I’ll start this review off with an apology. It is late being released; I was hoping to have got it out a week ago along with the embargo date, but due to personal circumstances and a hospital admission for a major operation, it is late.
Last year I reviewed F1 2018 and quite simply it was (for me) one of the best racing simulations I’ve ever experienced. The issue was, what exactly Codemasters could do to improve on what was pretty much perfection for a racing game as far as I could tell? Well, considering this years release marks the 10th Anniversary and is celebrated by an Anniversary Edition, Codemasters had to pull something out of the bag.
It seems like a no-brainer when you actually think about it, but this year at last we have the inclusion of the official F2 championship; the stepping stone for so many young driver talents to make it to F1. I have an issue with it however..
The 2018 lineup of F2 drivers are at hand, you start your own career against some of the drivers who have made it into F1 this season as well as your teammate and (of course) a rival driver bidding for the coveted F1 seat. My issue with it is that when you start off your career, this slight story which leads you to your path of glory is a measly 3 defining instances within the 12 race season where you have to fight your way back through the cars on track and then the final race where you have to beat your rival. Its all good in theory, but I would have much preferred this to have taken place over the full season; make getting an F1 seat a bit of a challenge. This is just a precursor to the inevitable. The other issue I have as a massive Formula 1 fan is that at the end of that third race, yourself and the other 2 drivers all find your way into F1 which means that there are 3 official drivers removed from the 2019 season lineup and kind of cheapens the experience as far as I’m concerned.
Now, don’t get me wrong, you can flick your way through the impressive in game menu and take part in the full 2018 F2 season by jumping into the seat of one of the drivers, but I just needed to experience that from the very start of my career and not as a side option.
So thats the first improvement Codemasters have made and it is an improvement. Rather than just finding yourself in the seat of an F1 car, you do have to prove yourself. The second major overhaul the game has recieved is in the graphics from last year and they are seriously noticable when it comes to the lighting and shading.
This gives the game a whole new depth. Last year you could see the marbles from the tyres on the track, but this year they are even more noticable and the curbs feel much more 3D rather than a flat entity as with previous entries in the series. Snatch a curb a little too much and you see your car spinning out and normally into a wall. The effects on the tyres of the car are what impress me the most so far; when you leave the pit lane you will see that they are lovely and shiny but give it a few laps and that sheen starts to fade to a dull set of scrubbed tyres and gives a better feel that your tyres on the car are starting to wear with time.
Now, the basics of the game remain pretty much unchanged this year. Your F1 career is the same as it’s always been and if you want to read more in depth as to what is available to you as you race for the team of your choice then please refer to last years review, I did go into some depth there but I would just be repeating myself again and boring the most of you all over again this time round.
As much as I hate to do this, I think we do owe a huge debt to Liberty Media, the new(ish) owners of F1. Under the reigns of Bernie Ecclestone, he did refuse to bring the sport into the 21st century for the fans, something which Liberty are trying to change quite drastically. OK, they’re an American owned company and can be extremely in your face at times, but last year saw the inaugural F1 ESports series take part and with the teams all buying into it and production from Sky Sports, it felt like a natural extension to the sport. This year round in the main menu of the game you will find an F1 Esports menu allowing you to watch the races, current standings as well as giving you a nice breakdown into the official rules. Move to the multiplayer menu and within there you find the addition of racing leagues which you can take part in rather than having to find a nice group of people on facebook who want to set up an official league.
Again, under the multiplayer menu there are ranked races where you take on all the idiots who like to try and take each other out at the first turn. Codemasters have brought back the safety ratings for online but so far I still seem to get matched with people who don’t have the same level of license that I have and drive like idiots completely ignoring any rules which are in place. That being said, the rules are a lot stricter this year round, especially when it comes to corner cutting. Be warned that sometimes when you approach a corner your brakes will grab and pull you into that corner a lot faster than you were expecting causing you to slightly cut it. You will be reprimanded for it. I would have liked to have seen maybe a little more leniency in that rule, but it does stop people blatantly cutting and gaining advantages. The rules do seem to be hit and miss in places though, kind of like in real life with the FIA not being consistent from one race to the next.
Gone however are the real life F1 cars. Instead there is a focus on customisation. The online races are supposed to be set out as every car being equal in power and performance, so it did seem a little strange at times that you could drive a Williams and humiliate a Ferrari or Mercedes. You can spend in game credits which you acquire through your racing on paintwork designs for the car, all of which are fully customisable with your own colours. A slight issue is the premium paints which you do have to buy from the Playstation store (79p each when I checked), but if you do go out and buy the anniversary edition you do get the paintwork from Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost as well as their cars to take to the track. There is also the edition of some of the great cars over Formula 1’s history making a free return as they did last year. These can be used in online races again as well as challenge races during your career which will help your reputation within the teams.
OK, time for the issues that I have found with the game, all of which I know will be patched at some point and have been reported back to Codemasters.
Racing round the Chinese circuit there was a rather large crash during my career between numerous cars. Normally a games code would get rid of any debris that has been thrown from the cars or put it to the side of the track which I spotted on a few occasions. This time, every lap without fail floating above the track in the exact same spot was the front nose section of one of the other cars like some kind of a drone just hovering there. The thing is, when I went into photo mode to have a closer look at it, it was a strangly mangled front nose section.
Secondly, I was taking part in an online race and someone hit me from behind causing my car to actually go airborne and flip over so I could see the attention to detail in the underneaths skid plate being there. My car righted itself and away I continued. The next lap when I got to the same area, the skid marks that should have been left on the track went into the air where my car had been launched and were left there for each lap after that as well until the race was over.
Finally, there are a few tracks which have a few errors in them, the main ones are Silverstone where the final DRS zones line is in the middle of a turn, yet the DRS signs are another 50 meters up the track (you can activate the DRS after the line, not the signs) and the French circuit where the pit entry is the same as last years, yet they completely changed it for this years Grand Prix.
As I said, these issues are all patchable and didn’t take anything away from the gameplay in any way for me. The game is still highly fun and addictive and continues to grow in its impression on me year after year. When you dive deeper into the sheer depth of the career mode and everything that is available to you to improve the car you are driving the simulation factor of the game comes into its own. Sometimes its even better than the real thing! F1 has become a sport that does start to get a little monotonous at times with the same 2 teams battling it out week in week out for first place. At least this way you can get in on the action yourself and make strides to knock Hamilton off his ego trip or take a seat in a Ferrari and tell the team to shove their love for Vettel up their exhaust pipes and leave him in your dust.
Last year I gave F1 2018 a 10/10 and as I asked above, I wasn’t sure that Codemasters could ever improve on what they delivered. I was wrong! This year I can’t give the game any less than 10/10 again as it easily blows away any kind of expectations I could have hoped for. Yes, there are a few issues as mentioned above, but they are all fixable and I know they will be.
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were supplied with a review copy of the game. This has in no way influenced my review as per our Review Policy**