by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Lights out, away we go
It’s hard to keep up with a sport that changes its rules every year, and it must be even harder to create an annual game that has to implement these changes. The main appeal of the F1 games has always been the simulation aspect, and this year’s iteration is no different. Changes you make to the car have tangible effects, and the career mode goes a little bit further towards showing you the life of an F1 driver. The lights are out, and F1 2017 is racing onto the scene.
The career mode will be the draw for the majority of people, especially those who want the full, in-depth, F1 experience. It’s entirely possible to spend hours in the game in menus and on the practice track before you even line up on the grid in Australia in week one of the season. In fact, you’re encouraged to put as many miles in as you feel necessary, as the more you drive, and the more practice targets you hit, the more upgrade points you’ll accumulate. With all the data you’ve given the engineering team, you can then decide where to put these points. It looks a lot like a strategy game tech tree, or an RPG ability unlock system. There are four branches you can take, and you need to unlock earlier upgrades to access the rest of them.
Choose your own road
The four categories of upgrade are your chassis, aerodynamics, powertrain, and durability. You’ll want to investigate how your car compares to the others on the grid, and make your choices accordingly. Playing as a Williams, I upgraded my chassis in order to catch up to competitors, but felt the effects of a lack of durability later on in the season. There are six particular internal parts you need to be aware of, and you only have a total of four of each to use during the season. You’ll need to swap them out when they accumulate wear, but if you have to order new parts, you’ll suffer a grid penalty for the next race. Equally, you only have four gearboxes to use, and you need to use each one in six races (a tall order), or again, you’ll suffer a penalty.
As for the actual racing, the cars feel excellent on the track. You have a great deal of customisation when it comes to how many assists you want to turn on too, such as traction control, anti-lock brakes, a racing line to tell you where to brake, and so on. There’s a huge amount of granularity in the difficulty of the AI you’re racing too. The slider ranging from 0-110 lets you select the exact level of difficulty for you. It’s noticeable too, with your opponents driving better both offensively and defensively as you increase the slider. One slight hiccup occurred when it seemed at least half the grid took a starting position penalty for swapping out gearboxes at Monaco, probably the last location where you want to take a starting position penalty.
The cars grip to the surface beautifully, and if you go off course and pick up some gravel or grass, you’ll feel the lack of grip until it wears off. If you clip the front wing, you’ll feel the lack of downforce as you struggle to take corners at the same speed as you were before your accident. If one of your internals starts acting up, you’ll notice that too. You might take longer to shift between gears, or you might lose a gear entirely. It’s all part of the simulation experience, and knowing the car behind you is catching you as your car starts to fall apart beneath you with only a few laps left in the race is an exhilarating experience.
Blast from the past
In between races in the career mode, you might be invited to take part in classic car events, with different objectives other than simply finishing a race in the best position you can. These events feature some of the famous, and championship winning, cars of yesteryear, like the 1991 McLaren MP4/6, the 2010 Red Bull RB6, and the 2002 Ferrari F2002. Again, you can feel the difference between these cars and the modern vehicles, especially how narrow and terrifyingly lightweight these machines were when travelling at phenomenal speeds. The classic events have you doing overtake challenges, where you have to pass as many cars as possible in the time limit. Or you might have to drive as far as you can on a track where time is ticking down, and there are only a few checkpoint scattered around it which give you extra seconds to work with.
Multiplayer has seen some improvements too, with the addition of spectator slots for live streams, where there are specific, non-racer slots in a race for commentators to occupy. As for the game modes, you can compete in an online championship against other drivers, or simply take part in a custom single event. You can create your own, turning on assists, adding in AI drivers, changing the weather, and determining whether cars can hit each other and whether they take damage or not.
Overall then, it’s hard to level any complaints at F1 2017. It’s one of the best simulation racing games around, with the one caveat being that you probably have to be a fan of F1 to enjoy it. Open wheel racing isn’t for everyone, but if you do enjoy the fastest form of racing around, F1 2017 is hard to pass up.
Cars feel fantastic, deep career mode, extra classic cars
Occasional bad decisions from AI