At last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, with flames licking out of the complex exhaust system, ground to a halt while he was comfortably leading the race. Ultimately, it was a retirement that cost him the 2016 title and highlighted the fragility of F1 engines. It was a similar story for me during only the fourth race of my career with Toro Rosso. While scrapping with Nico Hulkenberg for sixth, and what would have been my highest finish of the season so far, my engineer Jeff came onto the radio to tell me we had serious gearbox issues. I soon lost fourth gear and the demise of fifth quickly followed, before my car stuttered to a standstill. My car’s reliability seriously needed developing. The performance upgrades would have to take a back seat for the time being.
It’s this complex series of ‘what ifs’ that have drastically improved the career mode in F1 2017 taking it strides ahead of its predecessor. Where previous iterations were simple copy and paste yourself into a team of your choice and race across the season, F1 2017 introduces full RPG mechanics in order to help develop and improve your car. Take the above scenario for instance, if perhaps I’d invested my upgrade points on reliability earlier in the season instead of jumping ahead of the curve and doubling up on power, I’d have been the hero of the team.
It has also finally given more purpose to practice sessions at the start of your Grand Prix weekend. Aside from getting familiar with the track, you are now given a selection of programs to complete, ranging from qualifying pace tests, race simulations and tyre and fuel useage management runs. In completing these you receive resource points to spend throughout the massively detailed upgrade tree, offering over 100 different parts of your car to improve on. Sometimes the stats will come back better than you thought, and other times you’ll have been better off painting go faster stripes on your car. It’s that in depth touch and unpredictability that allows you to get the full experience and build a car to suit your own driving style.
With the 2017 Formula One season undergoing dramatic changes this season, it is perhaps fitting that Codemasters too, have brought so many changes to style and presentation to the F1 series. This season’s cars are wider and boast more aerodynamics, producing higher cornering speed and better downforce and this is all carried into Codemaster’s recreation. The cars look and act as they should, sticking to the asphalt through high speed corners like Maggots, Becketts and Eau Rouge, while circuits like Monaco and Singapore offer little to no overtaking opportunities due to their narrow nature and the vehicle’s added width.
Even using a DualShock 4, you can feel the car twitching and skidding under you as you wrestle with it through corners. An experience that would be exemplified even more so with a full force feedback racing rig. Running onto the marbles is enough to propel you into the gravel and hitting the accelerator a fraction too soon lights up the rear tyres and sends you pirouetting off of the racing line. It’s these margins that you live or die by throughout your F1 2017 experience. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the circuits are yours to rule on, sticking to the tradition of 2017, the AI has received a massive overall and act as genuine competition. No longer do other drivers just follow the racing line like mindless drones, leaving gaps for you to capitalize upon. Every move has to be carefully orchestrated, ensure you’ve got enough pace before initiating the cut back or confirm that the gap your rival has left is big enough for you to sneak through. The AI is incredibly attacking oriented too and won’t roll over once you’ve passed them. Any mistake or inch of available asphalt will be preyed upon. It’s dramatically improved the on track action and means races are far more exciting than ever before.
While the on track action is second to none, recreating 2017’s cars, liveries and calendar of diverse circuits excellently, the off track parts leave a lot to be desired. Drivers and team bosses resemble semi-melted wax work models, complete with blurry sponsored attire and clunky and repetitive animations. It’s a shame too, as the build up to races uses the official FIA race-day graphics complete with track diagrams and commentary from Sky’s David Croft and Anthony Davidson. Though you could argue the on track features are the real pull, F1 is still about the podium celebrations, pit strategies and behind the scenes looks into the garages. It’s a huge shift when you’ve become accustomed to the blue skies and weathered asphalt of legendary circuits to be dragged into PS2 era animations.
New for 2017 is the introduction of classic cars which are drivable in a host of modes including time trials or one off events littered throughout your career mode. While there is more a inclination towards cars of the last 15 years, it’s a great chance to get behind the wheel of some of the sport’s most iconic vehicles from the 80s, 90s and 2000s, all of which sound and handle completely different. Jumping from a 2017 Toro Rosso into a 1998 McLaren MP4-13, or Ferrari F2004 take laps of getting used to, but once you’ve done so, the sweet scream of a V10, or growl of a turbo are a step in time and scratch a nostalgia itch that didn’t even know I had.
And that is what kept me coming from putting F1 2017 down after a few races. It’s more than another year’s entry: everything new has substance, everything carried over has been built upon for the better and everything you’d want from F1 game is included. Yes, there’s a few stains on the pristine canvas, but F1 2017 manages to make you feel like a rockstar in the car, aerodynamic boffin when you’re setting up and a legend of yesteryear when handling the classics. The in depth career mode and variety of track layouts make this one a worthy entry into the F1 season and the best simulator of the year so far.
F1 2017 (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Bigger and better is every way, F1 2017 gives the franchise the shake-up fans have wanted for several years.