Formula 1 is a sport that’s adored the world over by millions of fans. It’s got a rich history that spans back to where it all began in 1950. It’s therefore important that the developer who owns the license has the same undying passion for the sport. Thankfully it’s something that comes shining through at Codemasters, as F1 2017 is possibly the best F1 game that’s ever graced our industry.
Ninth time perfect
Codemasters have always gone hand-in-hand with quality racing games and when they received the license ownership in 2009, fans were overjoyed. What was to follow were some good F1 games, but those titles were never quite on par with what we would come to expect from them until last year with the release of F1 2016. This year they’ve taken all the good of their previous F1 classic and nearly perfected it. They’ve filled it with so much content that it’ll last you well past the annual lifespan that’s expected from it. Your first pitstop will be in career mode.
Fail to score points and management will come down on you like hellfire.
Career mode, as with so many other racing titles, is where the heart of the game lies. As with F1 2016 you’ll sign a contract with a team (as yourself), each with their own expectations. Sign with McLaren or Sauber and you’ll be forgiven for not ending up in the points, but move on to Mercedes or Ferrari and it’s strict. Fail to score points and management will come down on you like hellfire. As before you’ll have a very close relationship with your engineer, as any F1 driver does in the real world, but this time there is much, much more to it than ever before.
If you’re an F1 fan you would have noticed that drivers often receive penalties from the stewards due to engine malfunction or changing parts on their car. Get ready to deal with advanced engine management. As you progress through your career each and every practice, qualifying and race will have an impact on your various engine parts in your vehicle. It’s up to you to monitor the internal combustion engine, kinetic and heat motor generator unit, energy store, turbo charger and control electronics levels. It’s simplified by being colour-coded, so if you’re not too clued up you won’t have a tough time figuring it out. If it’s green everything is hunky dory, but once it turns to orange and later red it’s time to replace that part. Push it too far and you’ll quite literally see your race go up in smoke. As with the real sport you only have a limited number of parts so it’s up to you to drive smoothly and make the parts last. But that’s only the first part. You’ll also be handling what happens back at headquarters when it comes to upgrades.
It’s in your own best interest to upgrade parts on your car to improve powertrain, durability, chassis and aerodynamics. When taking part in a GP weekend you’ll be rewarded with Resource Points to spend at the R&D tree. There are numerous parts to improve and once you’ve selected a part it’ll be worked on back at headquarters with an estimated completion time. What did slap me in the face was the fact that you’re not guaranteed that the development of the part will work. I developed an improved fuel injection system that ultimately failed and saw my resource points that had I worked so hard for go begging. At the same time you’re also dealing with a rival battle, keeping a good reputation in the digital F1 world and, well, racing the wheels off your car. It’s here where F1 2017 takes pole position.
The feedback to your controller is pin-point accurate.
It’s the first time since F1 ’99 that I have felt such pure joy and precision in an F1 racing game. F1 2016 was a great example of where things were heading, but in F1 2017 it feels perfect. At no point do you feel that you don’t have control over the car, whether you’re playing with or without assists. The feedback to your controller is accurate. Hitting your brake point, that perfect apex, dealing with very competitive AI, the use of team radio, pitting, safety car, virtual safety car and adjusting settings on-the-fly is just all absolutely fantastic. You feel as if you’re virtually living the life of an F1 driver. I can literally not think of any of the mechanics in a race bringing a mere frown to my face. Do well enough in your career mode races and you’ll gain access to invitational events.
Think of these events as challenges that take place between your racing weekends. It could involve you jumping into a classic F1 vehicle and taking part in an overtaking, pursuit, time attack, checkpoint or unique race challenge. Doing so will reward you with those crucial resource points and some street credit with the rest of the F1 paddock. It’s a good breather between all the serious racing weekends, but it’s also here that you’ll likely play the classic F1 vehicles for the first time. They handle and sound very different to modern F1 cars, which is a very cool touch. Once you’re done with career mode there is much more to jump into.
I spotted some very weird graphical issues that I’m hoping will be patched soon.
Grand Prix, Time Trial and Multiplayer modes have returned, but two new additional modes will eat away at your time. Championships set you up in multiple F1 disciplines in your aim to gain star points. Gather enough points and it’ll unlock more events for you to take part in. It’s a mixture of both modern and classic F1 vehicles. If you’d like to replay some of the invitation events in career mode you’ll find it here too. Event is probably the mode with more appeal and long-term value. It’s an once-off downloadable race scenario designed to fit in with something that happened in the real F1 world in the past. It’s your chance to relive history and perhaps even change the outcome. The event, at the time of writing, had me playing as Max Verstappen in his race at Belgium in 2016. I had to pit for a front wing replacement and then fight my way back to the front of the pack in 10 laps. Once done I was ranked globally and could compare my result to that of my friends. I think it’s going to become a fun mode to return to.
A wheely good test drive
The T150 Thrustmaster wheel synced with the game right away as I plugged it in. Buttons could be configured, though I found the default layout to work just perfectly and off I was to my first race. The difference between using a control and the T150 is immense. The precision to my brake points as well as entry and exit to corners improved drastically using the wheel setup. Thanks to the steering wheel paddles I found gearing up and down more natural too. I walked away with both delight and disappointment when it comes to the force feedback for F1 2017. The resistance is unfortunately not high enough and feels far too easy turn the wheel, at the same time the feedback you get from the road you’re driving on is something the controller just could not match. Driving on older tracks, such as Monaco or Hungary, had the wheel shaking like mad in specific sections, though driving on modern tracks, with smooth tarmac, was a smooth ride by comparison. Unfortunately you can’t increase the force feedback resistance in the settings, which is perhaps something to consider in the next outing.
F1 2017 looks great in 4K using HDR, but I spotted some very weird graphical issues that I’m hoping will be patched soon. The cars and the track itself looks drop-dead gorgeous, though the trees and drivers often have issues loading the textures in time. I’ve taken a comparison shot below of Nico Hulkenberg on the podium with blurred textures one second, which then switches to what it should be. Below that you’ll also see a tree in the distance that looks straight out of a PS1 game. I understand it comes down to keeping a solid 60FPS, but when you’re playing it on your 4K telly it stands out like a sore thumb. Thankfully it really does not affect the race itself, so I see this as a very minor issue that can be fixed. So where to next for Codemasters and their F1 endeavours?
As the below score will tell you it’s not the perfect game. Other than the above graphical glitch, there’s always room for improvement. Perhaps they can look at including the option at listening to commentary (as we witnessed with Murray Walker’s voice in F1 ‘95/’97), introduce older circuits such as Kyalami for us to race on using those older F1 cars, include split-screen multiplayer for those who would like some multiplayer action in the lounge with friends and PSVR support would be welcome. I really can’t think of much else.
Codemasters have returned F1 video games back to the glory days. In years from now we’ll say, “Does this game play as well as F1 2017 did?”. It’s a benchmark that only they can set higher and if you’re an F1 fan you’d be a fool to ignore this game.