One of the main reasons that people enjoy video games is the escapism that they allow. For some people, that’s being able to take on the role of a super soldier, intergalactic mercenary, or Greek God. For others, it’s being able to manage their favourite football team, discover new worlds, or rule the Japanese underworld. While most racing games provide some level of escapism, after all, you’re unlikely to ever actually drive a million-dollar hypercar, the F1 series from Codemasters allow you to do something that only 20 drivers in the world get to do each year. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. It features the most technically refined cars, the best aerodynamicists & engineers, and of course the best drivers. So, does F1 2018 take pole position or does it find itself at the back of the grid with a penalty?
As you will no doubt have ascertained from the title, the main crux of the game is the 2018 Formula 1 season. All 10 teams, 20 drivers, and 21 race tracks are present here with realistic digital recreations of each. All of the race weekends feature 3 free practice sessions, a qualifying session, and the race itself. You can choose to do as much or as little as you like. If you want the full experience you can do all the practice sessions, a full qualifying session, and even participate in a 70-lap race. If you’d prefer you can just skip to the race and do 15 or so laps. Most people will do the standard setup, choosing which practice sessions they want to do and then taking part in a one-shot qualifying session (just one lap) before competing in around 15 laps of racing. All of this is done with the exact branding, visuals, and even commentary of an official F1 broadcast.
The variety offered to you does not just stop with how much of a race weekend you wish to participate in but also the difficulty of the racing. As well as choosing how hard your opposition is (on a 100-point scale), there are various options for braking, traction control, transmission, driving line, and flashbacks. Turn all of these options off and even the most accomplished racer will have to be on their game to just keep the car on track. Take advantage of these assists and you can feel like a racing god. F1 2018 really caters to all level of racers.
Of course, all of this precision in duplicating the world of F1 would be pointless if the game didn’t run smoothly or wasn’t fun. Thankfully, F1 2018 delivers in spades. Running on my PS4 Pro the game displayed at 4K and at a rock solid 60 frames per second. The high framerate is particularly appreciated as you are driving the fastest cars around. The feeling you get as you throw your car around corners at unnaturally high speeds is incredible. Doing this with another car within touching distance of yours just adds to the sense of accomplishment. And if you manage all this in the rain then you’re pretty much a hero as your view really becomes quite limited.
So far, this will all seem pretty familiar for anyone who played last year’s entry. Fortunately, the team at Codemasters have added more than just the number 18 to the title. As well as the new additions to the actual F1 series, like the controversial halo system (a head protection system that adds an extra bar around the cockpit of the cars) and a couple of different circuits (Malaysia is gone but you once again visit Germany and France), the game adds ERS (Energy Recovery System) options, new classic cars (up to 21 from last year’s 12), and a deeper career mode that requires you to undertake press interviews and negotiate contracts.
As noble an effort as these new additions are, they don’t really work for me. The interviews are very repetitive and give you such limited options where you can either praise a specific department in your team, promote yourself, or either commend or condemn your team. While I wouldn’t expect a detailed conversation system akin to the Mass Effect series, it’s nothing more than fluff and ends up being a little irritating. The contract negotiations are a simple matter of trial and error. You get three attempts to deal with your current team or you can approach another team. You are clearly shown your value to the team on a meter and then shown the value of the contract you’re asking for. This means that it is very easy to fine tune what you are asking for and getting the most that you possibly can. The ERS implementation is also extremely basic. You don’t have a boost button like some of the actual F1 cars do, instead, you can choose low, medium, or high activation through your multi-function display. To be honest, the only time I ever switched it from medium was when I was running the ERS practice programs (done during free practice to earn more R&D resources).
As a huge F1 fan, I have to say I really like F1 2018. The racing is brilliant and the recreation of the sport is uncanny. Nearly everything has a layer of authenticity and realism that show that it is a game made with love for its subject. The new career additions may not pack the punch that the developers were aiming for but nearly everything else in the game is top notch. As well as the 15-20 hour career season (which you can then carry on into 2019 including the regulation changes) there are numerous championship variants, classic F1 events, time trials, and multiplayer to keep you busy for weeks and months to come. If you already own last year’s entry, then you might want to think twice before upgrading to F1 2018. If you’re new to the series though, have been away for a while, or are a hardcore Formula 1 fan, then this is a game you really should have in your collection.