Featured F1 2017 F1 2017 - Codemasters have made history!

Discussion in 'AOR News Feed' started by Ethan Dean, Sep 1, 2017.

  1. Ethan Dean

    Ethan Dean Semi-Pro Karter

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    Building on the success of last year's outing, Codemasters have crafted F1 2017 into one of the most immersive, polished, and complete racing titles of our time; a virtual time-capsule telling the tale of the epic clash between the Prancing Horse and the Silver Arrows.
    You may find me writing for AOR at this moment in time, but make no mistake, I've not been particularly impressed by the genre of simracing lately.

    I can name no less than four current developers who all appear to be moving in the same direction, at various rates, striving to provide a "smorgasbord" experience comprised of as many disciplines of racing as possible. This sounds enticing on paper, but unfortunately this is not the case in reality, as the constant pursuit of physical perfection for multitudes of different racing vehicles appears to consume everything else in its path. Gone, seemingly, are the days of titles such as GTR2 and NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, which focus on representing one series and tailoring the gameplay experience around it; you're now given a multitude of cars, and just as many tracks to drive them on, however the sheer variety leads the gameplay mechanics built around the admittedly sublime physics to be spread very thin indeed. For example, your F1 car gets a functional DRS system, however the AI isn't programmed to use it within the correct rules because Cody McDevface had to spend his time fixing that irksome issue where they fly off the Nordschleife at Schwedenkreuz if they try to tackle it in the Toyota Supra MKIV on street tires. It's impossible to have all of these different racing disciplines and provide a compelling gameplay experience for each at the same time; I long for the days when devs picked a single series and stuck with it, devoting all of their resources to fleshing out the experience as much as possible.

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    Fight for glory all the way from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi, through blazing desert heat and freezing rainfall.
    This is where Codemasters comes in. Since 2010, the Birmingham-based team have provided us with one of the last true bastions of the feature-complete, polished, single-series racing titles of old in the form of their F1 series. The road has been bumpy at times, with their 2015 offering garnering a less-than-stellar reception, but they recovered brilliantly with F1 2016 and show no signs of stopping. Catalysed by the solid foundation provided by last year's title, F1 2017 is not only one of the finest Codemasters releases to date, but is a strong contender for one of the best F1 games ever released - if not one of the best racing titles ever released. A bold statement for sure, but one I feel is justified given all that it offers to fanatics of the racing series it depicts.
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    The visual quality of the animated drivers and key personnel is absolutely startling.
    I've always been a firm believer that the devil is in the details, and F1 2017 delivers these in spades. As you enter career mode, you're welcomed into an experience which has so much depth and detail that it almost feels out of place in a racing game. You exit your agent's office after a quick chat about your contract, and see before you a bustling hospitality area backdropped by the Melbourne skyline; all major team bosses and drivers have been rendered with uncanny realism, so if you find yourself in a contract with Ferrari you'll see an animated Kimi Raikkonen or Sebastian Vettel chatting with crew members in the corner whilst Maurizio Arrivabene relaxes on the couch in front of you. I've even spotted Sky F1 commentators Anthony Davidson and David Croft on occasion, which is almost beyond detail. The Three-Dimensional Adventures of Ant and Crofty are nothing new, having debuted in F1 2016 a year prior, but I have to mention them because... Codemasters. Chill.

    Adding to the immersion is an all-new trackside PA system, with the spoken language localised to each track, blaring over the packed grandstands and discussing relevant F1 news such as Force India's livery change, the new aerodyamic regulations, and even giving a shoutout to Billy "BillyWhizz" Monger. You'll notice the same phrases repeating over and over again over the course of a race weekend, but its finity is understandable; it's still a great little detail which adds depth and immersion to the experience. Having just come from F1 2016's career mode after numerous run-ins with Nico Rosberg (more on that later), it was somewhat striking to hear the PA talk about his shock retirement and subsequent absence; it added something of a story arc, a continuity, between the two titles.
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    The all-new R&D tree is an F1 tech nerd's dream.
    Animated drivers and trackside PAs are brilliant immersion-boosters, but the extremes of F1 2017's depth lie in wait. All-new for this year is the R&D Tree, where you can guide development of your team in a mind-boggling amount of directions. Outright performance and reliability upgrades are a given, but there is now variability in their success; new parts may either be an improvement or a step backwards, and their development can also be delayed, meaning you could be waiting a week or two beyond due date for a component which isn't even guaranteed to be successful. This sounds very accurate if you're a turbo-nerd like me and catch the senior personnel press conferences which precede each real-world race weekend. You can also decrease upgrade point costs by spending on the efficiency of the development facility, and upgrading the quality assurance department will lessen the chances of an upgrade being delayed for further tweaking. Also available are graphs which compare your stats to those of your rivals in multiple areas such as aerodynamics, powertrain performance, and reliability.

    Adding to this, each major component of the power unit now exhibits wear and tear; revving too high will wear the main internal combustion engine, while excessive use of the rich fuel mix will strain the MGU-K. You can damage the MGU-H by overheating, and driving over rough surfaces such as kerbs and gravel will damage your control electronics. All of these components must be taken care of, and you only have five of each to utilise throughout the season as well as five gearboxes. Using any beyond your allocation will incur grid penalties, as per the real world; the sheer depth Codemasters have created in both vehicle development and management is simply unbelievable.

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    Codemasters really brought their A-game when it came to making F1 2017 as good on-track as it is off.
    Physics-wise, I can safely say that F1 2017 is an improvement over its predecessor in just about every way. Gone is that strange, vague oversteer on corner exit; the car feels planted and controllable, and you can really feel the limit and power out of corners straight and true. It's a great deal easier to be quick and consistent, and because of the new power unit wear modelling, you also feel like you're responsible for a lot more than just driving flat-out lap after lap. I chose the McLaren for my initial foray into Pro Career mode, because I'm a masochist, and the power deficit from the Honda engine was striking; it was at a total of 25% wear just from practice, so through a 100% distance race I really had to concentrate on balancing speed with babying the car. The prospect of completing an entire season within my allocation of power units was daunting at that rate of wear, and looking at McLaren-Honda's current struggles in the real world this appears to be spot on. Competing in a career-mode race in F1 2017 just feels like so much more than driving; it feels like you have an actual machine to take care of.

    I also note improvements in the garage area. In last year's instalment, I really had trouble feeling out my setup changes unless it was a major adjustment like downforce or brake bias. Car setup in F1 2017, to me at least, feels a lot more intuitive and in-line with the hardcore simulators on the market. All of the adjustment options remain the same, but this time I can really feel the effects of the changes I make; I can just do my thing like in any other simulator and it all works as it should. Of course, I would love to see stuff like live static ride heights, damper adjustment, bump stops, and especially inner/middle/outer temperatures for each tire to really get the most out of it, but I understand not wanting to overcomplicate things.

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    Your opponents are now able to race with competence and calculation, and just the right amount of aggression.
    Moving on to AI, this area has seen significant improvement. Ultimate-level AI in last year's offering was overly aggressive, and had severe player-awareness issues to the point where it was borderline gamebreaking. Recently, I was doing Pro Career in F1 2016 to give some continuity to my upcoming start in F1 2017; I found my way to the lead at the Monaco Grand Prix, and was able to hold it because Monaco. Nico Rosberg was hot on my tail for pretty much the entire race, and hit me in the rear a few times; this culminated in him getting fed up and spinning me into the wall as we approached the Nouvelle Chicane, ending my race. I was on lap 75 of 78. Needless to say, I rage-deleted my entire save, and just sat waiting for F1 2017 to be released. You cannot send people into 100% distance races, which take a decent amount of preparation and practice in order to be competetitive against ultimate-level AI, and then have that happen.

    Thankfully, the AI has been pretty much fixed, and in fact vastly improved. I've had them hang on around the outside, back out of dangerous situations, and most importantly respect my presence; they seem to genuinely calculate when and when not to make a move. Big props to Codemasters here, as the AI is genuinely fun to race against now and exhibit a great degree of competence. The only issue I see is that they still like to form conga lines into corners, allowing you to Leeroy Jenkins up the inside and gain positions like nothing, but overall the AI is significantly improved, and I no longer have to worry about the car behind becoming possessed by the spirit of Daniil Kvyat circa Sochi 2016.

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    It's not just modern metal you get to play with.
    Another major talking point is the reintroduction of classic cars, a concept first introduced in F1 2013 and absent since. I will say some of these are hit-and-miss in terms of driving feel; everything starting from the Renault R26 feels as solid and planted as the 2017 cars, and I'd be willing to say the McLaren MP4-23 and Red Bull RB6 are some of the most enjoyable sim cars I've ever driven, however everything from from the Ferrari F2004 down exhibits this strange behaviour where the rear end wallows and wanders as if on casters. Not a gamebreaker, but certainly irksome. Codemasters have at least implemented full H-pattern gearbox support, so you can heel-toe and skip gears around Monaco in the McLaren MP4/4 and MP4/6 to your heart's content. These classic cars are implemented in career mode in the form of invitational events which resemble the real-world Boss GP series; even if this resemblance isn't intentional, it does add a sense of realism to the idea of an elite rich-guy series where historic F1 cars of the eras depicted in F1 2017's classic car lineup are raced.

    Along with H-pattern support for the earlier McLarens, Codemasters went the extra mile elsewhere in overall configuration. The comprehensive cockpit camera settings from F1 2016 return, in addition to TrackIR support, and the ability to save different control profiles is equivalent to any hardcore sim on the market; you also now have the ability to map in-car settings like brake bias, fuel mix, and differential entry/exit to individual buttons, as well as the manual pit limiter (another new feature for this year's title) and the wheel-mounted clutch used for modern-era race starts and pitbox exits. Yours truly dreams of building a legit F1 rim to make use of this in a more ergonomic manner (the leather bunchup in the G29's stock wheel rim gives me blisters on my thumbs, so there's that too).

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    The impressive visual fidelity can be showcased to great effect with the new Photo Mode.

    Worth an honourable mention is the new Photo Mode. I'm beyond ecstatic that Codemasters implemented this, and I can safely say it's one of the very best photo-modes I've used. A fairly wide range of colour filters, along with intuitive and effective controls for brightness, contrast, exposure and shutter speed among others, give the player a lot of control to unleash his or her creativity and take some truly stunning photographs. The only negative is that the depth-of-field blur is a hair too strong; a sharpness control for it would be a significant upgrade.

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    F1 2017 is visually stunning across the board.

    F1 2017 does a lot right, but there are a couple more negatives I want to add to the meagre handful already touched upon. You are now able to manually launch out of the pitbox by holding the clutch and building the revs as per race starts, but the whole sequence feels unnatural and jarring; in reality, you hear the driver build the revs pretty much as soon as he's stopped, but here the RPMs won't respond until the green exit light comes on. When you do launch, there's no throttle modulation needed, you merely set the car on its way along its pre-defined animation path. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting full car control, but I did hope to be able to hold the clutch and build revs as soon as I stopped, dump it on the green light, and modulate the throttle on the way out with the whole process feeling the same as a race start. I also lament the lack of delta time and lap count on the steering wheel; Pro Career disallows the use of the HUD except for the Multi-Function Display in the lower right, so I have to use a third-party dashboard app on my phone for lap count and I pretty much have to guess at my delta during Virtual Safety Car periods.

    Regardless, the positives outweigh the negatives by an unspeakable amount. If the cons are Earth, the pros are Betelgeuse in comparison; describing every positive detail about my experience with F1 2017 would take far too many paragraphs to fully describe, so I'll just say that for a true F1 fanatic the entire experience is sublime from top to bottom.

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    This combination certainly kickstarted my nostalgia.

    Codemasters have truly outdone themselves and made something very special with F1 2017, and I hope it goes on to rank alongside Grand Prix 4 and Grand Prix Legends as one of the all-time greats. If you're creating an outright simulator for training or otherwise, then obviously physics are indeed the be-all end-all; but if you want to create a compelling experience which touches the hearts and minds of motor racing fans and leaves a lasting impression on them, it has to be so much more than that. It's one thing feeling like I'm actually driving an F1 car, but quite another feeling like I'm actually competing in a real F1 season myself.
    And that does more for my old boyhood dream than any precisely calculated slip angle or fancy thermodynamic tire model ever will.

    Overall Rating: 9.5/10
     
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  2. AddictivePenguin

    AddictivePenguin Pro Karter

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    A truly great review for a truly great game! I kind of hate F1 2017 because it stole development time from Dirt 4 resulting in a semi-finished game, but at least it paid off. I fully agree with your statement that the racing game industry is becoming full of messy titles which have the content, but lack the immersion and feel. Unfortunately, filling up games with cars and tracks is by far more profitable and the only reason the F1 games series makes money is partly because of how big Formula 1 is as a sport. That's my opinion anyway.

    Good job on the review once again.
     
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