The last Formula 1 game they I played was F1 2013 so this review will not be coming from someone who is an expert at car racing games or is a regular to the series at all. There will be plenty of other reviews out there for those of you who have played every Formula 1 game for the past ten years and who can survive at this game on the elite expert level. I will be looking at F1 2017 from the perspective of is it worth getting back into the series and is it fun for those of you out there that are just not an elite racing driver. Saying that I do consider racing games as the genre of game that excites me the most and the style of game that really drew me into gaming at a very young age. Over the thirty odd years of gaming Formula 1 games have always pulled me back in as they are definitely a game to try and master.
The one thing that always saw me leave the series every time was just how unforgiving the games could be. Honestly, I love playing out a full racing weekend, using the practice sessions and warm ups to get the set up right and learn the track. Then prepare for qualifying and eventually get into the race. However, it was at this stage I would make one silly mistake and damage a wheel, wing or worse and that would mean I was in the pits and at the back of the field racing in clean air trying to catch up before the race was over. This was not what the developers would have wanted for their game but to play with damage on and not be the best then this was the result and I would walk away. Sure I could race with damage off but that just defeated the whole purpose and I should have just gone and played Daytona at the arcade.
After jumping into F1 2017 for the first time I was taken back by how forgiving the game was. On numerous occasions, I slid a little too much out of a corner as I accelerated that little bit too early and tapped the wall. This event didn’t spell an end to my run at all which was a great relief. With assists on you did feel a little bit like you were on rails but if you lost concentration for a moment then you could easily still come unstuck and put yourself out of the race. Major damage does come up with the flashback option which helps fix mistakes in your racing when you can take the action back to before you made that mistake and start again. However, when these assists were turned off I quickly found myself out on the grass and not enjoying myself nearly as much. You can change all the assists whenever you want to help fine tune your experience and see if you were improving.
I have mainly played career mode so far in F1 2017, in fact, I ran through the complete first race weekend in Melbourne twice at two separate difficulty levels and two separate teams. I can really see myself diving deep into this part of the game. So far the story mechanics are ok, sometimes the characters speak a little too long but this aspect, along with everything being officially licensed, really does immerse you in the world of Formula 1. The first playthrough was on easy (20%) and even though I came last because of an extra pit due to damage I got the fastest lap of the race and qualified 2nd on the grid with a mid-tier team. Jumping up to medium (50%) felt like too big a jump at first but I could feel myself improve to the point that by race day I felt like I was holding my own. Once again, one mistake cost me and as I was not used to the flashback mechanic I didn’t use it and came last.
I really enjoy the challenge system that F1 2017 uses in career mode over the weekend. It makes you engage in the practice sessions and really does help you learn the track lines and how to conserve your tires and fuel. The fact that you can enter the track on a flying lap helps you get right into the action and the fact that the sessions are timed does put the pressure on you to complete these challenges. Doing these challenges also give you real time feedback of how you are improving and if a setup change has worked. I was really struggling to beat any of the challenges in practice session 1 of the medium play through but once I got to practice session 3 I was passing them with a couple of perfects. The feeling of progression over race weekends in career mode is great.
These challenges are really important in career mode too and should not be just passed over. The challenges reward research and development points that you can spend on the games skill tree to improve your car. This is extra important if, like me, you choose to drive for one of the mid-tier teams or bottom teams as you do need to improve your car to get up to speed with the bigger players. The skill tree is big enough to scare the casual player but it really does give you things to strive for and allows for a lot of growth over many years of gameplay. You can ask your lead mechanic to show you what they recommend as well if you do get lost. With parts having wear and tear and part failure being a real thing this skill tree is your best chance to help in that department. So far from what I have seen the progression of this tree is slow enough to keep you grinding away but not too slow to frustrate casual players.
In career mode, you will get invited to special events which give you an older Formula 1 car to race and give you an objective to beat in the process. So far the only one that I have completed was an overtaking mode at Silverstone where you had a time limit to overtake slower cars on the track. Both times this felt easy to accomplish but added a bit of fun to the game as well as a chance to race some of the classic cars in career mode. With this mode and normal race weekends you do get a career score which ranks you with your friends and shows you how you performed overall. It is weighted so that those who are racing on higher difficulties or with fewer assists do get a bonus modifier to help bring everyone closer together. Even the team you pick does give you bonuses. Avoiding penalties and using flashbacks does help race this score as well.
Yes, I believe I will spend most of my time in career mode because it really has that depth I am looking for and the reward for improving that all the other modes just don’t have. Saying this I did spend some time just racing time trials in F1 2017 as well. Partly due to the small sample size on the leaderboard and partly for my love for Melbourne’s Grand Prix track I raced it in this mode to see how I ranked. Once again I did get instant feedback as I competed in this mode. Not only did I have a ghost car for my best time but I also had one for a nearby rival on the leaderboard that I was trying to beat. Once I had beaten them, it was not a case of jumping out and back in again, there was a new rival loaded in the background and that ghost car was in the time trial by the end of the first sector. Along with a lot of the game it just felt seamless.
All the standard modes are included in F1 2017 like Championships, Grand Prix and Multiplayer to help keep you amused while you are playing this game. There are also events which are described as “a one off, downloadable, race scenario, designed to place you in the thick of the action, with specific and tailored objectives”. Now I didn’t get to try these as they are not in the review copy that I could see and I may update the review after launch when these are live and I get a chance to play them as they do sound fun. However, as I mentioned before, as a casual Formula 1 racer I can see myself mainly living in career mode and I think I am happy with that.
I was playing on PC with a PS4 controller and it was playable, I do really want a better controller to play it with but I will not be hooking up my steering wheel with it because I am not at that level yet. It does seem to support a lot of options on PC, including wheels though if you are interested in heading that way. Graphics seem good and other than a known issue of small frame rate drops in the review copy which will be fixed by launch it ran smooth enough which is vital for a racing sim. The frame drops I did have caused me to crash the car but with flashback and it being fixed by launch it wasn’t a big deal for me. I would prefer a better way to rank the AI as it was just a percentage option which meant little to me at the start and I can see me playing with that a lot till I finally get it in a good place. Maybe a test ran and a suggestion at the start would work better.
The only other real issues I did have with the game were simple quality of life things that didn’t harm the experience too much at all. The lack of direct access to leaderboards was a little bit annoying. I wanted to see if my time had been beaten in time trail and I had to load into that session to access it unless I was missing something. I would have hoped that the front screen would have had an option to direct you to leaderboards straight away. Also, a notification, if you had been beaten on a time trial or a career score, would have been a nice edition. Some of the animations and actual dialogue in the career mode did put me off a little bit and could get repetitive after a few sessions but that is yet to be seen. Other than that it really does feel like a polished version of an annual series.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with F1 2017 from the aspect of a casual racer and a gamer who dabbles in the series every three or four years. It has come a long way over the years and the place it is at currently feels like the best place for a casual racing fan to jump in. With its great graphics, smooth game play and push for you to get better the game does seem like it really has a wider audience than just racing sim fans in mind. The problem this series will always have is with cars this powerful the skill curve can be hard to even comprehend which means the game can get frustrating like any really hard game in other genres can be. However, like these other games the reward for improving just a little bit is an amazing feeling and keeps dragging you in for more. If you are a fan of racing games as a whole and have been scared of jumping into the series before maybe it is time to revisit the Formula 1 games and enjoy the changes for yourself.
The Good: The immersion from this game is really good. You do feel like you are part of a Formula 1 team and the skill tree and challenges really do help you improve.
The Bad: I can be a very hard game that is unforgiving at times. There is a lot of room to adjust this to your skill level but still, if you make a small mistake you are punished. This aspect of the game has approved a lot of the years though and is the best it has been in the 2017 version
The Final Word: If you are a casual racer this game does have a good entry point for you and really does give you that feeling of improving. F1 2017 looks great and sounds really good and the career mode seems like the highlight of the game. If you’re interested in getting a bit more serious about racers then maybe look at this.