
Back to Career mode, and much like last year, players can expect a heavily involved and in-depth experience. You begin by creating a driver before signing a contract with any of the ten official teams, with all teams available from the start. From here you’ll embark on a full twenty-one race calendar season starting with the season opener in Australia and culminating in a fight to the finish in the United Arab Emirates.
Throughout the career, players must pay close attention to all aspects of team racing with objectives to abide by that will factor into contract renewals, research and development to take note of that will help increase performance and upgrade various aspects of your car, rivalries to maintain and media to answer to before and after each practice, qualifying and race event. Your on track performance will play a part in all of these things as you’d expect and better performances will naturally attract better teams and earn Resource Points for upgrades quicker, but maintaining those top spots can be a hard task and should you start to falter, you’ll soon find your team hot on your tail demanding results, the media asking punishing questions and your reputation taking a hit.
Another thing to pay close attention to after each and every event is the vehicle management section. Much like the real-life sport, F1 2018 doesn’t provide you with a car that will keep on running endlessly and as you progress, parts on your car will wear and break and new ones will need to be fitted. Look after your car and these parts will last until the end; start shunting others or racing your car to hard and you’ll need to replace those parts much earlier than usual and with all the official sanctions in place. Should that happen you may well find yourself a victim of the dreaded grid penalty.
One thing that many will find exciting is the possibility of changing teams throughout the season. Whilst this has been a feature in recent games, players can now change loyalties multiple times in a season should they so wish to with contract renewals taking place at multiple stages throughout each campaign. What’s more is good performances early on can mean transferring to the best teams right away, should you so wish, as each race result either improves or decreases your reputation for all available teams at the same time. For me this was especially enticing as I realised quickly my decision to sign for Williams wasn’t going to end with much chance of a Constructors title, despite my best efforts, thanks to poor performances from teammate Lance Stroll – something which was remedied by my early switch to Scuderia Ferrari to race alongside Sebastien Vettel after just four races of the season. That was a move which later resulted in the Drivers Championship and the Constructors Championship heading my way.
As I mentioned earlier, the media also play a part to your career in F1 2018 and this is certainly something that helps the experience feel more realistic. Unfortunately, it’s also where my first niggle comes in as it only took a few races before the questions asked by the reporter started to become repetitive. Seeing the same question a few times isn’t a major issue, but when you can predict the answer you’ll need to give to ensure the best reputation reward, it’s time to see more options, and that’s something that didn’t exactly expand further on through the season. That said, it is nice to see the media responses have an impact on the relationship with player and the team, but it would still be good to see more varied responses and questions as the career progresses.
Away from the Career mode and if you’re after something a little more than simply a one-race, race weekend, but don’t want to tie yourself down to the nitty-gritty details found in the Career mode, then Championship mode is a great place to go. In Championship mode players can compete in a number of different championship events, with the first taking players through the 2018 Formula One World Championship, before later championships mix things up with different cars and rules to keep the experience fresh. Players earn points based on their results which are then used to unlock some of the later championships such as the Spec Race Championship, Premier Multi-Class Championship and even a Wet Weather Racing League and Classic Endurance Championship.
Also available in this mode are the Invitational Events. These events are accessible within the main Career mode too between different race weekends with players usually able to choose from a selection of events to partake in; those missed however can then be accessed here. Each event usually consists of a Checkpoint Challenge, an Overtake Challenge, Pursuit or Time Attack.
Next up is Grand Prix mode and here players can take on either an individual Race Weekend of there choosing or take up the option to create their own Grand Prix series of events. In this mode players can choose to get stuck in with the current F1 cars or enjoy the delights of some of F1’s most classic models, with 20 different models from past years all appearing from the 1972 Team Lotus 72D all the way to the 2010 Red Bull Racing RB6, and many others in-between.
Then there’s Time Trial, and this one hardly requires much explanation with players taking to the track of their choosing to set blistering lap times, whilst trying to break the records and set the fastest time possible.
Finally, we have Multiplayer and this where the competitive nature of Xbox Live really lets loose as players go head to head for online bragging rights. Multiplayer comes with three modes attached, Ranked, Unranked and Online Championship. Unranked is of course the way to go if you’re looking for a little friendly competition, whilst Ranked will see you proving yourself against others by pitting you against others based on your skill ranking and safety rating, which is changed depending on how you race and the results you get. The last of the modes is the aforementioned Online Championship and once more this is a friendlier competition in which players can participate in a fully customisable multi-race championship with friends, as opposed to being so closely monitored by the online systems in ranked play.
Whilst my time with the multiplayer didn’t exactly see packed out grids due to the early nature of review, it’s fair to say that the racing feels completely natural and the transition from single player to multiplayer is as fluid as you’d expect and want for a fast-paced racing sim – not to mention it’s an absolute blast to play.
It wouldn’t be right to leave without telling you all about just how incredible the visuals and the sounds are this year and whilst last year was certainly impressive, this year has seen the boundaries pushed even further. All of the game’s tracks have also been perfectly recreated to ensure every bump, texture and feature looks identical to the real-life counterpart. Each of the cars this year has once again been fantastically recreated to the finest detail, which of course includes the new and controversial Halo’s that are present. One slightly awkward feature is the cockpit view which is now subtly obstructed by the pillar of the driver’s protective Halo, but there are enough camera angles to find one that will ensure you can see the track clearly however you like to race.
As for the sounds, and my god, if you wear a pair of stereo headphones it’s like being trackside as the roaring engines tear through the track from the starting grid all the way to that chequered flag, with every rev, gear change, tyre screech all sounding incredibly lifelike.
It’s worth mentioning that F1 2018 also comes with one additional bonus feature that fans of Xbox One’s forgotten Kinect will surely love, and that’s the option to ask those vital questions to your crew during each race, such as what the condition of your vehicle is, who are you racing, weather information, pit stop information and much more. Of course, all of this can be done through the use of a headset, but having the option to utilise the Kinect once more was especially pleasing to see given the apparent neglect it’s received in recent years.
Overall and F1 2018 is without a doubt a fantastic addition to the yearly series. With an in-depth Career mode, incredibly life-like visuals, plenty of content and a faithful simulation experience of everyone’s favourite racing discipline recreated to the finest detail, there aren’t many better places to experience the thrill of race day besides heading down to the track in person on race weekend.