After a few years in the wilderness, video games based on Formula One racing had a triumphant return to form courtesy of F1 2016. With that mind, however, the pressure was on for Codemasters to ensure that Formula One racing games had a place at the top able of gaming with this year’s entry, F1 2017.
Thankfully, racing nuts can breathe a sigh of relief, as the developer clearly took what worked and what didn’t work about F1 2016 to heart when developing F1 2017. Although the game is by no means a huge change from last year’s entry, Codemasters has been able to tweak the core components of what made F1 2016 so compelling to play and push Formula One racing games to a whole new level.
Without a doubt, this is down to the emphasis that has been placed on augmenting and improving the Career Mode. Once again, Career Mode is the pearl of this year’s iteration of the franchise, building on the involving version of the mode that came in 2016. For F1 2017, however, Codemasters has made it even better.
Alongside the extremely exciting and engaging racing, players will find that they may need to focus more on tactical input this time around. There is a much greater emphasis on balancing components of the car, with decisions on when to switch out pieces resulting in huge differences when it comes to racing. For instance, should a driver decide to take a qualifying penalty to install a new gearbox, in order to have a fully reliable car in the race ahead?
As part of this, Codemasters has also given the player much more control and involvement in the research and development side of things. There’s a substantial development tree to be unlocked, with solid performances across race weekends then allowing for further areas of study to be researched. This also gives players a reason to focus on the practice sessions of each race weekend, with an improved list of practice programs to give racers more to do other than use practice sessions to get ready for qualifying and the race itself.
Another huge addition to F1 2017‘s Career Mode is the invitational system. The practice-qualify-race cycle of the Championship is broken up excellently by one-off sessions to face off against very different targets. Rather than simply racing, however, these invitationals allow gamers to reach a target number of overtaking maneuvers or take part in time attack challenges. To make it even better, these bonus challenges are driven in classic Formula One cars.
These classic cars are a great addition to the game. Covering decades of Formula One history, the cars chosen are some of the most dominant in the history of the sport, including the all-powerful 1988 McLaren MP4/4, which was driven by Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, and Michael Schumacher’s hugely successful Ferrari F2002. It’s a load of fun to race these classics, and gamers have the option to race as these cars in other game modes outside of the invitationals within Career Mode.
Overall, the Career Mode has built upon the 2016 version incredibly well. Everything from the invitationals to the greater emphasis on strategy, through to the ability to choose a female avatar, makes the experience that much better for players. Indeed, it’s hard to tear away from the Career Mode once its been entered, in spite of how long each Championship weekend takes from start to finish.
Of course, it’s not just about the detail of one mode of gameplay, and those who simply want a quick race to take away some stress might find that the Career Mode is not what they are looking for from a game. Thankfully F1 2017 manages to pull together a number of different gameplay modes, and although it might not cater to all tastes, there’s still a decent amount of variety on show.
A big part of that makes F1 2017 such an enjoyable experience, of course, comes down to the driving mechanics themselves. Although the driving may not have the smoothness of Forza, for instance, it has an authenticity that cannot be overlooked, and that’s something that plenty of racing fans will have been hoping for.
Quite simply, those who like Formula One racing will find what they are looking for in F1 2017. The game has painstakingly recreated the feel of every individual track, from Silverstone through to Catalunya. Some of the newer additions to the Formula One roster also feel great, whereas in previous games they had felt a little drab in comparison to the big hitters of historic Formula One racing.
F1 2017 isn’t perfect, though. Those new to Formula One in general might find it a little daunting, given the level of complexity behind even some of the more basic gameplay modes. As well as this, those after the purest graphical quality might feel a little disappointed, as the game doesn’t quite look as good as some of the other racers out there – although this is hardly noticeable when the gameplay is that much fun.
Unfortunately, one issue from the previous year’s game has remained: facial animations. Although this is by no means as off-putting as those much-maligned Mass Effect Andromeda facial animations, it’s still a little awkward during the podium finishes and pre-race cut scenes. Thankfully, these are few and far between, and it’s hardly the emphasis of a racing game, but it’s not quite up there in comparison to other sports-based games such as FIFA 17 in terms of overall quality.
All in all, though, F1 2017 is another extremely strong entry in the series from Codemasters. Although newcomers to Formula One in its entirety might find it a little challenging to grasp, particularly when it comes to the in-depth Career Mode, racing fans and Formula One fans in general should be revving their engines in preparation for the glamorous world of Formula One racing once again.
F1 2017 releases on August 25, 2017, for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided with a PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.