(Photo credit: Marco Verch)
With the start of a new F1 season, comes the obligatory wait for Codemasters’ latest entry in its F1 series. The makers of the likes of Colin McRae Rally, TOCA Race Driver (remember those?!), and lately the Grid and Dirt series have held the licence for F1 games since 2009, and each year have improved upon their formula, culminating in last year’s excellent F1 2017.
Does that mean there still aren’t things we want from this year’s instalment? Are we satisfied with last year’s spectacular effort? Hell no, therefore it’s time for a wish list!
While this won’t be a priority for many, it is undoubtedly top of my wish list for F1 2018. When Dirt Rally came out in February 2017 with VR capabilities, I was excited. Surely this would have meant that Codemasters would incorporate this technology into their F1 offering later in the year? Sadly, this wasn’t to be and F1 2017 released without VR capabilities.
Having sampled the likes of Project Cars and Dirt Rally in Virtual Reality, this is a genre that really works well with the technology, and as more people buy into it, either on PC with the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, or PSVR, it would be foolish for Codemasters to neglect this section of the fan base. Imagine a VR podium where you could look out onto the adoring crowds and see your team going ballistic after a well earned win.
While the cars and tracks (mostly) look great, there’s still a lot to be done elsewhere for Codemasters, who seem to have been getting by with a little of the old copy/paste brush for a lot of the surrounding assets in recent years. In places, some background textures and models are horribly low resolution, and when the camera sweeps round the track just before a race or qualifying session, these things really take you out of the moment. Another issue is the crowd who remain indistinct at long range and are only animated a few rows deep when close up.
The character models are also looking rather suspect these days. Honestly, they still look like they are stuck in the PS3 era - although that might be an insult to some PS3 games. It has to be said the character likenesses have improved dramatically over the life of the franchise (there was even a time when we didn’t have them!), but they could all do with a touch up this year, especially for the less famous drivers.
On a related note, the animations of the characters’ movements have never struck me as realistic. This might not have mattered so much before the podium celebration animations were introduced a few years ago, but nowadays, and especially compared to other titles, Codemasters really need to up their game in this department.
Better damage modelling
Again, this is an area where Codemasters have improved over the years, and the degradation of engine components via your driving style/wear and tear last year was an excellent addition to the game. But it’s still an area they could improve on, especially on the exterior of the cars.
In the current version, the only component you can really damage is your front wing, and while this is good, and falls off in more bits than it has in recent years, there are still lots of other areas that scuffles on track could affect. You could knock off a bargeboard which might make you understeer more. You could take a tyre in the side-pod and have to cool your engine more than usual. You might take damage to the floor of the car if you gun it too hard through a gravel trap and lose downforce. The possibilities are endless in this area, and while I don’t expect all of them to be looked at, it would be nice to throw in a few, with the promise of more in future instalments.
More F1 personality
I mean literally, at least for the first part of this. The drivers are a big part of the F1 show, but in the game they all act alike, at least on the podium and in other off track animations. I mean, Kimi Raikkonen barely raised his arms when he won his world title, but every time he wins a race in-game he’s jumping up and down and punching the air like there’s no tomorrow. Plus, there’s no way he wouldn’t take a swig from the champagne before the customary spraying.
Along with personalised driver celebrations, there could also be different celebrations depending on what stage of the championship you’re at, or for a first win, or a win for a midfield team. This may sound like a small niggle, but improving elements such as this would go a long way to making the game even more immersive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hilarious every time Kimi celebrates like a madman!
The paddock could also do with jazzing up with more F1 glamour. For example, why not get drivers to do voiceovers for the game, so they can interact with the player's character during their career? Or introduce other elements such as post-race interviews and banter between rivals? I realise that interviews were attempted several years ago, but with proper implementation they could work well for a modern racing game.
OK, hear me out! I first thought of this as a way of being able to switch fuel modes, call for a pit stop etc. while driving but then I remembered that you’d probably need both your hands for driving! So another terrible idea, right? Not necessarily.
If there was a companion app that behaved, and even looked like (come on Codemasters you have an official licence, get asset copying!) the official F1 app, and provided the same information, such as live driver tracker, timing sheets or tyre usage, why would that not be something you’d want to be running and glancing at when you’re on a straight? You could even make a button available to cycle through the available screens so you don’t even have to take your hands off the wheel.
Many games have companion apps these days, so why not one based on one of the most technologically advanced sports on the planet?