F1 2018 captures the essence of the sport better than any of its predecessors. If its older sibling focused on providing a realistic on-track experience, Codemasters’ latest entry gives you a taste of what it’s like to be a driver off the track as well as on it. Of course, the main focus still remains on racing. However, F1 2018 is able to demonstrate that race-day is only one aspect of the sport. You have an entire team who represent the car more so than they represent you. You have a week’s worth of trying to tweak the car and taking it back out on the practice lap. You have the qualifying round which defines your starting position. This is the perfect simulator for those who are into F1.
It’s appropriate that F1 2018 is the best in the series. Codemasters is celebrating the game’s 10th instalment in the franchise. The developers probably have more experience in this genre than any other studio (after all, I still remember the days of TOCA on PS1!). With F1 2018, the developers have gone big. Almost every single mode that you could have asked for is present. It comes prepackaged with a full career mode, time trials, online compatibility, championships and a lot more.
The main single player attraction is the career mode. The game wastes no time in letting you create your character and a team to represent. Once you’re all set, the game jumps you right onto the track after an introduction video. Of course, as per any racing career mode, your avatar starts off as a rookie with minimal experience and fame. As you beat your teammate and rivals, you gain more fame and credibility. This earns you contracts to race in higher-profile races across more prestigious tracks. Depending on the team you chose, you are also given targets. If you don’t hit those targets, your team will drop you. As you do better, your contract also improves and you gain more respect from your team.
You’re also assigned a workstation, which gives you the tools you need to help prepare for a race. Here, you can manage your schedule, decide which races to take part in, when practice and qualifiers are etc. It also acts as a hub for messages from your team, including any changes in contract. Weather plays a huge part in the gameplay, so the weather updates are also pivotal. Based on the information provided, you then have the flexibility to decide the car setup. For those who find all of that too much, you can just choose from certain presets. I for one am terrible at cornering, so I went for a car with more downforce so that I don’t end up spinning out of control. It of course, comes at the expense of top speed.
The most interesting aspect of the workstation is the R&D area. As part of the research and development, you get to decide what areas of your car can be improved. Depending on the work you want done, it can take a matter of days, or weeks. Research in F1 2018 isn’t just a gimmicky way to upgrade your car. As with any research, it can land amazing results, neutral, or sometimes even be detrimental to you. Sometimes the research may result in your car behaving worse than you wanted to. Whilst it can be fixed, it just means that you need to think carefully about what is best for the car.
As mentioned before, F1 2018 places an emphasis on happenings off the track too. This is not Codemasters’ first attempt at trying something like this, but it did go missing. F1 2018 brings this back and lets your racer communicate with the media. They aren’t just cutscenes. Those who are more familiar with the story modes in games like FIFA will be able to relate to F1 2018’s career campaign. As a racer, you are often given choices with regards to how to react in front of the media. Depending on the choices you make, you can gain a reputation of being arrogant, humble, a professional or even a show-off. The game tries to evaluate this based on how you grow your ‘Sportsmanship’ and ‘Showmanship’ values. These will play a role in what teams select you and whether people in your own team will end up respecting you. It is definitely worthwhile playing the career mode in the shoes of an arrogant racer and then in the shoes of someone who is professional at all times. Some of the interactions you’ll have are very different.
Graphically, I cannot imagine Codemasters being able to top what they have achieved with F1 2018. I think they have peaked and until we are graced with better hardware to play on, it really cannot get any better than F1 2018. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it looks as ‘beautiful’ as Forza Horizon, however that’s because F1 2018 is a simulator that focuses on racing as a professional sport, whereas Forza focuses on driving where there are great landscapes. There is no denying that F1 2018’s visuals, regardless of what view you drive in, are simply outstanding especially if you have the luxury of enjoying it on a PS4 Pro in HDR. Whilst I couldn’t feel any major noticeable changes in the driving mechanics, I am aware that the developers have introduced brand new physics engines and are better simulating tyre temperature for an even more realistic racing experience. If I played F1 2017 enough throughout the year. I’m sure hardcore fans of the franchise will appreciate all of this.
Online, you have almost everything that you could ask for. As a gamer, you cannot complain with the plethora of modes that allow you to very quickly jump into a race against a full grid of opponents. Whilst most races were lag-free, I ended up having one or two experiences where the vehicles would stutter, which threw me off as I couldn’t tell if I was ahead or behind them. My only issue with F1 2018 is that it needs a fully-fledged spectator mode. I am desperate for a racing game of this type to gather an eSports following, but in order to do that, it needs a spectator mode worthwhile for casters to engage its viewers. I am hopeful that Codemasters will use the next iteration as an opportunity to focus on providing the features that can make F1 2019 eSports-compatible. Being able to allow spectators to freely control the camera and also follow specific cars so that it looks like its TV-counterpart is exactly what the game needs. To go a step further, perhaps there can be a co-op mode where one person is the driver, and his/her partner is making all of the call outs as they have all of the information about the track and the car’s status. Again, all of this will help make F1 a more social experience, which will lead to better opportunities for eSports growth. Despite all of these suggestions, F1 2018 is by far the best racing simulator that exists on any console. F1 2018 will not disappoint anyone who is into the sport or is looking for a way into it.