[images DL link: https://app.box.com/v/f12017 ]
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
We’ve reviewed every iteration of the F1 racing franchise of video games since 2012. When you fire up F1 2017, it becomes immediately clear that is the most polished and refined iteration ever. Depending on your tastes and preferences however, F1 2017 is either the best version Codemasters has ever created, or one of the worst.
It all comes down minutia and tedium, and how you feel about those things.
Let’s start with the basic high level stuff. From a visual and racing standpoint, F1 2017 is stunning. The graphics are as sharp and crisp as ever, and the backgrounds of the racing circuits look tremendous. Lighting is improved, and shadows and car reflections appear realistic and add a lot of drama to the racing. Watching the shadows scatter across the cockpit as you come through the trees at Monza is gorgeous.
The actual racing is just as impressive as ever also. The physics engine has been tweaked even more, and the new 2017 cars feel astonishing to drive. The improved mechanical grip is immediately noticeable when you step from 2016 to 2017, and the cars feel completely different to drive. We found ourselves altering our braking points and altering our lines at almost every track thanks to the new handling.
The AI racers have also received an upgrade, and they are better than ever. The computer racers were always a strong point for F1, but they just feel more realistic this time around. Where previous iterations would see them aggressively attack gaps and punish lazy drivers, they would never outright fight for a position. This changes for 2017, and I can’t count the number of times I would nudge into the corner slightly to “force” the computer to back off, when instead it would just brake a touch later, cut inside and take off a chunk of my front wing. A little punishment to me for assuming that the computer was weak and unchallenging. Again, it’s a subtle difference, but one that has changed my gaming experience for the better.
But for me, the greatest addition to F1 2017, is the return of classic cars. Vintage machines hit the F1 series in 2013, and then were abruptly ripped from our grasp with no sign of return. Being able to experience the magic of bygone racing eras has continually left F1 2013 as my highlight in the series. Now that classic cars have returned, F1 2017 is officially my king of the series. Best yet, these cars now have better integration. In 2013, the classic cars were sidelined into secondary modes, but F1 2017 sees them arrive front and center into the main career mode. During your main play through of the game you get some mid-season events that feature the classic cars. It does feel slightly tacked on in its implementation, but it is a welcome change.
Another notable change that deserves some serious mentioning, racers can now choose to be female. It might not matter to many of you out there, but I promise it’s a powerful move. A dear friend of mine has a daughter who has started kart racing. She loves the sport dearly, and seeing her joy and elation at being able to choose a female racer is worth every dollar and minute of time Codemasters spent making it happen.
It’s a big list of pros for F1 2017, but not everything is sunshine and podium finishes. In the rush to add so many improvements in the span of a year, Codemasters has recycled some old pieces from 2015 and 2016, and it is starting to feel glaring obvious. Firstly, the human models are hideous to look at. The uncanny valley attacks in full force, and watching slightly doughy version of familiar faces contort and dance around during podium celebrations or paddock sections feels terrifying. It’s been three years, Codemasters. Just do some modeling upgrades to those faces, please. And while we are making improvement wishes, can we please get some new podium celebrations? Seeing the same dance over and over for three years now is well beyond stale. You couldn’t even take the time to add Daniel Ricciardo’s now famous “shoey?!”
If you are a fan of racing with a steering wheel, you will again be disappointed in F1 2017. While games like Project CARS have nearly perfected steering wheel input control, F1 still lags behind. It’s a usable system, of course, but it lacks some of the nuance and precision that we have come to expect from our racing simulations.
And finally, we reach the biggest crux on what will make you love or hate F1 2017. The new Career mode has been completely revamped and overhauled with some of the most aggressive management systems ever put into a racing game. Race and engine management has always been part of the F1 franchise, but it has been expanded to a level we have never seen before. Your entire team’s success is going to rest on how you manage an expansive and evolving selection of upgrades and research trees. To give you an idea of just how large of an expansion, there are more than four times as many upgrade and research items when compared to F1 2016. There are now 115 items in total that you can use to enhance or alter your car over the course of the season.
And you will need to pay attention to these items if you hope to have any success. Just like in real Formula One racing, each team will have strengths and weakness that you need to track and balance over the season. And it can pretty stressful as well. You can find that mid-season your closest rival has really improved their handling compared to you. So now you have to decide if you should research more aero to regain that previous advantage, or do you keep pursuing top speed to counter balance them. And that doesn’t take into account how you have to manage your car’s overall health.
Again, just like in the real racing series, each team has a very limited number of parts that will wear down over the season, so you need to keep track of that as well to avoid grid penalties and premature part failures. It can be very overwhelming for some, and exhilarating for others.
And this is where I have a hard time recommending F1 2017. The overall game is easily the best it’s ever been, and the multiplayer and various non-career modes offer hours and hours of fun. But unless the thought of micromanaging a whole F1 team sounds exciting, most of the game’s main career mode will probably bore you. And it’s really a shame. For certain, there are a massive number of players who will love the greater depth of F1 2017, but if you are a Kimi Raikonnen-style driver who just wants to be left alone to drive a race car, you might want to hesitate on your F1 2017 purchase.
F1 2017 was reviewed on using early-access “retail” code provided to us by Codemasters. All of our testing was completed on the “Project Stingray” test PC using an Xbox One controller and a Logitech G920 wheel.
[linkback to Corvette Forum for Project Stingray]
[ED NOTE: I didn’t know how you would want to format this, so I included two alterations –Moe]
Project Stingray Specs:
Case: NZXT Noctis 450
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K
Mobo: Gigabyte Gaming G1 Z170X
GPU: Gigabyte GTX 980Ti G1 Gaming (x2)
RAM: G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3200 32GB
Storage: Crucial MX300 2TB (x4 in RAID0)
Case: NZXT Noctis 450 – CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K – Mobo: Gigabyte Gaming G1 Z170X – GPU: Gigabyte GTX 980Ti G1 Gaming (x2) – RAM: G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3200 32GB – Storage: Crucial MX300 2TB (x4 in