F1 2017 was a leap forward for Codemasters' officially-licensed franchise, and as the yearly update cycle has come around again, there's now an official esports series to go with it. Top teams are recruiting top drivers, and the connection between real life and the game world is closer than ever before.
F1 2018 is less of a jump forward than its predecessor, but it keeps the wagon rolling in the right direction, offering a great experience for fans of the sport.
What you'll like about F1 2018
Everything good about F1 2017 has been repeated in F1 2018. And that starts with the visuals. At times you have to remind yourself you are actually playing a game and not watching the real thing on TV. The licensing helps, of course, and you find all 2018 cars faithfully recreated along with digital versions of their respective drivers. Digital Kimi Raikkonen is every bit as steely as the real deal.
The game plays as good as it looks, too, at least on Xbox (the platform we tested the game on). And it has HDR support and a super-steady frame rate. Cars feel precise, and changes you make to tires and setup are always noticeable.
This also applies to the depth of the career mode. Race weekends are structured in line with the real thing, and practice sessions have particular importance to the progress of the car. Throughout the three sessions, you're presented with challenges to collect "data" on both the car and your driving to compile setup, fuel, and tire strategies.
All this is alongside the returning R&D department, and as you progress you'll be able to unlock new parts for your car to go even faster. Folks who want to jump in and drive can choose from a number of preset setups, but expert racers will be happy with the manual control you're given over the various parts of the car.
This applies to during the race, too. The HUD has a number of useful features, allowing you to change strategy on the fly, adjust your hybrid power and much more.
What would an F1 game be without wheel support? Codemasters has the full list, and it's pretty long, covers every major wheel on the Xbox, and continues to add a whole new dimension to the game.
What you'll dislike about F1 2018
All of the good in the previous game has made it into the new one, but so has some of the less welcome bits. The number one complaint I have is in-race penalties. They seem to be wildly inconsistent. One lap you could drive into the back of an opponent and see nothing, the next you could be spun around, causing an impact and receiving a time penalty for it. It's a similar scenario with corner-cutting warnings. The whole thing just feels detached from the actual gameplay.
The other side to this sword is the driver AI when you're playing single player. Codemasters has done a lot of great work, but the computer drivers tend to be over aggressive. Sometimes that's good because it provides a challenge in overtaking them. But when you do overtake, or you try something a little out of the ordinary, their programming to follow the racing line floats above all else and you can easily find yourself smacked off the circuit and pointing the other way.
The multiplayer experience also needs work. The hope was that ranked lobbies would help relieve the crash fests of yesteryear by implementing a licensing system. The sad truth is that, ranked or unranked, multiplayer is frustrating at best. Racing multiplayer games are tough, after all, and a bad connection for one driver could ruin your race without you being able to stop it. But I get the feeling this isn't the only issue. I don't know what the solution is, but I really wish more players would take note of Wheaton's Law.
Bottom line on F1 2018
F1 2018, just as with last year's game, is a game worthy of your attention and something fans of the franchise will love. It's stunning to look at, excellent fun to drive in, and the single-player mode has more than enough depth to keep keener players entertained.
- Stunning graphics.
- Immersive career mode.
- Fast consistent frame rate.
- Plenty of control for keen racers.
- Stellar wheel support.
- Penalties are inconsistent and sometimes ridiculous.
- Over-aggressive driver AI.
- Multiplayer is still frustrating.
F1 2018 is available now for $60.
Review conducted entirely on the Xbox One X using a copy provided by the publisher.
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