F1 2018

Faith­ful to its li­cence, F1 2018 is both high-tech and out­dated.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Phil Iwa­niuk

You’ve got to feel for Code­mas­ters’ de­sign team when the an­nual, ‘What shall we put in next year’s game?’ meet­ing cropped up at the end of the 2017 sea­son. “Well, there are un­sightly head pro­tec­tors on the cars now, so they’ll be go­ing in.” Ev­ery­one gives re­signed nods. “And… shall we to­tally over­haul the game en­gine?” No. No we shan’t, Cal­lum, be­cause the game’s out in eight months. Work­ing to an an­nual dead­line, it’s tes­ta­ment to the de­vel­oper’s tal­ents that the se­ries has main­tained, by and large, a high stan­dard wor­thy of the li­cence. But that li­cence is a dou­bleedged sword: Over in the real sport, Lewis Hamil­ton has been a blur of Petronas lo­gos for what feels like ages, drivers are openly be­moan­ing the te­dium of rac­ing, and the most dis­cern­able change of the 2018 sea­son is the re­viled ‘halo’ pro­tec­tor.

What F1 2018 does in re­sponse to this bag of lemons, know­ing that its fun­da­men­tal han­dling was stel­lar in F1 2017 and in need of very lit­tle re­vi­sion, is fo­cus on its ca­reer mode. Press in­ter­views re­turn, hav­ing de­buted in F1 2010, this time bring­ing RPG-like rip­ples of con­se­quence to team re­la­tion­ships. If you spend all your time bleat­ing on about how rub­bish the aero pack­age is, the aero de­vel­op­ment team will re­mem­ber that—each team’s morale is now dy­namic and af­fects the speed of it­er­at­ing on the car.

It also says a lot about mod­ern F1 that de­vel­op­ing parts is such a fo­cus in this game. A dull as­pect of your driver du­ties, but one that deep­ens the RPG vibes within ca­reer mode. The de­vel­op­ment trees are be­spoke to each team now, and there’s a real buzz to be found in watch­ing your team’s line in­crease on the per­for­mance graph, reach­ing up to the fron­trun­ners with ev­ery up­grade.

And the knock-on ef­fect of that, in turn, is that F1 2018 can be played as a ‘give Fernando Alonso a cham­pi­onship-win­ning car again’ sim, to great ef­fect. Grind­ing away in free prac­tice ses­sions, earn­ing up­grade points by com­plet­ing hot laps, spend­ing them pru­dently on the right parts, and then in­con­spic­u­ously eas­ing off the throt­tle on the last lap to let Nando take P1 be­cause, lest we for­get, Fernando is faster than you.

There’s a big change to con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions, too. Any­one who’s spent the last seven games driv­ing a turgid de­but sea­son for Sauber and hold­ing out for a Red Bull con­tract the fol­low­ing year will be happy to hear mid-sea­son team changes are now pos­si­ble. You still get the pay­off of hav­ing proven your­self among the back­mark­ers and scored a de­serv­ing up­grade, but you can en­joy that rags-to-riches tra­jec­tory in an af­ter­noon now rather than a month.

Head­ing onto the track, the game’s still ex­cel­lent. Vis­ually rich with­out melt­ing your graph­ics card, won­der­ful with a pad and some as­sists, very nearly as won­der­ful with a wheel and no as­sists. The sus­pen­sion re­fresh rate’s in­creased this year, and—look, don’t laugh. You re­ally do get a sense of it when you bounce over some of the more ag­gres­sive apices at Barcelona and Monaco. AI op­po­nents are sharp but fal­li­ble, as al­ways demon­strat­ing Codies’ un­canny abil­ity to mimic be­liev­able rac­ing.

Drive clean

Over in mul­ti­player, a su­per li­cence sys­tem is the big new ad­di­tion, aimed to get you driv­ing less like Max Ver­stap­pen and more like some­one who grasps the con­cept of sports­man­ship. Con­tact and cor­ner cut­ting counts against you, clean driv­ing works in your fa­vor. It’s fancy match­mak­ing that pairs se­ri­ous rac­ers with one an­other, and lets crash­ers crash into other crash­ers.

De­spite all that’s new here, I don’t love F1 2018. There’s noth­ing wrong with the new ad­di­tions, nor has the qual­ity of the rac­ing dipped. But with the likes of Fort­nite splurg­ing brand-new con­tent on play­ers for free ev­ery few months, an­nu­al­ized mod­els like this feel un­der­whelm­ing. De­spite a fleet of mi­nor im­prove­ments, I don’t feel in­spired to sink an­other hun­dred hours into this game, be­cause for all the ha­los and jour­nal­ists, it’s broadly the same ex­pe­ri­ence again.

Press in­ter­views re­turn, hav­ing de­buted in F1 2010

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