For many sports franchises it can be tough to pack a game with enough new features for fans to feel appreciated and justified in shelling out another £50 for the latest version. Every year there is some blowback on the likes of FIFA and Madden that it is just the same as last year. F1 games suffer from a similar fate, but F1 2018 blows those claims out of the water.
A new feel
Codemasters have done a terrific job at making the entire racing simulation feel different from last year's game. The cars are grippier and faster than last year, and without the driver aids they are beasts that will snap you into the barrier if you put a foot wrong. For the elite racers out there it's a fresh challenge to master, for the more casual players the assists make the cars manageable but still tricky.
They have also made the kerbs more dangerous to use. Tune your setup too aggressively and taking too much kerb on the inside of a corner will throw you off. It has made some simple corners in F1 2017, such as the turn 11-12 left-right chicane in Australia, difficult to navigate on the old lines. It also means you can't just import your 2017 setups and expect to find success. This game is all about on-track racing, and Codemasters have focused so much on that it has created arguably the best F1 game to date.
- New Tracks: Return of Hockenheim, introduction of Circuit Paul Ricard
- ERS deployment system: Manage the Energy Recovery System to give yourself a power boost at critical moments, but use it too often and you'll run out, leaving you vulnerable
- Events: Weekly scenario challenges
- More Classic Cars: Including the Brawn BGP-001 (2009), McLaren M23D (1976), and Lotus 72D (1972)
- Post-race interviews in career mode
Last year's races were something of a procession. Even with DRS and a decent slipstream the AI would rarely make a pass. Leading cars could get held up in traffic after a pit stop and see their races ruined due to a lack of aggression. Not this season.
In F1 2018 the AI drivers are far more aggressive and up for a battle. You'll see three cars go wheel-to-wheel, and perhaps most impressive of all is you'll get incidents such as accidents and spins elsewhere on the track that will affect the race. Around Azerbaijan you will see virtual safety cars and catastrophic car damage from AI controlled crashes. You can expect the same at Monaco.
The battling of the AI leads to races that you will want to watch back as it will force you to get creative in your overtakes. The AI is still a little vulnerable to a Daniel Ricciardo-style dive bomb, but it will defend and attack more aggressively, creating a challenge for your career mode.
The most in-depth career mode yet
F1 2018 has reinvented the wheel with its career mode. You don't just accumulate points in race weekends that all feel the same anymore. Now you progress. Want to be the #1 driver for your team? Out-perform expectations and then re-negotiate your contract. Pick your own rival and see your stock improve, or drop, depending on how you do.
You'll get questions from a journalist after sessions and your answers will impact your standing in the paddock, it can improve the morale of certain departments within your team, reducing the development cost of future parts, or you can turn them against you by blaming aspects of the car.
All these individual choices make the career mode of F1 2018 one of the most involved in any sports simulation game. You can decide to give your aero department a motivational talk, or you can bad-mouth your current team to up your showmanship and attract a new team that favours making noise over sportsmanship. You can challenge Lewis Hamilton with your rivalries, or take down Kevin Magnussen.
There is also plenty of replay value in the career mode, as each team has unique development trees that are hidden until you spend your development points. You can work hard to take Sauber to the top, or start in Renault to make a name for yourself before becoming the latest star to move to Ferrari and win championships.
More game modes than ever
Speaking of championships, the Championships event mode allows you to race in classic F1 cars around the older tracks with just a top 6 points system. Or you can do a sprint series that sets its grid order in reverse. There is a double-header tour that effectively recreated F2. The challenges keep coming with downloadable events. The first sets you as Carlos Sainz in the Renault late in the Belgian Grand Prix trying to recover from 14th place. The objective is to finish 8th or higher, and you can see your score against everyone else on the leaderboards.