Codemasters' F1 2018 takes the podium
After the surreal experience that was their OnRush game, Codemasters return to reality with this year's instalment of their Formula One franchise.
Codemasters' F1 2018 is a milestone for the British developer, being the tenth main release of their games based on the prestigious Formula One Championship. Faced with the same challenge as EA Games and their iterative sports games, Codemasters have, by and large, managed to give us something new each year.
The graphical advancements, for instance, have taken us from the acceptable, if over-saturated, visuals of 2009 to F1 2018's almost photo-real graphics with amazing atmospheric effects. We also now have fully-animated pit crews so realistic it's like watching the F1 on TV.
Codemasters have also worked hard on keeping on top of the innovations and rule changes of the motorsport, incorporating both FIA's new race regulations and car design requirements. Whilst these yearly changes have changed the game's driving experience somewhat, none have impacted the drivers view quite like the cockpit redesign for 2018.
This year we get to experience the changes to the driver's view of the track with the controversial Halo cockpit protection system. Fan will enjoy the chance to understand why, despite it's bulky look, the affect on visibility when driving your car is negligible.
The race calendar of F1 2018 has been adjusted in line with its real-world counterpart. The championship has twenty-one events this year, one more than last. Whilst we've the Malaysian Grand Prix, we've gained two more. The French GP returning after a decade break, but not to Magny-Cours. For 2018, Circuit Paul Richard, with it's incredible straights, hosts the French GP. Also returning is the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring. The Bahrain, Japan, USA and British GP at Silverstone also offer short versions of the circuit for time trial events.
Again, there's loads to do in F1 2018. The main mode is the career mode. Pick your driver, or make your own, pick your team and head out to try and win the 2018 Formula One Championship. You'll be answering media questions, doing practice laps that earn you upgrades, taking part in invitational events and, of course, the Grand Prix races, themselves.
If you just want to partake in an F1 championship, you can make you own custom event from main menu. There's also some alternative with regional events, adverse weather and classic F1 cars. For something completely difference the invitational events from the career mode can be selected individually for races with special challenges like overtaking targets and checkpoint racing. You can also just pick a circuit and do a few laps in the time trial mode.
The game modes haven't really changed that much from last year. We have some new circuits, a new driver roster, and the new technology and rules, but essentially it is the same game.
Visually, there does seem to be some improvement over last year. The weather effects are top notch. Having rain clear up and the track dry out during a race is a massive tick for authenticity.
Out of the box the game ran without fault on PC, even without a new Nvidia driver (which, I assume, is coming). The PC version of the game also has no issues running across three monitors with Nvidia's Surround. This is the ultimate F1 cockpit experience. Add a decent racing wheel into the mix and you've the next best thing to actually driving a racing car around an F1 circuit.
My Thrustmaster T300 only needed some very minor tweaking to match the car's wheel rotation and I was good to go. Responsive and with great force feedback, a racing wheel is almost essential to get the best out the game. That being said, you can play with a gamepad, the steering is a bit twitchy, but you get used to it.
As with previous F1 games, there are plenty of assists to help you get your car around the circuit in one piece. I'd recommend switching off the braking assist straight away, as there's really nothing to be gained in using it. You should work to remove as many of the assists as you can. I'd also recommend, especially if you are using a racing wheel, getting to grips with manual gearing as soon as you can, as well. Manual shifting makes the game a lot more fun and help get the most out of your car.
Whilst I'm sure that F1 aficionados will have lots to nit-pick about, in my amateur opinion, F1 2018 offers a pretty authentic Formula One experience. It's a fully-featured racing simulator that does its best to remain very accessible for newcomers.
There are only small improvements over last year's game but enough for me to be able to say that this is the best F1 game yet. Beautiful to look at and fully featured Codemasters' F1 2018 is the next best thing to actually driving a Formula One car.