The more that I play and the more than I speak about this game with others, the more I realise that F1 2017 really is a complete race-weekend title.
This dawned on me as early as my first race in career mode. Rather than my traditional route (and dare I say, one shared by many others) of signing with the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari or McLaren off-the-bat, I had decided to make things a little more interesting, a little more difficult for myself. Beginning with Toro Rosso and setting the race lengths to full, I sought the ultimate F1 experience.
Into my first of three 90-minute qualifying sessions, my performance was less than exemplary. Albert Park was a track I knew well, one I had race on before and even one that I visited in real-life (for the Melbourne GP this year no-less), but despite this, I could only manage a personal best in the mid-1:30 range. For comparison, the top-tier teams were running two-seconds faster. I tried some of the practice programs, managed to score perfect scores in all but one, but still, my times were mid-range and well behind the top-10. By the final practice my best hadn’t changed by much, and the team expectations were set – finish in 13th.
Having signed with the third team from the bottom, and after the best performance I could muster from practice, I approached qualifying with the goal of a mid-pack time, for a top-10 race result. I qualified 5th. Suddenly, things were looking promising. After a quick review of my two-stop strategy, it was lights out and the race was underway. Within the first few laps I managed to gain two additional places into third, but two things were certain – first, pole was impossible and second, with Toro Rosso, defending third place was going to be a battle for the entire 58-lap race. Which it was.
The brilliance of F1 2017 goes beyond its physics models and crisp presentation. Instead, what propels this game is just how in-control you are of the entire race experience. For me, the first event was more than just driving around the track to the chequered flag, but my entire race strategy – tires, fuel and pit-stops. Twenty laps in I had noticed two significant problems – one was that my times were beginning to suffer significantly from the tire wear, and two, my vehicle only had enough fuel for 56 laps – two laps short of the full race length. While my first pit-stop was a few laps away, the fuel issue presented a different challenge. So I tried coasting into corners but this had little effect. The only other option was to adjust the fuel mix to lean, but at the cost of slower lap times. With Bottas (Mercedes) and Raikkonen (Ferrari) less than a second behind, my podium finish was in jeopardy.
After the first pit-stop and fresh tires, it was time to address the fuel shortage. Switching to a lean fuel mix, in seven laps I had gone from 56 to 59 laps of fuel, enough to make the race and thankfully, maintain my position. Come the 58th lap and chequered flag, the second-drive for Toro Rosso finished third, smashing team expectations and his rival in the process. Two hours of preparations, an hour and a half of racing. This, is F1 2017.
As F1 2017 is built off an already strong foundation from the almost decade-long titles before it, the core elements are very much present. Graphically, the game looks fantastic and benefits from updated course and environment textures compared to previous years. All vehicles look and handle fantastically as well, and the physics model really highlights the impact of tire wear and fuel load on your vehicle’s performance. This aside though, F1 2017 introduces a number of new additions across the board to make this year’s offering more than just a rehash of F1 2016 with a new box art.
A first for the franchise, you can now participate in the formation lap before the start of each race, and further to the official championship courses, gamers have access to four shorter track variants – Silverstone, Suzuka, Circuit of the Americas and Bahrain. The career mode has also been improved and fleshed-out rather significantly, allowing you to manage wear and swap out various engine and gearbox components, as well as a much deeper R&D tree to improve your vehicle throughout the season. The practice programs from 2016 make their return, adding ‘Fuel Management’ and ‘Race Pace’, while still keeping ‘Tire Management’ (unfortunately).
Of course though, the greatest addition to F1 2017 is the inclusion of 12 historical F1 vehicles, from the 1998 McLaren MP4-13 to the 2010 Red Bull RB6. In a seasonal series like this, the opportunity to experience more than just the annual roster of modern F1 vehicles is greatly appreciated and adds both a hit of nostalgia and a welcomed challenge. Downforce and stability are noticeably different (and sometimes absent) in many of the classic vehicles (even as recent as the mid-00s Ferraris) when compared to the 2017 roster, which forces you to adjust how aggressive you are with your inputs as you switch between the eras. Being able to also participate in mixed-class racing makes for a heap of fun as you battle for position with similarly-paced vehicles, all while circumventing the older, less agile F1 vehicles of yesteryear. Undoubtedly, there are also few soundtracks better than the high-pitched hum of Schumacher’s F2004 V10.
While F1 2017 is a competent racer to say the least, it does suffer from a few minor problems. F1 2017 occasionally experiences screen-tearing, a problem that many instalments in the franchise also had, and you’ll notice the odd texture pop-in of some items in the distance from time to time. Commentary is rather generic, repeated and sometimes irrelevant, as noticed when David Croft spoke about the safety car strategy in two of my races which didn’t feature one.
Furthermore, and rather interestingly, there seems to be some inconsistency with the AI difficulty, where you might completely decimate the majority of the field, yet the driver in first and second place end up 40+ seconds ahead of you in many races. None of these are game-breaking and nor does it detract from the experience, but are noteworthy nonetheless.
For me, the true tell of a successful game is one that excites that passion for racing and vehicles. Racing is more than just laps on a circuit, but vehicle management, lap times and the thrill of the chase and victory. F1 2017 easily achieves this, and continues upon the brilliance that was F1 2016 last year. Fans of the motorsport and racing in general would certainly do well to check out this title, with Codemasters once again proving themselves as one of the leaders of the genre.
F1 2017 was reviewed using a promotional disc on Xbox One, provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.