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F1 2018 is the latest official F1 game from developer Codemasters, but is it any good, does the controversial Halo element make it less appealing and is it worth buying if you have F1 2017?

Let me be brutally honest, I find the current Formula 1 offering about as riveting as going to the dentist. I’m not alone, either. Former champion Nico Rosberg recently told me that the sport needs “more danger”. Sure, this season has been noticeably more dramatic than usual, but do I bother to tune in? Not anymore.

Naturally, then, I find the idea of Formula 1 games just as unappealing. But having been given a review code by Codemasters and spurred on by a recent day of driving a Formula 3000 car, I decided there was no excuse not to give the latest and potentially greatest official F1 simulator a go.

So what would someone who typically avoids the most lucrative form of motorsport think of the latest Codemasters game in the series? Is it good enough to hook any racing game fan?

F1 2018 review: New to the formula?

F1 2018

To someone who played F1 2017, F1 2018 is going to look familiar. The presentation and user-interfaces are largely the same. But various graphical improvements such as greater detail help narrow the gap between it and, say, Forza Motorsport 7.

The career mode has been bolstered, too, with an improved research and development system. Research points are given in greater volume, even if you forego practice sessions, meaning less downtime between upgrades. But the FIA can still make mid-season regulation changes that render your efforts pointless.

Then there is the feisty journalist who demands a response at key moments. How you respond affects various elements of the game. Blame a particular part of the team too often, for instance, and morale will drop, but sing their praises and the opposite happens. Plus the ever-present chance of an item failing the development process becomes less likely.

With 21 circuits in the real F1 season, F1 2018 ensures there is much to master. This includes the return of Germany’s Hockenheim, plus the debut (yes, debut) of the tough to learn Paul Riccard Circuit in France. You also get four short circuits that are used for various challenges.

Eight new Classic Cars also come part of the package. This includes James Hunt’s McLaren M23D, which competed against Niki Lauda’s Ferrari 312 T2 (also included), a rivalry captured brilliantly in the 2013 movie, Rush.

F1 2018 review: So what’s good about it?

F1 2018: The racing can be intense

Even if F1 has never been your cup of tea, F1 2018 will prove immensely satisfying on a good day. The combination of a rewarding physics system, realistic graphics and high-speed racing provides one of the most intense experiences around.

This is even more true when you have a steering wheel (I tested F1 2018 using the Fanatec CSL Elite and Thrustmaster TS-XW Sparco P310 Competition Mod), turn off all the driving aids and put in the effort. Because the only game that rewards dedication as brilliantly is TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge, which is even less forgiving.

Getting into the career mode can be daunting at first and it certainly takes time for it to hook you. When it does though, adios free time. Such is the level of realism, from having to adhere to the pit-lane top speed to trying to negotiate the best deal, you really feel invested in your team. That translates into long gaming sessions.

But it is the times when you are behind the wheel – as you learn how to eke out every millisecond from each corner during a race or within the Time Trial mode – that proves most memorable. Save for a couple of the really old Classic Cars, everything handles in an enjoyable, convincing manner that keeps you coming back.

It helps that F1 2018 looks the part. Except for the people who still manage to look fake despite new animations and more realistic skin and hair. Sunsets cast a beautiful orange glow over the cars, while the added circuit detail makes you feel more like you are actually at each circuit than ever before. The rain effects are marvellous, too.

And there is, of course, that beefy career mode. Expect a radical departure at your detriment, but then the new additions such as maintaining morale, dealing with contracts and those aforementioned mid-season regulation changes do make it more gratifying.

F1 2018 review: And the not so good?

F1 2018: Modern and classic cars feature

Though F1 2018’s similarities with F1 2017 make it feel familiar, it does seem a bit cheap of Codemasters to avoid any sort of meaningful presentation update. This would be less of an issue were it not for the fact that F1 has new owners and the sport has undergone its first rebrand since 1987 (hence the new logo everywhere).

As for the AI, it ranges from pleasingly realistic to “sorry, I just mashed you into a barrier for no apparent reason”. Luckily, it tends to be believable most of the time, but it only takes one moment of idiocy during an important race to make you want to sob quietly in the corner.

Each of the Classic Car roster, meanwhile, looks the part and getting to use them for certain challenges will please F1 newbies and experts alike. But two of the most dated examples are so difficult to drive that you may as well be driving on ice in ultra soft tyres. Still, having a difficult challenge is better than no challenge at all.

Then there are some graphical oddities that take you out of the experience. On the standard Xbox One, you will see the odd stutter that can affect your race. This even happens in the interior sections between races, which is somewhat odd.

F1 2018 review: Worth the money?

F1 2018: Worth buying?

You could argue there have been too few changes to F1 2018 over F1 2017 to justify the expenditure, but as someone new to the series I would recommend it. Replicating the lofty highs and centre of the earth lows of motorsport is something Codemasters has done brilliantly. The improved career mode alone will keep you busy for hours, while there are few racing games that make the process of driving as deeply satisfying.

In fact, in some ways the game proves preferable to the actual sport. Because sometimes those AI foibles make for less procession-based racing. And, let’s face it, F1 2018 is the closest 99.9 per cent of us will ever get to actually being Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso – so take pleasure in knowing the digital equivalent has never been more convincing.

The F1 2018 release date was the 24th of August, 2018. It is now available to buy from Amazon for Xbox One, PS4 and PC. By clicking an affiliate link and purchasing the game, I get a very small amount of commission – which is greatly appreciated – at absolutely no cost to you.

F1 2018 review: The best F1 game around?
F1 2018 is the best F1 game to date and one that can be immensely rewarding, even for non-F1 fans, but it can also frustrate, thanks to occasionally inconsistent AI and a steep learning curve.
Enjoyment
Graphics
Sound
Multiplayer
Longevity
The Good
  • Involving career mode
  • Satisfying driving physics
  • As realistic as it gets
The Bad
  • A few graphical issues
  • AI can be unpredictable
  • Requires dedication
4.2The Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief

Ben Griffin is a motoring journalist and founder of the website and YouTube channel, A Tribe Called Cars. He is also a contributor at DriveTribe.

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