Formula 1 always throws up some surprises. For example, when leading the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix by 50 seconds, Ayrton Senna was told to slow down to protect the car. Seconds later he lost concentration and crashed; to his immense disgust. Similarly, while playing F1 2017, I was racing around Singapore and in the groove. The phone then rang. I took the call, and less than a lap after I returned, I smashed into the wall, ending my race. This unpredictability and closeness to its core subject is what makes F1 2017 so great. Ok, my driving skill, even digitally, can’t hold a candle to Ayrton Senna, but with F1 2017, it’s as close as I am going to get.
Obviously, in a game dedicated to the fastest cars on earth, they are the stars of the show. Codemasters has done a great job of updating the game to reflect the new machinery introduced in F1 this year. The cars, as they are in real life, are faster, Lower, sleeker, wider and have fatter tyres–they look the real deal.
Not only do they look the real deal, they play like the real deal. New aerodynamics force the cars into the asphalt, allowing corners where you had to lift off in F1 2016 to be taken flat out. This may sound obvious, but for a simulation game, getting the simulation right is the pillar on which the rest of the game rests. It also means driving the cars is far more enjoyable than before.
With no new tracks or teams to add to the circus this year, Codemasters looked in their drawers and behind the sofa and found some cars for yesteryear to throw into the mix. If you got the special edition, you are treated to 12 classic cars. If you didn’t, then you only get 11. These classic cars include the all-conquering 1992 Williams and the V10 monster that was the Ferrari F2002.
As you would expect, all these cars drive differently from each other and the modern machines. The V10 Ferrari’s and Renault’s have a high pitch scream and attain incredible speeds. Whereas, the 1992 Williams feels planted and rigid, thanks to its litany of driver aids.
They are also well integrated into the game. Rather than being syphoned off in their own section, they can be used to create a custom championship, or be driven at invitationals in career mode. It makes for a fun, and literal, change of pace from the modern cars.
Codemasters removing career mode for F1 2015 was an awful move. Thankfully it returned in F1 2016, and in F1 2017, it has been refined to replicate the, ahem, nerdier parts of F1. If the previous games skated the line between arcade and simulation, F1 2017 nails its colours firmly to the simulation mast.
There has been a complete overhaul of the R&D. Improving the car now resembles more of an RPG. Updating your car’s aero, durability, power and chassis means picking a choice from a huge branching graph.
Each of the four improvement pillars can be upgraded by earning points, but it is advisable to choose the one that your team needs rather than use a scattergun approach. As Williams, my engine durability was poor, so I put my points into its improvement, to try and avoid penalties for changing engine parts.
Reliability has also been overhauled and plays a key part in decision-making. Unlike in previous years, components on the engine and the gearbox get worn and it is up to the player to manage and change these when necessary. Failure to do this could result in a drop in power in the race, the loss of gears, or, ultimately, a failure. When I was leading In Spain my engine failed with two laps to go. Before the race, I had considered changing it before deciding I didn’t need to, and low and behold, it failed. Lesson learned.
Upgrading these components is just a matter of completing helpful practice programs and earning resource points. If you just head straight for qualifying and the race, you will lose valuable points that will drop you back in the very real development race. Codemasters has made practice feel more than an unnecessary time sink; you have to complete laps to earn points get further ahead.
F1 2017 is not perfect. The career mode can be overwhelming for even the biggest F1 nerd, and the animations outside of the cockpit, including podium celebrations, are the same as last year, just with a new lick of paint. The classic cars, while a great addition, still feel limited. You can’t race old v new, and sometimes you have to stare at the backend of the same McLaren in a race because copies are needed to fill the field and make it fair.
F1 2016 was already a very good F1 game. While F1 2017 refines it, the addition of a more in-depth career mode, the retro content and of course the new cars, means that it is well worth upgrading. If you are a casual F1 fan or a full F1 nerd, you will get a lot of playtime and fun from this game.