When it comes to video games in the sporting world, they’re often released each year, with a few changes made here and there, and can become a bit stale after a while.
Not with F1 2017. Plenty of new features and game modes keep the racing title feeling fresh and engaging, while complimenting the general improvements that build on the success of the previous game.
F1 2017 hits virtual and real-life shelves for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on the 25 August (Friday) across the world, but we managed to get a copy of the game before it was released, to see just how big a step forward Codemasters has made.
Here are some of the key things I noticed and learned during my first few hours playing the new F1 2017 game.
1. Classic cars are awesome
This was the big plus point, bringing classic cars to the franchise for the first time since 2013. Back then, the classics were an intriguing new addition, but didn’t feel like a good fit. They seemed more like an add-on to the game, to try out when you got bored of career mode or no one was online to play multiplayer.
That’s changed with F1 2017, as the classic cars have been incorporated into career mode in the form of invitational events, where you have to complete a variety of challenges as you progress through the career. Plus, there are four new, short track layouts to try, and the classics can be raced in the other modes too – with multi, single-class or spec racing.
The classic cars feel like they’re now properly fused into the game. There’s a good selection from the last 30 years, including the McLaren MP4/4 – which is exclusive to ‘Day One’ and pre-ordered copies of the game (but can be bought at a later date), and is the real star of the line-up.
It would’ve been nice to have a few even older cars in the mix too, from earlier eras, but selecting iconic cars from a smaller time frame makes the multi and single-class racing more enjoyable. Maybe the next step for Codemasters is to add some classic circuits too?
2. It's stunning
The game is definitely the most visually spectacular in the franchise’s history so far. It isn’t a massive step up in terms of graphics, but the tracks and cars do appear more detailed, sharper and more visually impressive. Of course, the stunning new 2017 cars and the beautiful classics help…
Monaco at night is new to the game and it looks downright incredible. It’s definitely one of the first circuits you should try out when you fire up the game. Of course, the visuals aren’t perfect. I’ve had a few issues with details loading in cinematic sequences, and the backdrops to circuits are a little blurred, but overall, it’s a good improvement.
3. Living the F1 life is awesome
The whole ‘live the life’ (of an F1 driver) element was in early F1 games from Codemasters, fizzled back out and then re-appeared again in recent instalments. The franchise has kept on adding more cinematics and character features, and that continues in F1 2017 – especially at the start of the career mode.
I’ll admit though, the in-game characters still look a little… scary. I was hoping we’d see more detail in these characters but while that hasn’t happened, I’ve loved seeing more cinematics and character interactions. More variety should be next on the list, and it’d be cool to be able to move around the paddock and garage areas in the future too.
4. The perfect fit
I’ve always struggled to find the right AI setting in past F1 games because my own skill level has fallen between two options. Thankfully Codemasters has found a solution with a new AI slider, which lets you select any setting from 0 to 110.
It’s a huge improvement over past games and means you can find the perfect fit. This’ll surely be a big help for new players, as they can gradually up the AI difficulty as they improve. It’s a neat new feature and makes the game much more accessible to all skill levels.
Speaking of the AI, I’ve noticed they’re more aggressive than in past games. They still challenge the other AI cars much more than they try to overtake me, but your rivals will try to hang around the outside or make the occasional move. Plus, they make more mistakes and suffer more mechanical issues.
5. Career mode is addictive
Because of the new invitational events, cinematics and other features, the whole career mode element feels better than ever before and much more immersive. Never before have players been able to feel more like they’re actually competing in a proper F1 world championship. The new additions and expanded elements will keep the career mode feeling fresher and more exciting for much longer.
6. Management and development focus
However, if you’re a new or more casual F1 fan, the research and development and engine management features in the career mode may look a bit daunting. It takes a while to get used to it, knowing how to adapt your driving style to conserve and manage parts, and you’ll need a couple of races to pick up enough resource points through practice programmes to start adding upgrades to your car.
Perhaps I’m just rubbish at managing my engine and development, but I’m three races into my career mode with Renault and I’m already having to switch engine components, change to a fresh gearbox and have only purchased one major upgrade so far. While it may take some getting used to for newer F1 supporters, though, it adds a whole new level of involvement for die-hard fans.
7. It’s all in the details
There are some cool new, headline-grabbing features in F1 2017, but it’s a lot of the smaller details that make this game such a joy to play. The marker arrows to tell you when a car is behind you now go red when your rival draws alongside, so you know not to move across and smash them into the wall (this’ll be handy for online races).
There are some smart revisions to the menus while you’re on track, to monitor engine and gearbox wear, and you can change the race and weather settings as the game loads. The damage model is also more sensitive and there’s new manual pit limiter and pit release functions. These all add to the realism of the game.
8. Epic driving experience
The new 2017 F1 cars feel brilliant to drive. They’re so much more planted and you can really push them a lot harder, thanks to the wider tyres and aero changes. Obviously, I’ve never driven an F1 car before, but it feels like what the real-life drivers have been saying about these new cars – they’re much quicker, much more fun to drive, but can also punish you badly.
Using kerbs is a little lethal at times because they seem to disrupt the cars a bit more, and you can really feel the turbulence of the cars in front through unwanted extra understeer. The cars are also wider and you can sense that, especially on the street tracks where overtaking is tough. It’s also worth noting that the newer the classic cars get, the more they feel like they’re running on rails.
9. A little repetitive
If you were an avid player of F1 2016, some of the little features may become repetitive, especially the commentary dialogue and post-race cinematics. It’d be great to see these aspects shaken up a bit, with a dash of added personality.
It’d be cool to see, say, Daniel Ricciardo doing a shoey on the podium or Lewis Hamilton recording clips of the crowd on his phone. Just bringing in some elements of the driver’s characters, and giving us some extra variety with cinematic shots and commentary.
10. A well-rounded game
F1 2017 definitely takes the franchise to a new level of realism and enjoyment. Previous games have felt good initially, but I’ve gotten bored fairly quickly. But, the latest release has a lot more going for it – classic cars, new ‘Championships’ game mode where you can play mini seasons with varying rules, an expanded career mode and general improvements across the board.
So, if you have F1 2015 or F1 2016 and were thinking of sticking with them, or haven’t picked up an F1 game in a while, it’s definitely time to change that.