F1 2018 Review

By Andrew Ogley, 3 months ago
There are some that say that Formula 1 is just a procession, boring and predictable. Even a retiring four-time champion is saying something similar. Some think that Formula 1 is only about what happens over 70 laps on a Sunday, but diehard fans know that race day is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more going on around the world's most expensive sport. In this year's release from Codemasters, the team has done its best to capture the whole Formula 1 circus with contract negotiations, rule changes, rivalries and media interviews. All the while, the team has built on the already impressive title from last year, and in doing so, surpassed it. In short, F1 2018 might just be the most complete Formula 1 title to date.

23/08/2018 - Carousel

First off, last year's entry was a genuinely great iteration and perhaps Codemasters could have been forgiven for struggling to match it. On the surface, and scrolling through the menus, you'd too would be forgiven for thinking that, apart from the controversial new logo, not a lot has changed. All of the same game modes appear on the top level menu. In fact, it's generally a recurring theme throughout the title. Codemasters has taken last year's title, kept everything, polished it, tweaked it, and generally improved it throughout. It's just not that obvious until you start getting into the racing and dive into the career mode just how much has improved.

Graphically, it still looks stunning. Cars have been updated to match the liveries and specs for this year's competition. There are two new tracks, Hockenheim and Circuit Paul Ricard, but that's to be expected. It's the small details that just add a little bit more; the sparks from the undertray, hand animations working the DRS in response to the player's button press. Dirt appears on your visor if you spin in the grass or go off the circuit. I even saw one of the dials resetting itself as the car was pushed back into the pit garage. They're all small things but they add up.

Race in any of the game modes and you'll notice a difference in the behaviour of the AI. Even in the easiest modes, the AI seem bolder than previous games. Whilst they are not aggressive, they will certainly not be bullied or intimidated and will hold their racing lines against you. This leads to the best wheel-to-wheel racing seen in the series so far. Crank up the AI strength and you'll find yourself in some intense battles. At times you may even forget that you're racing computer-controlled opponents.

Hardcore players will have the opportunity to make life even more difficult for themselves by taking control of the Energy Recovery System (ERS) for the first time, manually switching between harvest and deploy modes. Get it wrong and your car will slow, leaving you open to being unexpectedly overtaken as Nico Rosberg found out to his cost in Barcelona in 2016. It's another little thing to juggle whilst you're hurtling around the tracks and brings an extra level of immersion for those who want it, whilst those wanting to keep it simple can keep it automatic.

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Of course, the most obvious change to the 2018 cars was the inclusion of the protective halo. Fans who have wondered what it is like to race with an obstructed view can now find out by switching to the cockpit camera. Surprisingly, just like in real life, you do become accustomed to it, even though it does block part of the track ahead. This adds a little more tension to the racing as there are moments when you expect to see a pair of rear wheels suddenly appear from nowhere in front of you, especially in tight corners and chicanes. Fortunately, Codemasters has made a concession to the gaming community and the central spar can be switched off, so players have a less restricted view.

This is one of a multitude of settings that allow players to tailor the game to their own preferences and skills, from racing assists, to racing lines, AI, traction control, weather, HUD elements and more. This means that the game, despite its seriousness, remains as truly accessible to all players, even with the new handling and physics models.

Racing throughout the title remains exceptional, but it is the developments in the career mode that will have Formula 1 fans more immersed than previously. On the surface, the career seems similar to last year, but again it is a number of small changes that increase the level of involvement and immersion, leading to a much more satisfying experience for the true race fans.

As the season progresses you'll be able to develop rivalries not only with your teammate but also another driver. You'll be invited to contract negotiations as your reputation increases with the teams. Whilst most of the reputation is earned on track, dealing with the new media interviews also plays a role.

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After the practice, qualifying and race, a friendly media reporter will be on hand to throw some rather difficult questions at you, all of which are contextually related to recent performances. With limited time to select an answer, it can be difficult to choose the best response. Provide a good answer and you'll improve your reputation either with your team, your research and development teams, or opponent teams. Get it wrong, however, and you'll find yourself losing hard-earned reputation instead, hurting possible career opportunities and contract negotiations in the future. Worse still, upset one of your R&D teams and you'll find that new components cost more to build and have a higher chance of failure. It clearly pays to keep the morale of your team high.

The new management features don't end there. It's no longer enough to simply research and develop new components. Now, you have to be ready to protect them from regulation changes. Failure to do so may cost you whole areas of development when a new season begins, but securing them will cost you hard-earned research points that could have been spent elsewhere, so it's a risk that players have to juggle with.

For all of those fans who follow these events day to day and count down to each race weekend, it brings the whole media circus to life; only the multimillionaire salaries and sponsorships are missing. It brings something new to the title, something that you won't find anywhere else. It may not go as far as Motorsport Manager but it is definitely something for those fans looking for something deeper than just racing. Simply put, it's the most complete Formula 1 experience there is on the consoles. Naturally, this added level of detail may not be for everyone especially those who just want to race. For those, there are single shot Grand Prix events and Championships, along with the online modes.

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With the increased interest in e-sports and the increased exposure through events such as McLaren's "Worlds Fastest Gamer," the multiplayer part of the game now features ranked and unranked online races, with the ranked races using a safety rating to match you against other drivers with a similar rating, rewarding those who wish to keep their racing clean and not turn every corner into carnage. Initially, during the review period, it was difficult to connect to a ranked match, but it was easy enough to find plenty of unranked races and whilst the racing was occasionally chaotic, it was as immensely good fun as always. The matches were generally lag-free although in one session there did seem to be stuttering in the framerate as people joined and left the lobby.

For the achievement hunters, the game features a total of 49 achievements, of which six are related to multiplayer. Most are related to progression in career mode, although there are a few that are for special accomplishments within the game. It's all very doable, but it will take a varying amount of time and effort depending on the player's skill.

Check out our Best Racing Games article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

F1 2018 is the best game in the series we've seen in this console generation. It is just about as complete an F1 experience as it can get without going into the realm of full-blown simulation both from the action and management side. The extra depth added by contracts, rivalries, media and team management may not be for those who just want to race, but diehard fans of the sport who follow the headlines day in and day out will have a sense that they are really being involved in a virtual version of the sport. Racing remains the core of the game and Codemasters has continued to make this accessible to all players regardless of their racing proficiency. Like all of the other parts of the title, it has been tweaked, improved and is more engaging than ever. This year's entry may not have quite the same wow factor as 2017's game, but it doesn't need to. It quietly and in an understated way surpasses its predecessor quite brilliantly.
4.5 / 5
F1 2018
Positives
  • More intense racing than ever before
  • Greater sense of involvement in the circus surrounding the sport
  • Configurable for any player level and style
  • Small details that refine the overall experience
Negatives
  • Media interviews feel like a minefield sometimes
  • Added levels of management may not be for all
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent around 14 hours hurtling around world-famous circuits attempting a build a new career for himself. 19 achievements were unlocked during the review. The game was reviewed on the standard Xbox One and the download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Andrew Ogley
Written by Andrew Ogley
Andrew has been writing for TA since 2011 covering news, reviews and the occasional editorials and features. One of the grumpy old men of the team, his mid-life crisis has currently manifested itself in the form of an addiction to sim-racing - not being able to afford the real life car of his dreams. When not spending hours burning simulated rubber, he still likes to run around, shoot stuff and blow things up - in the virtual world only of course.