‘F1 2017’: Our First Take

Our short time with Codemaster’s newest F1 game proved it’s ready for pole position.
Our short time with Codemaster’s newest F1 game proved it’s ready for pole position.
Our short time with Codemaster’s newest F1 game proved it’s ready for pole position.

Highs

  • Incredible sense of speed
  • Realistic physics
  • Accessible racing assists
  • New events add variety

Lows

  • New events may not sit well with purists
  • Sheer speed of gameplay can intimidate

Gamers craving absurdly fast racing action might first think of Wipeout, or even Mario Kart at 200cc, but there’s no need to abandon reality in the pursuit of speed. Codemasters’ F1 2017 has plenty of it, all bound to a detailed, realistic racing engine.

Reality can also turn off some gamers, however. Realism is not always its own reward, and for a franchise like F1 – which comes out annually, in tune with real-world F1 racing seasons – the boredom of repetition is always lurking around the corner. Codemasters knows that, and has supercharged F1 2017 with more career features and event types.

It’s not easy becoming the champ

Like most modern racing titles, F1 2017 offers a goal that’s greater than just winning a race. The single-player campaign instead puts you in the shoes of a career racer with one goal. Become the world champion. Even that goal can become a slog, as past racing games haven proven. Codemasters has learned to combat that issue by giving players more to do between races, thanks to a set of features that arrived in last year’s F1 2016.

Codemasters gives players more to do between races in F1 2017.

Instead of quickly jetting from race to race, players will have to make decisions on new racing hardware and keep their racer in tip-top shape by repairing any damage incurred. This is accomplished through development points, which are — of course — earned by racing.

Don’t think that means Codemasters has turned F1 2017 into a team-management game. While such elements will be present, they aren’t overly involved. Players won’t be managing other racers. You just worry about the No. 1.

Management can only go so far, however, in mixing up gameplay. The new F1 goes a step further by adding new event types, such as chase events, where gamers must overtake several other cars within a set time. We played one such event in our demo, and climbed the ranks past a trio of competitors in just a few minutes.

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This variety is likely good for gameplay, though it’ll be interesting to see how the option is received by players. Unlike most racing games, F1 2017 tries to replicate a specific motorsport. Fans often expect such titles to be true to life, even at the expense of fun.

Real speed

Sitting down for a round of F1 at a press conference is in many ways like playing any other racing game. Codemasters puts us in front of an expensive simulation rig, complete with a button-filled F1 wheel, and then promptly turned on all the assists to make sure we wouldn’t wound our pride by flying into a barrier at the first corner.

That made it hard to judge the fine details of the game’s physics model, but one thing was obvious — F1 2017, like its predecessors, moves fast. It always moves fast.

Even the slowest cars in F1 outperform all but the fastest in Forza or Gran Turismo (Which looks awesome in HDR, by the way). Combine that with the low-slung F1 camera angle, and you end up with a sense of speed that’s normally reserved for racing games set in sci-fi cities.

Speed can be a rush. Our confidence slowly built with each lap, and in response we pushed our machine harder. By the last lap, we were swinging around corners at twice the speed as the first. But make no mistake – F1 2017 is all about adrenaline. It’s a pure rush, and a handful of races with alternative formats isn’t going change that.

A solid iteration on a solid franchise

F1 2016 was widely praised, and it appears F1 2017 will continue in the tradition of what made that game a hit with fans. While we’re not sure how some players will react to the new event types, they should provide some variety, and make the season mode less of a slog.

Theoretically, the game has plenty of competitors, as numerous racing games were announced at the 2017 E3 show. Yet there’s nothing quite like F1. It’s a game that goes all-in on realism, yet asks you to perform feats of speed that seem unreal.

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