Around this time of year there’s barely a weekend that goes by in my house where some type of motorsport isn’t on TV – though this is down to my wife being the confirmed petrol-head in the relationship – so when presented with the chance to review the latest iteration in Codemasters’ F1 franchise, at least I knew I could utilise my wife’s knowledge write about the game with a certain degree of authority. Like its predecessors, this year’s edition is fully licensed by the FIA and includes all current teams, drivers, sponsors and tracks.
From F1 2018’s start screen you’re immediately met with a character customisation screen, offering you the chance to choose your avatar’s look, helmet, nationality, driver number and their name. The range of avatars on offer is broad, offering male and female characters and a number of different skin tones; similarly, there are a lot of different helmets that can be further customised using colour sliders. Every major country is selectable, including the option to differentiate between British and English. The name options are interesting as you can use any name you’d like (I chose my own), though one of the sub-menus didn’t offer my last name an audio choice; though if this happens to you fear not, you can choose a pseudonym such as “Old Timer”, “Rookie” or the far more impressive and intimidating “Rainmaster”.
Character created, you’re dropped into F1 2018’s main menu which offers plenty of different race options: Career mode – playing through an entire Formula One season from the Australian to Abu Dhabi races, Grand Prix – an individual race, Time Trial – compete against the clock over multiple laps and Multiplayer – a single race against multiple online opponents.
Having selected my driver, I thought it best to indulge in a few single races before trying my hand at F1 2018’s career mode. Once the race had loaded, I was immediately struck by how impressive the graphics were as I looked at the world from the car’s cockpit. The car’s body shone in the early morning sun and I could see the heat shimmering off of the tarmac. Your team are in constant contact throughout the race, providing essential information with their communications crackling through the mic of the DualShock controller, which I thought was pretty neat.
I soon realised that F1 2018 is a racing simulator. I’ve become so accustomed to arcade style driving that it’s become second nature to tap the brake coming into a corner before hitting the gas and drifting around the corner like Dominic Toretto; it turns out that if you try this in multi-million pounds worth of Formula One car all you’ll do is fishtail wildly before crashing into a wall, lose your race position and cause a substantial amount of damage. Luckily, Codemasters have included a racing line marker, which encourages you to slow down to a crawl in order to navigate the corner before putting the pedal to the metal again. If you do crash, there’s a flashback option which rewinds thirty seconds or so prior to impact, allowing you time to put right what once went wrong.
After a few races, I felt confident enough to begin the career mode. The game asks you to select which of the ten teams you want to race for, then introduces to the press and to the team’s manager at the Data Centre (though having selected a few different teams the manager seems to be a generic NPC rather than being team specific). At the data centre, you’re able to pore over reams of information on everything from cars and drivers to race strategies and weather conditions, which will no doubt have any hardcore F1 or racing sim fan salivating over.
As one would expect career mode follows the same pattern as real life, with three practices and a qualifying session before each Grand Prix; starting in Melbourne and ending in Yas Marina. If you’re too lazy to complete every session of every race, it’s possible to skip the remaining sessions to get straight into the main event after completing P1. Scattered between the races are invitational events, which more often than not take the form of time trials. Your standings in these events, as well as the main races, yield XP which can be used by your team for research and to upgrade your car.
Following the race, be it good or bad, the press will always want to grab a quick word or two with you, will multiple responses available to their questions. You’re warned from the outset by the F1 press relations manager to be mindful of what you say, as your team pick up on anything negative you say about the car or race; you can also choose to respond in a sportsmanlike way or with a little more showmanship when asked about your ability or those of your rivals, which will boost the press and public’s perception of you one way or the other.
Personally, I found F1 2018 to be as close to the real thing as one can get without putting in years of hard work rising through the ranks of motorsports. The in-race graphics are breath-taking, with each track and car recreated in minute detail. The weather effects are equally as impressive, be it glaring sun or driving rain, the latter of which obscures your view and gives a new appreciation for just how talented F1 drivers are to handle such powerful cars in poor driving conditions. The digital representations of drivers are average (though still instantly recognisable), though nothing to write home about; the same can be said of the career mode NPCs. This is a minor grumble, as the cars and tracks are the stars of the show.
If you’re a fan of the sport or racing sims in general, F1 2018 is worthy of your time and attention. If like me and casually glance at motorsports the game is best left alone, as the sheer amount of stats to analyse and options to tweak is mind-boggling; don’t get me wrong, F1 2018 is a fantastic game just not one that will appeal to anyone other than hardcore petrol heads.