Additional photos courtesy of Codemaster
At this point in my life, I must face the cold, hard truth: I have a better chance of getting the new Civic Type R at MSRP than I do at becoming a full, fledged Formula One driver.
In fact, the closest I'll ever come to being an F1 driver is in a video game; which is why I and countless others like me have come to appreciate the series of official F1 video games from Codemasters.
The latest game, F1 2017, is set to release in just a few days on August 25th.
Codemasters was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the game to play for a few days to allow me to collect my thoughts on it, and from there you can decide whether you want to add this game to your collection.
One thing to note before we get started: I should mention that my review copy was for Xbox One and I played exclusively with a controller and not a steering wheel peripheral.
To keep things fresh for F1 2017, Codemasters employed a strategy of adding some new features while expanding on several of the features that are carried over from the previous game.
The marquee new feature is the addition of classic F1 cars. There will be 11 classic F1 cars in the game at launch and the lineup includes a great mix that spans the 1990s with cars like the '91 McLaren MP4/6 all the way up to the nearly unstoppable '10 Red Bull Racing RB6.
As a bonus, anyone who pre-orders a "day one" or "Special Edition" copy of F1 2017 also gets the legendary 1988 McLaren MP4/4 added to their classic car roster. For everyone else the car will be made available as paid DLC.
I'd have to say my favorite thing about the classic F1 cars are the sounds. The MP4/4's iconic engine note is captured quite well and the same can be said for the rest of the classics.
The other major addition is four new "short tracks," which are based off existing tracks, the Circuit of The Americas (COTA), Suzuka, Bahrain, and Britain (Silverstone).
Frankly, I'm not a fan of these short tracks. I would have much rather Codemasters included some vintage F1 courses to complement the classic cars rather than give short versions of already existing tracks. It seems like a missed opportunity.
For the first time, players can pick a female avatar to represent them. This sounds great on paper but there are 44 total pre-made avatars and only about 7 of them are female. That's just 16 percent. With a total number of 44 avatars it would have been so easy to make half of them men and half women.
To tout having female avatars as a new feature yet offering such a small number of them just comes off as disingenuous. I really like the people at Codemasters but they seriously dropped the ball on this one.
HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Visually, F1 2017 isn't much of a jump past F1 2016. However, F1 2016 looked great so it balances out. While F1 2017 isn't a huge leap graphically, there are some subtle improvements. Notably, the textures of the liveries on the cars looks much better. In the past, the liveries tended to be quite pixelated and really stood out against the high fidelity of the race cars material textures.
The cars still look amazing as do the race tracks and their environments. The lighting effects have improved as well. This is especially evident when driving the Monaco Grand Prix course in its new night mode. Words don't do it justice. Just trust me on this one.
Unfortunately, there are some not-so-great graphical elements in F1 2017 as well. Specifically, I saw some serious screen tearing during certain parts of the game like when using the analog stick to look around an office or the team truck. It also happened during certain cut scenes. There was some slight screen tearing during actual racing gameplay as well, but it wasn't nearly as noticeable as it was in the other scenarios.
Chances are the screen tearing issues will likely be fixed with a day one patch or something shortly after release.
HOW DOES IT PLAY?
When it comes to gameplay, handling, and physics, F1 2017 is more of the same, but that's not a bad thing. Codemasters "EGO engine" really allows for what feels like very solid driving dynamics.
Even though I played exclusively with a controller, I still felt the nuances of the car when driving. Those moments when I was able to find aerodynamic grip were extremely satisfying. Alternatively, if I messed up my front wing I could instantly feel the negative effects of it while trying to corner. I could also easily tell when my tires were starting to degrade and when they were nice and grippy.
I can only imagine that playing F1 2017 with a racing wheel peripheral from Thrustmaster or Fanatec will likely feel damn good.
Despite the great physics and solid gameplay, there are a few quirks that I think need to be addressed.
First, when playing the game in cockpit mode, there is no visual indicator of the car's drag reduction system (DRS) in the game's HUD. You can see it in every other view mode except cockpit mode.
The only indication that the DRS has been activated is when the avatars hand reaches over and pushes the button. Though there was always at least a one- to two-second delay between when I physically pushed the DRS button on the controller and when my avatar did it on screen. Not very reliable at all.
I think the biggest quirk about F1 2017 is both a blessing and a curse. Codemasters really put a lot of detail into this game to make it as true to the real sport as possible, but the result of that leads to a game that is likely to scare off casual players.
Sure, there are the "Time Attack" and "Grand Prix" modes for those who just want a quick race, but the game's real depth lies in its "Championship" and "Career" modes, which require players to put some serious time in. Combine that with the complex sub-menus that are very difficult to navigate during gameplay, and the elaborate upgrade system, and F1 2017 adds up to a game more suited for the hardcore folks than the casual fan.
F1 2017 has just about everything a true Formula One fan would want and then some. The classic car roster is superbly curated, the new features add significant depth, and the physics feel good, even when playing with a controller.
Despite all of that, the graphical glitches and half-hearted addition of female avatars stop F1 2017 short of being the best game in the series.
If you're a hardcore F1 fan and fan of driving sims in general, I would recommend picking up this game. If you like racing but aren't well versed in all the technical aspects of F1, and just want a pick-up-and-play experience, then this game probably isn't for you.
- Great roster of classic cars
- Responsive driving physics
- Massive depth due to tons of features
- Graphical glitches (screen tearing) during certain sequences
- Sub menus are hard to navigate while driving (no DRS indicator in cockpit view!)
- Number of female avatars is incredibly imbalanced (only 7 out of 44! Come on!)