UNLESS your dad has a net worth of $3.3 billion (here’s looking at you, Lance), or you are the most naturally gifted driver of the generation, it’s unlikely you’ll be driving a modern Formula 1 car any time soon.
Codemasters has done their best to democratise the most popular motorsport in the world with its latest racing offering, F1 2018, which allows you to live out your racing fantasies in minute detail.
If you haven’t played an official Formula 1 title for several years, jumping into F1 2018 is like being punted off the Bunda Cliffs into the Great Australian Bight in the depths of winter. The learning curve can be brutal for new players, but perseverance is rewarded with a rich and engaging experience that does justice to racing’s most technical discipline.
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Those that have spent time with any Codemasters F1 games in the past will be more comfortable in the first hours of gameplay, with this year’s iteration focusing on small yet effective improvements over previous offerings – if it ain’t broke, etc.
Firstly, and most importantly, the driving experience in F1 2018 is an edgy representation of modern F1 car dynamics. It’s not as brutally unforgiving as other racing sims, but with assists turned off it still provides a challenge for the hardcore gamer, while keeping them switched on allows newbies to enjoy the experience.
You are expected to manage your tyres, fuel, and energy recovery systems behind the wheel in F1 2018, which can feel like juggling chainsaws while riding a bronco at first. Adapting to the challenge requires constant monitoring of on-screen information.
When it’s all going right, driving in F1 2018 is a thrilling experience. Driving a virtual 2018-spec F1 car requires a mental recalibration if you are stepping out of most other racing games. The braking zones arrive later than expected and cornering gives an impressive sense of speed. When the heavens open up and the track dampens, prepare to grip your controller with white knuckles as the difficult ramps up another notch. Droplets of rain streak across the screen for a truly immersive wet-weather driving experience.
However, it can be easy to become flustered by the multitude of sub-menus when driving. For the most part the artificial opponents in F1 2018 are intelligent, and you can engage in multi-corner or –lap battles when the difficulty is set appropriately for your skill level. However, the computer hasn’t completely mastered the art of leaving racing room, getting a somewhat ‘Verstappeny’, particularly on corner entry when you have dived to the inside on the brakes.
Codemasters’ developers must be applauded for the attention to detail given to each of this season’s grand prix circuits, which are lit beautifully.
The inclusion of 20 retro cars representing grand prix racing from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s is a welcome nostalgia hit, and the putting them all together on track in a multi-class race around Monaco at night can be a delightful – and occasionally hilarious - moment of fantasy escapism away from the harsh reality of career mode.
Career mode can extend to 10 seasons, with Codemasters introducing end of year regulation changes for an added injection of reality. The R&D tree in career mode is extensive, and is filled in much like a traditional RPG game, using development points acquired during practice sessions. Add on top of that contracts that need to be negotiated, pit strategies to devise, media interviews to be handled, and team morale boosted, and the depth of F1 2018’s simulation off track begins to reveal itself. Unfortunately there’s no option to blow off media commitments and disappear to the back of the pits for a Magnum.
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Codemasters has elevated F1 2018 beyond simply being a racing game, and produced one of the most immersive and realistic motorsport simulators games available, where you play the part of driver, manager, engineer, and tech chief all in one. If you want to live out your racing driver fantasies, this is one of the very best of the current crop.
Systems: Xbox One, PS4
On Sale: Now