In the world of racing, there is no series more intense, more passionate, or more complicated than that of Formula One. These cars get upwards to 230 mph and are put through their paces in some of the worlds’ most challenging tracks. Drivers are lauded as some of the most dedicated and die-hard of gear-heads, and the teams they represent include Mercedes, Ferrari, Toyota, and BMW. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like one of these drivers, Codemasters’ F1 2017 is for you. This is our F1 2017 review.
The defining mode in this year’s iteration is the new and improved Career mode. This mode takes your custom driver through an extended ten-year career. It starts off with a bare-bones character creation system that lets you pick a general face, your racer’s number, name, and which one of ten teams you’ll be racing for. This is also the first time F1 lets you choose a female avatar, presumably due to the recent strides made by Colombian driver Tatiana Calderon, who may yet break Formula One’s 41-year long absence of women drivers. Although you’ll rarely see your avatar unless you win them a spot on the podium, it’s more engaging than having to select from real-life personas. I felt personally invested in my own team during F1’s campaign than I would have otherwise.
You start off as your team’s number two driver, but can quickly proceed to the top spot after you prove to your team you’ve got the moxie to win. F1’s career mode definitely throws you into the deep end, as you start racing in a practice session with more menus than you can shake a steering wheel at. Inexperienced players to the series may be a little lost but worry not for these practice sessions are designed to get you acclimated to the tracks, tire management, fuel management, and general upkeep for your speed machine. There are tutorial videos provided in-menu to help you become more acquainted with the many menus as well. But in my opinion, there’s no better method than through experience.
You have three thirty-minute practice sessions to learn the line, earn some R&D points, and set your qualifying time. F1 races are as much about the race itself as it is about the planning and preparation. Planning for which tires you use, setting how much fuel you need, and adjusting your weight ratios are all paramount to how effective you and your team will be on race day. One extra pit stop for something you didn’t plan can cost you several pole positions. Several times I had calculated fuel management down to the wire and ran out of fuel mere meters away from the finish line, causing me to slow down and drop a position. Races don’t always go smoothly even if you plan for everything, as the one thing you can’t predict is the other drivers’ AI.
Unfortunately, this is one aspect that still needs work as on more than a few occasions I had to restart a race due to getting penalized for another driver ramming into my car before a turn. Thankfully, F1 2017 has a rewind feature to let you hop back into the race just before a terrible accident knocks off a wheel, or a stupid AI feels like T-boning you. During the race though there are few occasions as elating as when you overtake an opponent, inching that much closer to that coveted #1 spot. F1 careers are a long haul, and I was prepared for a grueling fight over track after track to maintain and move up my team’s standing in the championship.
In between practice sessions and races, you are given opportunities to fine-tune your cars via Laptop mode, your driver’s access to race and car management, viewing leaderboards, as well as the R&D skill tree. That’s right, I said skill tree! F1 2017 has greatly expanded the prior year’s upgrade system from 25 upgrades up to 115, making it feel almost like an RPG system layered on top of a racing sim. You purchase upgrades through research points, a currency earned through both successfully completing challenges during practice sessions that help you learn and acclimate to new tracks, as well as completing said tracks come race day. If you can score high on these challenges, you have a pretty good shot at the podium. These challenges were frustrating at first, but I eventually learned the value of what each one was teaching me about the track.
I’m more of a Forza and Gran Turismo fan so learning the F1 lines around chicanes and apexes took more than a little effort. If it wasn’t for these track acclimation challenges and tire management trials, I would not have been nearly as successful through my career as I would have been driving a different line. The leaderboards accessible via your laptop in career mode is fun to check after every race to see how you compare to other racers, both on your friends list as well as in the global community. Sometimes I saw someone’s higher score and it would goad me into racing just one more track, or perfecting a track to get a better score. I wouldn’t be satisfied winning my career against AI, I wanted to have the highest career score amongst other players as well.
Career mode is just one aspect of F1 2017, as they’ve also added “Invitational events” that supplement your experience with new modes including Time Attacks, Checkpoint Challenges, and Pursuit modes. A new “Championships” mode breaks the rules of official championships by allowing you to race unique events with a different composition of regulations. And classic F1 cars also make a return with twelve distinct and historical cars from the past thirty years. But the clear winner is the new enhanced Multiplayer mode, which allows for full 20 car grid sessions in either public or private modes. This multiplayer mode has a separate stat tracking and leveling system, which I absolutely love.
Not everyone will want to go through a full F1 career and instead may just want to take the challenge to the online community and pit their skills against the world. I had fun playing online against other racers and, although sometimes these other players would also ram into me during a corner it was always clear through the straightaways and hitting those apexes just right who the better driver was at the end of the match. Matchmaking sessions were quick and painless, and I never had a dropped connection or experienced any noticeable latency issues. Hopefully, Codemasters’ online servers perform just as well on launch day, as I know I will be hopping in against the community day one to put my skills through their paces.
F1 2017 ran smoothly on PC even with my mid-range GTX 960 and graphical settings bumped up to the maximum. PS4 Pro owners will see 4K resolution at 60 FPS and HDR as well as on the Xbox One X when it launches later this year.
If you’re a die-hard petrol-head like me, F1 2017 is an absolute must-buy. As fun as I’m sure the upcoming Forza 7 on Xbox One and GT Sport on PS4 will be this year, there are few experiences as exhilarating as driving an F1 monster of a car through the twisting streets of Monaco, and Codemasters’ newest entry delivers the definitive experience.