Sports games are always hard to improve year-on-year, mainly due to the inherent nature of sport itself. The fundamental rules of the games, races and events that make up the world’s most popular sports are set in stone and have been for decades.
So for developers, the question they must answer is how can they make something that never changes better?
F1 also falls into this category. While the cars, drivers and tracks have changed, the ultimate goal of being the first to cross the finish line hasn’t. After almost perfecting their F1 game last year Codemasters have again delivered a great simulation that takes what makes F1 a fantastic spectacle into a video game, whilst also trying to add something that fans of the sport appreciate.
The biggest addition this time around is the classic cars from F1’s past that are now available for your perusal or play, depending on if you enjoy looking at or driving cars – and some of these old cars are fantastically recreated. They’re created with the kind of care and attention that any fan of the sport can appreciate and while they don’t get the level of detail and play options that the modern cars receive, you can still race them on all of the tracks.
The classic cars don’t have their own unique career mode to the level of the main offering, but are incorporated into the existing one, where you’ll be occasionally asked to complete an invitational challenge in a classic car which provides a nice distraction from the grind of a title fight.
What there is though, is multiple different Championship Mode offerings that include classic cars. These race playlists include racing on classic circuits (shorter versions of existing ones already in the game), an old-style points system (10 points for a win) and the aforementioned collection of classic cars. It’s a stripped back no-frills version of standard career and each Championship comes with its own set of conditions.
Some will only feature sprint races, others will be on tracks where the only weather condition is rain and some will focus entirely on street race tracks. You could, in theory, have created these playlists yourself but it’s nice to see a little bit of presentation and effort on the part of the developers. It’s also the closest we’ll ever get to a full classic career mode, but for now, it’s an admirable and welcome addition to the F1 series.
The main Career mode is streamlined in its presentation compared to F1 2016 but also offers a more extensive R&D upgrade system, allowing you to pinpoint specific points of your chassis, durability, powertrain and aerodynamics. An improvement over last year’s basic options.
You’ll also need to watch out for wearability on certain parts of the car and swap in new parts when it starts to affect your performance on the track. In the early races when you’re struggling for pace it can be a pain but adds a level of realism that will be welcomed by hardcore fans of the sport.
If you put the effort into earning and assigning resource points then you’ll be rewarded with a better car and a quicker pace. Hard work on the track will pay off in the long run.
As expected, race weekends offer the usual three practice sessions, qualifying and race.
You can set the amount of time you want to spend on each rather than completing three full practice sessions, a full qualifying program and then a 100% race, but, should you really want to take your virtual F1 career all the way, the game lets you dedicate half your week to completing one Grand Prix weekend should you wish to.
You can complete numerous different trials in practice runs in order to gain points to spend on R&D, as well as improving your own knowledge of the track. This is a must if you want to compete for the title.
On the whole, the gameplay of F1 2017 is largely the same as 2016 with one noticeable difference, the AI. Within moments of playing it was noticeable how aggressive the AI is in corners and straights, trying everything in their power to overtake while also not losing control so easily when touching another car.
Last year’s version saw aggressive players easily drive past AI cars, even on the harder difficulties, but this has been fixed in F1 2017 and it makes for a more challenging and enjoyable game to play.
Winning is always great, but when you’re going past cars in this year’s version, every pass feels like it’s been earned rather than given to you. The developers fixed a number of issues with patches on F1 2016 but never got round to the AI issue which is now a mute point for this year’s version.
F1 2017 also sees a jump in graphical fidelity. The sun pierces through the sky at certain tracks, rain hammers down in a much more cohesive fashion and tracks look worn in and clearly show the racing line without the need for driver assists to highlight them. W
hile it’s not a generational leap in looks, it’s a noticeable and welcome improvement, making an already great series look even better.
While playing through Career Mode we did encounter a number of issues with cutscenes, with audio cutting out and low sound levels in general, making cutscenes difficult to hear. We did also notice some framerate issues, but not enough to cause a great deal of concern.
These issues should, in theory, be an easy enough fix with a patch and there’s a good chance these small issues, which won’t affect your enjoyment too much, will be ironed out before the game releases next week.
We’ve dabbled in F1 2017’s online mode but not as extensively as we would’ve liked.
On the surface, it’s almost identical to last year’s version with public matchmaking and online championships at the forefront of its online offerings. Should there be any major issues post-launch, we’ll be sure to update this review.
One part of F1 2017 we’ve not been able to test yet is the Events mode, which sees different racing scenarios presented to the player. We imagine these will be based on real-life situations, challenging the player to triumph in the same way a real world driver has previously.
The availability and regularity of these events will go a long way to determining whether or not the mode is a worthwhile addition. On paper though, it sounds like a great idea if implemented correctly.