Much like EA Sports with their FIFA and Madden franchises, there’s not always a whole lot Codemasters can do to change up their annual Formula One video games. Sure, a new rule might be introduced here and there as well as the occasional new driver, but there’s not often a drastic change that would completely evolve how the video game iteration of the motorsport plays.
Somehow though, Codemasters always manage to do SOMETHING different. This year, the big changes come with the new media interviews in Career mode, some slicker and shinier visuals, and improved multiplayer ranking features. Admittedly, they’re not the biggest additions we’ve seen over the last few years, but they do enough to ensure that F1 2018 is the best edition of the game that’s released so far.
Whilst it’s something that the series has offered fans for years, I find it necessary to mention just how accessible F1 2018 is to racing fans of all different skill levels. Newcomers to the series will find plenty of different assists that they can activate that’ll support them for all of the game’s different aspects, whilst veterans can turn them all off and have that authentic Formula One experience where they’re in complete control of every bit of the car. It’s often intimidating considering all of the different factors that come into racing, so having the peace of mind of being able to take an easier drive and not worry about it so much will definitely be something that’ll appeal to newcomers.
It’ll let amateurs pull off slick lap times and even get a few victories – it might not be an arcade-style racer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of speedy fun with it. Still, you’re always going to have wear and tear so if you destroy a tyre or the front wing of your car, there’s no assist to help you out there. Those who want to learn to get better at the game will be glad to see that F1 2018 teaches you the ins-and-outs of racing both inside and outside of the car too, so you won’t have to enable all those assists forever.
The Career mode offers the meat and bones of F1 2018’s experience, with it allowing players to start from the bottom and work their way up to becoming a legend of the sport. Of course, this means dealing with the trials and tribulations of race weekend throughout every event in a season, meaning you’ll be practicing, qualifying, racing, and ensuring your car is constantly improving whilst maintaining its durability.
You still get to keep track of the R&D side of your car, so you can take a real hands-on approach with all of the changes that are made. Alternatively, you can just listen to what your team say and follow what they recommend, but at least the choice is there. You’ll earn points to improve your car by performing well and spending time driving, so you’ll always want to take advantage of any opportunity you have to hit the circuit.
One big change made to the career mode this time comes in the form of the interviews with the media. Formula One is known for being a sport full of fiery personalities, with racers like Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Max Verstappen known for not holding back when it comes to speaking to the media – well, now you can do the same and the things you say will affect how everyone views you. Annoy your team for example and you’ll see your reputation dropping, whilst bragging about your car and the job your mechanics have done will see stronger support coming your way. It’s a neat system that adds to the experience and I never got bored of talking, even after managing to annoy my team for three races in a row. You’re working your way to becoming a Formula One superstar and it’s not just your racing that’ll do the talking for you, so you can expect to upset a few people on the way…
Everything comes together nicely to make the Career mode feel more authentic than ever, and there’s a genuinely rewarding feeling to seeing yourself improve as you pull off podium finishes and eventual race victories. You know what’s even better? When you beat your team mate and rival in the process. The thrills and spills of the sport are just perfectly re-created and it’s a real credit to the effort Codemasters have made in ensuring that this year’s Career mode is the best yet.
Outside of the Career mode, you can also take part in a stand-alone Grand Prix or even tackle Time Trial events on each of the courses. They’re a bit of fun for when you want something a little simpler without all of the fuss that taking on the role of a bona fide F1 driver brings. There’s the multiplayer too, which as always is bloody brilliant. This time around there are ranking systems in place that judge you based upon both your driving abilities as well as how much of an idiot you are on the track – it penalises those who drive poorly and intentionally crash into others, so you’re less likely to end up racing with spoilsports who want nothing more than to ruin a race. It ensures those online Championships you take part in are a lot fairer, go through without a hitch, and most importantly are a lot of fun.
One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the controversial Halo that’s included on this year’s cars makes an appearance and yes, it’ll obstruct your view when playing in a first-person viewpoint. Fortunately, you can turn it off, but having it there adds an annoying sense of authenticity to the experience and we all know Codemasters love authenticity. Of course, whilst modern iterations of cars are in place so are some classics, with eighteen classic cars to race with this time around spanning all the way from the 1970s to the neon green and white Brawn of 2009. We all remember that car and Jenson Button’s sensational Championship winning year, and now you can re-live it yourself.
I know it’s become a bit of a cliché and it’s something I’ve been saying about just about every new Formula One video game for the last few years, but wow, at times you’ll think that you’re watching the real thing in F1 2018. Tracks look bloody impressive and capture all of the little details of their real-life counterparts, the cars are insanely accurate, whilst weather effects and things like engine smoke or the sparks off your car when you collide are bloody insane. It’s ridiculous how stunning of a game F1 2018 really is, with it managing to capture the accuracy of the sport in a beautiful way. It really is a visual marvel and I was left thoroughly impressed throughout.
Format(s): PlayStation 4, (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC