I have never really been a fan of racing games. There have been a few over the years that I have enjoyed like, for example, Need for Speed: Underground 2, which I played to death on my PS2 back in the day, and the Burnout series has always been fun too. I think it’s mainly since I hit adulthood that I have just tended to stay away from racing titles. With this, I have never really been a fan of Formula 1 either. I would watch it on occasions with my dad when I was younger, but it has never appealed to me. This is boding well for a good review, huh? But, I have been pleasantly surprised by F1 2017. It is a game with an unbelievable amount of depth (for an F1 noob like me, that is), but if you take the time to learn, even a novice like me can feel like an accomplished driver.
F1 2017 is the first racing game I have properly played in at least 6 or 7 years, perhaps longer. Eager to see what the action was like, I jumped straight into a quick race. “How hard could it be?”, I thought. The answer, at this stage at least, very. 20 seconds into my first race, I was disqualified for causing a 10 car pile-up; Destruction Derby this is not, it seems. I searched for a tutorial mode, but alas, all I found were tutorial videos. After watching these, I did actually feel like I had learned a little bit about how F1 works, both in a sense of the actual sport and the gameplay in F1 2017. Instead of jumping straight into the thick of it again, I thought the best place to learn how to actually play this game would be in the career mode.
Anyone looking for a cinematic, Hollywood-styled career mode like the NBA 2K games or last year’s Journey mode in FIFA 17, I am afraid you’ll be disappointed. This is just a standard work-your-way-up-the-ladder career mode, but do not let that put you off. After a bad start when I decided to join the Red Bull team (because I like the drink), it became clear I had chosen a team too well advanced for my skill set. So, I started again and decided to go for the more forgiving and achievable McLaren Honda. After a couple of introductions, I was faced with the hugely intimidating career hub. It is here where you can swap different components of the car to try and shave a couple of seconds off your lap time or replace damaged components. I’m sure F1 fanatics will be right at home here, but for a noob like me, I just went Austin Powers cross-eyed.
Career mode follows the actual F1 structure, and you will take part in three practice sessions, a qualifier, then of course, the race itself. The practice sessions are VITAL if you are going to get anywhere in the race itself. There are six (optional) practices to complete. Each one you do will help with the race. Track Acclimatisation will help you learn all the bends and straights of the circuit, while Fuel Saving and Tire Management will help you to keep away from the pit as much as possible. All these are optional, and you can just skip straight ahead to qualifying if you feel you are a true racing god who needs no practice. If you do choose to skip these practice sessions though, you will miss out on the possible Research Points you could win from completing the objectives.
Before each stage, you are given the opportunity to set how long you want the race to last (25%-100%) and the difficulty level of the AI drivers. The higher this setting, the more Research Points you can potentially win. These points are used in the hugely intimidating skill tree. Really, this behemoth will give any RPG a run for its money. Thankfully, for clueless people like me, there is a recommended research button, but F1 enthusiasts will love a number of options here.
When Practice and Qualifiers are out of the way, which you have the choice to set as one lap or partial/full qualifier, it’s racing time, baby. Sports games can have all these wonderful extras to help make the experience more enjoyable, but if the gameplay of the actual sport they are simulating sucks, then it’s game over, man. Thankfully, F1 2017 gets the racing spot on. This is not an arcade-like racer, this is not about getting into 1st place on the 1st lap and just going through the motions. You have to think, drive tactfully and wait for your opportunities. Funnily enough, even though you are bombing down a track at well over 100 mph, this really is a race, not a sprint. One wrong move can cost you four or five places, especially early on as the cars are all much closer together. It is also legitimately scary when you are driving around these tracks. Codemasters have managed to make you feel like you really are traveling at 140 mph. On a clear day, it might be scary, when it is raining, it really is heart racing (excuse the pun, actually, no don’t, I am quite pleased with that one) and terrifying but terrifyingly fun. Thanks to the extensive practice sessions, you will truly feel like you know the tracks like the real-world drivers do.
In-between the races, you will be invited to various invitationals. These are a great way to break up the championship races by giving you some fun objectives, like seeing how many cars you can overtake in a time limit. During these quick events, you will also have the opportunity to race in some iconic F1 games from days gone past that even I recognized!
F1 2017 does suffer from something that plagued another big release from this year, but it is no way near as damaging: facial animations. There is no sugar coating this, they are awful. Thankfully, you can just skip past it all, really. The generic characters that make up your race team and agent aren’t too bad (they still aren’t great), but it’s the other real-world drivers that just look laughable.
Out of career mode, there is enough content to keep petrol heads entertained for many months to come. There are, of course, just quick races, but there are also just standard Championships to compete in which focus on the race itself rather than the practice and build-up where you can again take the wheel of one of the legendary cars available. You can also test you driving skills online in a race with a full grid with 19 other players. With the brilliant career mode and these other modes, F1 2017 will be racing around players’ consoles for a while yet.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 25th August 2017