In Depth

F1 2018 game reviews: has Codemasters made the best Formula 1 game to date?

Revamped car handling and player interviews make this year’s instalment the most immersive yet

The next entry into Codermasters’s Formula 1 franchise is now available, bringing with it all the latest tracks and cars from this year’s F1 season. 

F1 2018 features an even deeper career mode, where players can take part in interviews to help them move to better teams throughout each season. The controversial halo also debuts in this year’s game, as does the new Le Castellet circuit for the French Grand Prix.  

The new title is available on Microsoft and Sony’s consoles. PC players can also get hold of the game, but a Nintendo Switch version has not been announced.

Here’s what you need to know about F1 2018:

The Week reviews F1 2018 

F1 2018 won’t be officially released for another week but The Week has been given a pre-release copy of the game. This means we can offer players a sneak preview of how it compares to last year’s instalment. 

Little has changed between last year’s real-world F1 season and this year’s championship. Minor rule tweaks, such as the addition of the halo safety device around the cockpit and the removal of last year’s large engine covers, are the only noteworthy differences in the 2018 championship.

Stability in the sport’s rules can sometimes present a bit of a challenge for game developers. If there are few changes to the real-world series, the developers have to find new ways to innovate while accurately representing the sport in the virtual world.

Thankfully, F1 2018 developer Codemasters has risen to the challenge by introducing a host of exciting new features that helps this year’s game stand out against F1 2017

One of the major changes in this year’s F1 title is a tweaked handling model. It’s very similar to last year’s game as the real-life cars have barely changed. But the suspension of each car and the way tyres react to driver inputs are more accurately modelled. 

This is particularly noticeable when flying around the tight and twisty corners of the Hungarian Grand Prix circuit. Cars will now vibrate and wobble when running over the kerb on the exit of a corner. This is a significant improvement on the relatively stiff vehicles in F1 2017. 

Another impressive aspect of F1 2018 is the rate with which you acquire resource points that can be used to upgrade your car. 

In F1 2017, players had to complete multiple seasons to see any noticeable improvements to their car. That’s changed in this year’s game as major upgrades can be fitted to the car in the space of a few races.  

We were also glad to see post-session interviews return after the feature was axed in F1 2011. Players can now be randomly approached by a journalist called Claire, who will ask questions about how your race went and what you think of your team.  

The questions she asks will have an impact on how teams perceive you. Choosing certain answers could attract the attention of leading outfits such as Mercedes-AMG and Ferrari. 

But while the new features are a welcome addition to the series, there are still a few areas in F1 2018 that fall short of making it a perfect game.  

The difficulty of other racers in the single-player career mode varies between sessions, for example. We noticed that we were sometimes two seconds off the pace during practice and qualifying, only to be significantly faster in the race itself. 

This makes race weekends feel unbalanced. Lower the difficulty to a point where you’re competitive in practice and you’ll breeze past the opposition during the race. While increasing the difficulty makes qualifying nearly impossible, races then become far more rewarding. 

A similar problem occurred in last year’s title, which Codemasters fixed through a software update shortly after the game launched. We’re hoping the same happens with F1 2018.

Opponents in single-player races are also far more aggressive in this year’s game. Players can dice with Lewis Hamilton and fend off Sebastian Vettel for victory, and this can make them feel as if they’re in the seat of a real-life F1 car.

In its current state, opponents can be a little too optimistic with their overtaking manoeuvres, though. We sometimes found other drivers would crash into the side of our car because they simply braked too late into a corner. 

But these are just a handful of difficulties with opponents that will no doubt be ironed out by Codemasters after the game launches. And these bugs don’t really have a negative impact on gameplay, they’re just a bit frustrating. 

Ultimately, F1 2018 is the most polished and feature-packed racing game to emerge from Codemasters’s Formula 1 franchise. 

 Given that the Birmingham-based studio has been producing superlative F1 games since 2010, this year’s instalment is without doubt the best F1 title there has ever been.

What do the experts say? 

No major new features have been added to F1 2018 since last year’s instalment, but The Guardian says that Codemasters has been making these games for nine years and now has it “down to a fine art.”

An upgrade to the game’s graphics is among the notable changes to F1 2018, but it’s the revamped handling model that will really impress fans, the newspaper says. The game’s cars feel more accurate than ever before and are arguably “more convincing than in any other console racing simulator.”

Meanwhile, Gamespot praises the tweaked single-player career mode, which has a number of new features designed to keep players engaged over multiple seasons. One of the main additions is Claire, a journalist who occasionally asks players questions after a race.

Players need to choose their answers wisely as the way they respond can have a big impact on their career, the games site says. Praising your team after a difficult race, for example, will increase the reliability of car upgrades. Critical comments have the opposite effect, meaning upgraded parts could take longer to develop.

IGN concludes that the improvements to F1 2018 are “largely incremental and often very subtle” compared to last year’s game.

But overall the game boasts the finest handling model of Codemasters’s racing series so far. This, in addition to the tweaked single-player career mode, makes F1 2018 “absolutely the best dedicated F1 game to date.”

Release date and orders

Codemasters launched F1 2018 on 24 August, the weekend of the Belgian Grand Prix.

Fans eager to ensure they get their hands on F1 2018 can order the game from Amazon. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions can be had for £54.99, while the PC release is a little cheaper at £39.99.

So what’s new?

A number of new features will be offered on F1 2018, including the expanded career mode, where players can do post-race interviews in order to help them sign for new teams, according to the game’s director Lee Mather.

There’s also a new circuit in the form of Le Castellet, in southeast France, as the French Grand Prix returns after a ten-year hiatus. Germany is also back on the calendar in 2018, following a year’s absence, so the Hockenheimring circuit will also appear. 

Players will be able to access all of the cars and drivers from the 2018 season, including this year’s star driver, Charles Leclerc. 

Do the rules change between seasons?

Yes they do, but major rule changes occur randomly and happen at the end of a season in the game’s career mode. 

The game’s developer, Codemasters, introduced a research and development (R&D) system in F1 2016 designed to let players upgrade their car over multiple seasons. This was expanded in F1 2017 through team-specific bonuses and offering players new areas of the car to upgrade, says Motorsport.com

To help keep players more engaged with the career mode in F1 2018, the game allows you to save R&D points in preparation for random and major rule changes at the end of a season, the site says. The more points a player saves, the faster their car will be after the rule changes come into effect.

Lee Mather, director of F1 2018, told Autosport: “Ferrari had a dominant era, Red Bull had a dominant era, Mercedes are now having a dominant era – and those change predominantly when the rules change.

“Now there is the possibility of a rule change at the end of the season, and if the player chooses to protect some of their R&D [points] then they can start the next season with a strong car.” 

Other teams and drivers can also save up their R&D points to prepare for a rule change, says Mather. Players therefore need to start preparing well in advance if they want to be competitive after the rules are shaken up.

What about the controversial halo?

F1 moved one step closer to closed-cockpits in 2018 following the introduction of the halo, a carbon fibre-wrapped metal bar that sits around the driver’s head and a thin strut in front of the steering wheel. 

The Guardian’s Richard Williams has described the halo as “the most effective method yet” to reduce F1’s appeal, and it hasn’t been well received by other racing fans either. 

Speaking to IGN at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), Mather said Codemasters has tried to accurately recreate the 2018 season, so the halo will be present on all the cars just as it is in real life.

However, he said gamers would be able to remove the halo’s central strut to improve visibility when playing in cockpit view. 

Every classic car confirmed

After returning to the series following a three-year break last year, classic cars are back again in F1 2018

All of the historic machinery from the F1 2017 game will be available in the new instalment, along with an additional eight of the star cars from the past 40 years.

Among the cars confirmed for their F1 2018 debut are the Brawn GP 001 that Jenson Button drove in the 2009 championship and Juan Pablo Montoya’s Williams FW26 from the 2004 season. 

The remaining six iconic vehicles are plucked from the 1970s and 1980s era. The two standouts are the McLaren M23D and Ferrari 312 T2,  both of which were “immortalised” in the 2013 movie Rush, says Autosport.

Players can drive any of the eight newcomers, along with the machines from last year’s game, right from the get go in F1 2018, the magazine says.

However, the Brawn GP 001 and Williams FW26 will only be available initially to those who pre-order the game, before launching as paid downloadable content 60 days later.

The new cars are:

  • 2009 Brawn GP 001
  • 2004 Williams FW26
  • 1982 McLaren MP4/1B
  • 1979 Ferrari 312 T4
  • 1978 Lotus 79
  • 1976 McLaren M23D
  • 1976 Ferrari 312 T2
  • 1972 Lotus 72D

Last year’s cars returning in the new instalment are:

  • 2010 Red Bull RB6
  • 2008 McLarne MP4/23
  • 2007 Ferrari F2007
  • 2006 Renault R26
  • 2004 Ferrari F2004
  • 2002 Ferrari F2002
  • 1998 McLaren MP4/13
  • 1996 Williams FW16
  • 1995 Ferrari 412 T2
  • 1992 Williams FW14B
  • 1991 McLaren MP4/6
  • 1988 McLaren MP4/4

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