F1 2017 game review: Taking the franchise to a whole new level
It only takes a quick browse through the initial game menus on F1 2017 to see the impressive progress Codemasters has made with the latest release in the Formula 1 gaming franchise.
Although, that’s what you’d expect from the latest instalment of a series that releases a new game annually. Players want each new title to add new features and provide an even more expansive gaming experience. Thankfully, F1 2017 delivers.
In recent years, F1 games have been on a steady improvement trajectory. F1 2014 was a rare disappointment and while the follow-up failed to deliver a career mode, it was a good start on new-gen consoles. Then, F1 2016 was released and raised the bar by quite some margin.
We were hoping for a good step forward with F1 2017 and that’s certainly the case. In fact, it’s probably made a larger leap than we expected. Having got our hands on a copy of the game pre-release, allow us to break down the key elements of F1 2017 and share our thoughts.
There’s no denying the fact F1 2017 is a good-looking game. Visually, there has been a decent improvement. Not ground-breaking, but a good one. Details are sharper, the new cinematics and ‘live the life’ elements are welcome additions, and the game looks even more impressive when the weather turns nasty.
When it comes to cinematics and character interactions, it really does add to the feel of involvement in the career mode. But, the characters – while better than in 2016 – still look a little scary. There have also been a few occasions where details take a little while to load, at least from my experience of the game, and the track backdrops are a little blurred. But, in general, it’s a very pretty game.
This was the headline addition to F1 2017 and it’s been done very well. There’s a good selection of cars, although we’d like to see a few older ones in the mix too, and the varying strengths and weaknesses make for fun racing – whether that’s with the same class of cars, of multi-class.
For example, when racing in in the newer class, the 2002 and 2004 Ferrari F1 machines are mega on the straights, but the later you go into the 2000s, the more downforce and grip the cars have. It definitely makes the racing more challenging, when each car has different positive and negative points.
In the game, the classic cars are driven by fictional drivers, which seems to be a way of getting around licensing. It’s clever and works well, as do the invitational events in career mode, which is a great way of incorporating the classic cars. While the older classics are a bit tougher to drive, the newer ones have incredible levels of performance and are amazingly planted to the ground.
The handling model for F1 2017 has been completely reworked for the new cars and it feels brilliant. They have so much more grip due to the new aero rules and wider tyres, feeling much more planted. You can really push a lot more through the corners, but it’s best to be aware of the kerbs, as they’re a bit more difficult in this game and can catch you out.
The additional ‘live the life’ elements through the career mode really add to the immersive feel of F1 2017, and there are a lot of other small details that aid the gameplay experience too – the arrow going red when a rival car draws alongside you, the tweaked radio and car information menus, added practice programmes and more varied customisation of your game character (avatars, helmet designs). We’re just waiting for the moment we can create our own avatars in an F1 game.
The new AI slider has made a big difference. Previously, I found it tough to find the right AI setting because I seemed to fit between two. But, the new slider – which goes from 0 to 110 - allows players to find the right settings for them. In general, the AI seem more aggressive (although a lot of the time it’s with the other AI, than with myself). They also make mistakes more often and suffer mechanical issues too.
In F1 2016, formation laps and manual starts brought more realism to the franchise, and Codemasters has continued to bring in new gameplay features with manual pit limiter and pit releases. It took me a second to figure out how to do this in my first career mode race, but it’s something I should’ve really tested in Grand Prix mode first.
A load of new features and game modes will keep F1 2017 feeling fresh for longer - including Championships, which puts gamers in a mini season with different rules and cars. There’s a good number of different championships to try out, although to be honest, we’ll be sticking with career mode for some time. But, once players tire of that, they can give Championships a go.
There’s also four new, shorter track layouts, which are included in the invitational events in the career mode but can also be played in the different game modes too.
We’ve mentioned a few of the new career mode features already, but they all come together to make for a hugely immersive, impressive and addictive experience. The additional cinematics, invitational events and practice programmes keep things a bit more fresh, and the gameplay is engaging and fun.
A big difference is the addition of a huge Research & Development tree for upgrades and new parts, incorporating the resource points brought in with the last game. There’s also engine and gearbox management, which plays a much larger role in the career mode, with parts wearing at different rates and needing to be replaced. As in real life, you only have a certain number of each element to use, and penalties will be given if you go over the limit.
It’s definitely something that takes some getting used to. Preserving engine and gearbox parts requires you to change your driving style and there are only a certain number of resource points to gain each weekend. Because you need around 1,000 resource points per upgrade, it’ll take some time to make improvements.
This area of career mode will probably confuse newer players, but if you are an avid F1 fan and gamer, it’ll be an exciting new element and one that makes the game feel even more life-like and realistic.
The structure of career mode is very similar to F1 2016, but builds on that in every aspect, helping make it an even more enjoyable gaming experience.
F1 2017 is without doubt the best game in the franchise so far, taking it to all-new levels of engagement, immersion and realism. It’s a very impressive game, drawing from the strengths of its predecessor while adding new features, game modes and making it more accessible than ever.
Previously, F1 games have been fun for a short space of time, but have never really kept my attention in the long-run. This one feels different though.
F1 2017 is released worldwide on August 25th for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.