Racing titles have been my favorite genre of games pretty much since the beginning. Even so, I’ve always found myself gravitating more towards the selection of arcade racers over their simulator counterparts. It’s not because I dislike racing sims, I simply enjoy the more absurd fun that arcade racers offer. That’s probably the reason why F1 2018 gave me a serious case of road rash. It’s not bad by any means. In fact, I consider it the most in-depth racing simulator I’ve tried so far. Rather ironically, it’s for that reason that I’ve basically developed a love-hate relationship with it.
F1 2018 offers just about everything you’re looking for in a racing sim. The driving feels very nice, but it took some getting used to for me. I’ve always raced with a gamepad, but this was the first game that in doing so made me feel like I was at a disadvantage. That’s because F1 2018 has very high expectations for its players. The driving mechanics are stimulated so well that they’re best complemented by the proper input methods of a steering wheel and pedals. I don’t have access to those tools, so I had to suck it up and stick with my Xbox One controller. But I eventually came to grips with it. I especially like the fact that this game actually makes use of the trigger rumble motors. I’ve never experienced this on Windows 10 outside of Microsoft-published franchises like Forza.
Drive it like you stole it
The overall driving experience in F1 2018 really feels like there’s an art to it all. Getting behind the wheel of a nimble and crazy powerful vehicle like a Formula One racer offers an incredibly exhilarating experience. But like a wild stallion, you get bucked off if you don’t know how to tame such power. These cars respond to even the slightest input. This leads you to having to get into a rhythm of knowing when to slow down, speed up, turn, and coast—all at the right times.
Doing any maneuver too early or late won’t just affect your ever-important lap time, it will also lead to spinouts and/or collisions with the track, or even other drivers. Again, F1 2018’s expectations are high, so mastering the track layouts and your vehicle handling are the key to success. Even so, there are so many variables to take into account that it almost felt overwhelming to me for a good while.
The parts of your vehicle will develop wear and tear as you use them. So, car maintenance is just as important as maintaining a good racing technique; they’re one in the same, really. Having a part start to fail mid championship race was both impressive and frustrating all at once. I couldn’t decide whether to be surprised as to how well the effect was being simulated or livid that this just so happened to occur right when I’m trying to finish up a near 20-minute race.
Points in your favor
On the topic of parts, I also found it interesting how you go about acquiring new ones in this game. Unlike most other racers, you technically don’t earn money. Rather, there are Resource Points which allow you to purchases new parts. You mainly earn Resource Points by completing various test programmes during the three practice sessions before a championship Career race. Of course, following all the rules and coming in a high position during the actual qualifying and championship races will also nab you some extra points. Still, the actual part-upgrading system is just as unconventional.
F1 2018 employs an RPG-like format for car upgrades. Your vehicle is divided into four categories—aerodynamics, chassis, powertrain, and durability. Each of these has their own sub-sections. So, you upgrade each of these sections gradually. Ordering new parts is also different since you’ll always have to wait for time to pass before they get to you, mimicking the real-world process of shopping and handling. Parts can even be damaged during shipment, which forces you to order again at the cost of more Resource Points. Again, I’m impressed that so many little details are simulated, but it’s still strangely infuriating sometimes.
A face made for TV
Another factor you have to be mindful of is your words and actions—yet another very realistic feature. As you go through the racing season, you’ll speak to the media for short interviews. Your responses will have an effect on how your team feels about you. Even your competitors will take notice of what you say in front of the camera. Maintaining a good reputation as a racer and teammate is crucial to coming out on top during contract negotiations. It’s not fun getting rejected by a team, and rejected you will be if a team doesn’t view you as valuable enough. This is especially true if you go up there and bad mouth them or cop an attitude. It’s an interesting system that ties into the aforementioned RPG elements. Although, I’m not sure if it was a truly necessary inclusion; some may find it too cumbersome.
Balancing out my vehicle was one thing, but adapting to the different tracks is what threw me off the most. F1 2018 offers 21 real-world race courses. They all look highly detailed, but there are definitely some that I prefer over others. For instance, the Canada track felt just wide enough to where I could move around without too much worry. Even the turns weren’t too extreme. But then you have the wonderful designs of tracks like Australia and Monaco, which are products of the devil as far as I’m concerned. The hairpin turns and cramped corridors just made for an overall annoying experience.
Thunder and lighting
Again, it’s not a fault of the game. It just further emphasizes that it wants you to be as good of a driver as possible, being able to adapt to any situation. Whether it’s car trouble, difficult courses, and, yes, even the elements. Monaco in the rain will give me nightmares for weeks, no matter how pretty it looks.
Actually, when it comes to beauty, this is where F1 2018 is the least stress-inducing for me. While I found Forza Motorsport 7’s lighting system more impressive, the tracks in F1 2018 all look pretty decent. This is especially the case for city-based tracks like the aforementioned miserable Monaco (I still hate it). The roar of the engines is especially engaging, though. Hearing the screams and whines of these turbocharged beasts on straightaways never gets old. Even their soft wind-down while slowing for a turn is music to my ears. Codemasters’ sound department should be proud; the engine captures are commendable.
Serious drivers need apply
Still, for all the things that F1 2018 does well, it’s actually made me appreciate arcade racers like Forza Horizon 3 even more. It’s a truly impressive simulator, don’t get me wrong, but it appeals to a niche market. If you’re someone who likes to race for fun, a game like F1 2018 might turn you off due to its complexity and focus on being “proper.” There are some extra events like Pursuits and Overtakes which offer a much more laid-back experience than the traditional racing season, especially since they have you doing them in historical Formula One cars. Whilst charming, you will miss more than half the game’s content if you only focused on these.
F1 2018 is meant for the core racing enthusiasts first and foremost. If you do happen to like realistic racers but don’t want something as technical, I’d recommend Forza Motorsport 7. Nevertheless, Codemasters provided a great experience, as expected. Perhaps if I give myself time, I’ll grow to enjoy F1 2018 for what it truly is—a genuinely authentic racing sim. But, for now, I feel like I need a nap. My mind’s tired from the constant concentration. Stupid Monaco…