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Imitation game // Codemasters' 2017 F1 release improves on the last

Published by Lukeh

It is that time of year again where a new F1 game graces the world and this year Codemasters have brought a real treat in F1 2017. If last year's instalment was a promising lap on fresh tyres then F1 2017 are the tyres being up to temperature and putting in personal bests as Codemasters have absolutely found their strongest title today with the F1 franchise this year.

Boasting an absolutely ridiculous amount of content, the return of classic cars, slick visuals that seem to improve every year and an expansion upon what was already there F1 2017 comes with a real sense of confidence and refinement. Codemasters could easily sit back and not add new things but keep refining the gameplay each year but whilst they do absolutely do this there's a real depth to the amount of ways to enjoy F1 2017 that I'll try my best to update you on.

Career advice

One of the areas that Codemasters build on each year since they ran with the 'Live the Life' gimmick is the Career mode and F1 2017's career mode brings a whole new level of strategic depth to it with the improved car development. It almost feels like an RPG in places in that you are boosting the strength of your team's reliability, engine, development success and other areas of the team and car that could either see successful upgrades to the car come in or failures that leave you back at the drawing board. You really do have to balance out where you want to improve your car - do you want to focus on power or is reliability dragging you down? Are the power units and their parts too flimsy and are you falling foul of penalties because of this? You really have to take a step back and think about where to focus your time over the course of the season (with the career itself lasting up to 10 years).

Williams artwork in F1 2017
Credit: Codemasters

I must say that even with all the penalties that mirror the harsh penalties in real life when it comes to power units and gearboxes it is quite stressful working out how you're going to go about looking after your car. You are at risk of grid penalties and the like for using too many power units and gearboxes and there's a sense of realism in that some teams are better than others with the reliabilities of their cars. You know exactly what I mean - yes, you will fall foul of failures if you're in a certain orange car.

You really have to take a step back and think about where to focus your time over the course of the season

In fact failures come as part of one of the new things that adds even more unpredictability to the game. Given the focus on making you rconsider the best route of action for your car, both yourself and the AI can fall foul of failures mid race too with gearboxes losing gears and engines blowing up once they're at the end of their life. On a number of times in the career so far I've really had to consider how many laps to do in practise and qualifying for the sake of getting my car through the weekend and moving onto new parts at the next race.

One of the neater new additions to the game integrates itself into the career mode very nicely too and that is the return of the classic cars. 12 cars, ranging from classic Ferraris, 90s McLarens and modern day Renaults and Red Bulls can all be raced and used in special events that pop up during your season to break up the stress of fighting for your drive or dealing with the woes of the strict rules. It really breaks things up a bit and keeps the career feeling quite fresh when you can pop off to an alternative layout of a few tracks on the calendar and race some old school V10s that have some particularly impressive sound design.

Control freak

Away from F1 2017's career mode though there is still a colossal amount of content and ways to enjoy the game. A new Championships mode provides a few alternative championships to enjoy, whether that be a street racing championship, wet races only championship or a few other options that provide smaller, quicker shots at a title without the long haul of a career. There are a few fun ideas in these championships and again it's a really nice idea that allows people to enjoy the game in a different way.

Ferrari artwork in F1 2017
Credit: Codemasters

If, like me, you play with a control pad then you'll be happy to know as well that F1 2017 handles very nicely on a controller. It's not a huge departure from last year but everything feels smoother with the wider cars and as always you can tell that Codemasters have taken a considerable amount of time to get that balance right. I'm sure it'll feel even better using a steering wheel to play the game but even with the myriad of options to view your car's settings, temperatures, performance and talk to the engineer it still all fits comfortably onto the limited buttons of a controller.

F1 2017 is also a very pretty game to play with it running at 60 fps on consoles and soon to be enhanced by the Xbox One X release in November, as well as already being enhanced for the PS4 Pro. Whilst I'm only playing on a normal Xbox One at the moment I'm sure the enhancements will make it look even better but if you're not lucky enough to either have a PS4 Pro or be picking up the new Xbox One X it more than does the job on the standard consoles. It is important for a racing game to be smooth and consistent and Codemasters haven't let themselves down in this department.

You'll be happy to know as well that F1 2017 handles very nicely on a controller

Whilst I'm not a huge online multiplayer fan - split screen is still missing and I'm very much missing it - the options are all there to enjoy the game online and continue with online championships as well as the inclusion of having two broadcast spots for online races to allow people to commentate on them. That's a really neat addition, I think, that further enhances the recent announcement of the first ever F1 esports championship and the first real embrace of virtual technology from the sport for online racing. I'm really interested to see how it goes and who knows, perhaps it'll get me more interested in online racing? The momentum is there with F1 finally embracing the digital world and having a partner like Codemasters making really strong games for the sport is a huge, huge bonus.

There's still work that can be done but I understand the limitations of the F1 license. If we could get driver markets in the career mode and more classic cars as well as more extra tracks to really open up the possibilities of the Championship mode then that would be amazing. However that shouldn't take away from the fact that F1 2017 really does build on the success of last year's game and come back with an even stronger instalment this year around. There was a time with F1 games where I felt they got a bit stale but I do think that Codemasters in the last few years have really found their confidence with the license. There's so much to the game that I just haven't been able to fit in here without going on and on and yet I'm sure in years to come there will be even more added. It's a good time to be an F1 fan in the world of gaming.

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