It’s been a somewhat bumpy road in recent years for Codemasters and their Formula 1 racing series.
The series came to the current generation of consoles with a mediocre, at best, showing of F1 2015, but followed that up with an improvement with F1 2016. Now, with F1 2017, the series is going for the checkered flag with the deepest, most realistic Formula 1 racing sim ever released.
Players should have no shortage of options when it comes to getting on the track. From multiplayer to single events to championship challenges, there is something for everyone. Of course, the gem of F1 2017 is the new and (greatly) improved career mode.
As a new driver, players sign a contract with the racing team of their choice. Each team comes with its own expectations of success with the better teams demanding more from you while the newer, lesser teams have more leniency with results.
After signing your contract, your are then tasked with managing your career and vehicle in order to become a champion driver. There are decisions that need to be made that can either help or hurt your chances to win a race. Is it worth taking a penalty to improve your car after mediocre practice run? That’s a choice you get to make.
Trying to decide what to research could have smoke blowing right out of your ears.
This is where it can start to get overwhelming to players. Not only do you have to manage tires and vehicle setups like most racing sims, but there is the addition of a detailed skill and research tree with 115 available upgrades. Trying to decide what to research could have smoke blowing right out of your ears. Luckily, there is a recommended option to make it a more streamlined experience for those learning the ropes.
Once you’re in it, F1 2017’s career mode is as addicting as any racing game’s single player mode is. Even the length of each weekend of events — which can feel pretty taxing from start to finish — doesn’t take away from the fun the mode presents.
Right when you load into a race, you are greeted by a commentary team that sounds like a TV broadcast. The conversations feel fluid, and they do a great job of setting the stage for what’s to come.
Players start with an overview of the course along with a breakdown of what’s about to unfold. The environments and car visuals continue to be the strong suit of Codemasters’ games as the vehicles — both modern and classic — look and sound like near-perfect replicas of what you see in real life. The only major problems that seem to pop up visually are frame rate drops and screen tearing due to the game always trying to hit 60 FPS.
The player models do look stiff and wax-like as well, which can be a turn off, but it’s not something that really damages the experience.
The game may not have the polish or smooth feeling that other racers may have, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great game on the track. There’s a distinct difference in how the modern cars handle compared to the classic ones, and the weather actually impacts how cars control. You definitely have a tougher task when racing in the rain than you do on a nice, clear day.
Players will notice the impact a car’s setup has on the track, especially if using a wheel. The feedback you get from drifting off the track ever so slightly and how you react when you start to lose the car can go a long way toward staying on the side of the fine line that has you on the podium as opposed to seeing cars pass you one by one.
There are a variety of driver assists in case you aren’t ready to fully take control of the car; There’s enough to help newer players get comfortable on the course while also keeping the hardcore drivers entertained.
That being said, the gameplay does circle back to the aforementioned feeling of being overwhelmed. There are a number of assists and tutorials to watch — if you’re willing to watch videos — but it’s going to take quite a few practice runs and time learning the details of the tracks and cars to start finding consistent success on race day.
It may seem daunting, but the satisfaction of seeing your driver on the podium after the checkered flag is waved is well worth the time spent.
F1 2017 isn’t a game without flaws. An extremely steep learning curve and graphical hiccups during intense racing moments can push players away from what is otherwise an incredible game. Still, with a variety of gameplay options and the deepest career mode a racing sim has ever seen, there’s no doubt that F1 2017 is the best in the history of the series.