F1 2017 Front Cover

Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: September 9, 2017

F1 2017 is a Formula One simulation racing game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Formula 1 is the absolute pinnacle of motorsports with the first-ever F1 season taking place across seven races for the World Driver’s Championship in 1950 following the formation of rules and standards in 1946 which followed a period in which F1’s premise was shelved due to World War II, while the introduction of the World Constructor’s Championship came in 1958. F1 2017 is the official game based upon the 68th season of the sport, although there have been many F1 games which were not officially licensed to a particular season dating back to the arcade game F-1 which was developed and published by Atari in 1976. The first F1 game on PlayStation was the brilliant Formula 1 by Psygnosis in September 1996, while some F1 games had driver endorsements such as Nigel Mansell’s Grand Prix and Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II, although not every officially licensed F1 game has been set within that year’s season as the PC game Grand Prix Legends was released in 1998 yet is dedicated to the 1967 season. What can Codemasters’ F1 2017 creatively bring to the table in order to elevate it beyond their previous efforts and what has went before it from Psygnosis, MicroProse and EA Sports?

F1 2017 features all of the official licenses for the 2017 season which comprises of 20 tracks situated in various locations around the world including: Melbourne, Australia; Shanghai, China; Sakhir, Bahrain; Sochi, Russia; Barcelona, Spain; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Montreal, Canada; Baku, Azerbaijan; Spielberg, Austria; Silverstone, Great Britain; Budapest, Hungary; Spa, Belgium; Monza, Italy; Marina Bay, Singapore; Sepang, Malaysia; Suzuka, Japan; Texas, USA; Mexico City, Mexico; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi. However, Hockenheim, Germany does not return to the 2017 calendar despite an attendance of around 60,000 upon its return in the 2016 season, although the loss of one track has been overcome by introducing an alternative track layout at Silverstone Circuit, Great Britain; Bahrain International Circuit; Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas; and Suzuka International Race Course, Japan.

The cars have been updated in their design to reflect the technical innovations and specifications from the 2017 season including longer, wider and heavier cars to implement significant aerodynamic differences as well as the introduction of the t-wing and shark fin styled bodywork towards the rear of the car with wider tyres providing more technical grip, therefore creating a more physical challenge for the drivers as the cars lap at around 4 to 5 seconds faster per lap, while the liveries are from the start of the 2017 season such as Force India’s pink livery.

There have also been big changes in the driver line-ups throughout the grid including the retirement of non-defending 2016 champion Nico Rosberg with Valtteri Bottas moving from Williams to replace him at Mercedes, while Felipe Massa almost immediately came out of retirement to retain his seat at Williams partnered by European Formula 3 2016 champion Lance Stroll; Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon moving from Manor Racing to Sauber and Force India respectively; Kevin Magnussen leaving Renault for Team Haas, while Nico Hulkenberg left Force India to join Renault and GP2 2015 champion Stoffel Vandoorne began his first full season as a McLaren driver after having deputised for Fernando Alonso at Bahrain in 2016. Despite Jenson Button standing in for Fernando Alonso at Monaco as Fernando Alonso was participating in the Indianapolis 500 event; Jenson Button is not available for selection, while the same can be stated for GP2 2016 runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi who replaced Pascal Wehrlein when he was injured and unable to participate in the Australia and China races, alongside Paul di Resta who stood in for Felipe Massa at the Hungarian Grand Prix at the last minute after Felipe Massa was taken ill during the race weekend. There is also the unfortunate loss of Manor Racing team resulting in one less team and two less drivers on F1’s 2017 grid in comparison to 2016.

Driver, pit wall and pit crew likenesses have improved through adding expression lines and wrinkles to their faces that were previously absent which are accompanied by more realistic facial hair that provide realistic representations of drivers and team principals such as Mercedes’ Toto Wolff and Red Bull’s Christian Horner on the pit wall, while subtle details such as Lewis Hamilton’s ear rings, nose stud and tattoos have been added to create a far more accurate character model in comparison to previous F1 games. However, pit crew still do not wear wet weather clothing during wet race weekends, nor do they attempt to protect electrical components on the grid from heavy rain. A problem from F1 2016 still resides in F1 2017; as the podium and pit wall animations seem rather similar for the majority of races as though it is not dynamic to a scenario that has occurred during the race; therefore if two team-mates collide and one comes out better than the other, they are still going to spray the champagne and celebrate with smiles on their faces as though nothing ever happened which is unrealistic to the emotions of racing in F1 when such circumstances arise on track.

There are 12 classic cars including the 1991 McLaren MP4/6, 1992 Williams FW14B, 1995 Ferrari 412 T2, 1996 Williams FW18, 1998 McLaren MP4-13, 2002 Ferrari F2002, 2004 Ferrari F2004, 2006 Renault R26, 2007 Ferrari F2007, 2008 McLaren MP4-23 and 2010 Red Bull Racing RB6, while the 1988 McLaren MP4/4 which is exclusive to the F1 2017 Special Edition or downloadable content. While the classic cars may be just what excites F1 fans into playing F1 2017; they do fall flat in a couple of areas as none of their legendary drivers are available to race as or compete against which makes no sense as having Mika Hakkinen’s world driver’s championship winning car from 1998 without Mika Hakkinen somewhat reduces the quality of the experience below that of the classic cars included in F1 2013 which actually featured the official names and imagery of Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Alain Prost, Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mika Hakkinen, Michael Schumacher, Gerhard Berger and more besides. Also, the very definition of classic paints a picture of cars from an era when F1 was in its origins such as in the 1950s or at the very least decades ago between the 1960s and 1980s or alternatively teams that were established and well respected that are no longer in F1 within the season the game is based upon including Alfa Romeo, Brabham and the classic Lotus which participated from 1958 to 1994; yet having a car from the 2010 season seems in total conflict with that very notion, regardless of it being a championship winning car.

If you have previously played F1 2016 and still have a save file, then it can be imported into F1 2017 which particularly applies to your driver customisation in career mode. However, there is a wider selection to choose from in F1 2017, so it may still be worth having a look to see if there is something that is more preferable between 32 male faces and 8 female faces to choose from with varying preset facial features for your driver’s avatar; 28 crash helmets which are customisable via a colour palette for the hue, saturation and luminance of the base colour and two sets of detail colours; as well as a nationality; first name, surname and an abbreviated name. A personal driver number must also be chosen which cannot be the number of a driver currently on the grid such as not being able to use Lewis Hamilton’s 44 or Fernando Alonso’s 14, although in a very noble and sporting gesture by Codemasters, Jules Bianchi’s driver number 17 has been retired from the game in loving memory.

When Codemasters announced that F1 2017 was to include a ten season career mode that was expanded in comparison to F1 2016; fans of Codemasters’ F1 games anticipated that an evolving career mode starting from when Codemasters released their first F1 game in 2009 all the way through to the 2016 season may finally become a reality, therefore witnessing the evolution of power and handling from the V8 engine era through to the V6 hybrid engine era. There was even more excitement when thinking about a further season or two ahead potentially showing how the grid could evolve by having older drivers retire and younger drivers from young driver development programmes being promoted from another formula of racing or a test driver to a race seat. However, none of this is anywhere to be seen as the career mode starts in the 2017 season in a fashion reminiscent of F1 2010’s career mode, while there are also no classic seasons which F1 enthusiasts have been asking for more and more ever since the inclusion of intermittent classic content in F1 2013. It is not impossible for an F1 game to cover historic seasons as F1 Career Challenge on PS2 officially covered the 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons within the same game and Grand Prix Legends on PC successfully recreated the feel of the 1967 season, while a more recent example in other motorsports would be SBK Generations on PS3 which successfully integrated the 2009 to 2012 FIM Superbike World Championship seasons and even venturing into other sports such as WWE Legends of WrestleMania which successfully showcased a quarter of a century worth of wrestling action.

Similarly to F1 2016, team selection is immediately where the career mode begins to fall short as players can unbelievably choose any team of their liking which is a complete contradiction to the term career mode. Players should begin their career mode by having to earn a race seat at one of the teams towards the back of the grid or earning a race seat at a team via the young driver development programme hosted by such teams as Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and McLaren Honda. For instance, Pascal Werhlein is part of the Mercedes young driver development programme in which he was a test driver for Mercedes in the 2014 season before becoming a test driver for both Mercedes and Force India in the 2015 season as Mercedes is their long term engine supplier, while the 2016 season seen Pascal Werhlein earn a race seat at Manor who had their engines supplied by Mercedes; therefore Mercedes essentially acted as an agent to place one of their drivers into a team who they have a close partnership with. The same can be said for Max Verstappen’s route into F1 with Red Bull and their sister team Toro Rosso, while McLaren Honda have recruited Stoffel Vandoorne with McLaren’s rising star Lando Norris racing in Formula 3 while being tipped to be a future F1 champion at McLaren and Williams have brought in Lance Stroll who are all young promising drivers with the potential to be future world champions by following in the footsteps of arguably the best ever product of a young driver development programme in the form of Lewis Hamilton’s debut season for McLaren in 2007 when he came 1 point away from winning the world driver’s championship. The point being that you can find an opportunity at the back of the grid and work your way through to the senior team in most cases as has been happening for a few years in F1; therefore it is quite disappointing to be able to immediately start at a front running team on the F1 grid as it somewhat defeats the purpose of having a career mode in the first place as the entire point should be to earn your way into the sport as a reserve driver or from positive performances in a feeder series such as GP2 followed by moving your way closer to the front of the grid, but rather unfortunately none of that gameplay experience is in F1 2017.

Teams have varying expectations and budgets for upgrading their cars such as Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull will all want you to win the championship within 1 to 2 seasons, while Williams, Force India and Renault Sport have a longer term outlook as they want to gain ground on the three leading teams, alongside Toro Rosso and Haas who are prepared to make gradual strides forward, although McLaren Honda remain ambitious but understand that they do not currently have a race winning car and Sauber expect to push their development programme in order to make their car more competitive yet they still have the most achievable driver objectives. Players will also have the ability to choose who their team-mate will be such as Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes as you joining the team will naturally push one of them out.

Career mode provides the opportunity to create your own F1 legend throughout a ten season career with your preferred choice of a short weekend consisting of three 30 minute practice sessions, one shot qualifying and a race distance of 5 laps, while the full weekend consists of three practice sessions of two 90 minute sessions on Friday and a 60 minutes session on Saturday before one shot, short or full qualifying takes place followed by a 25%, 50% or 100% race distance on Sunday. In contrast to the customisable lengths of every race weekend in career mode; the pro career mode is much harder as everything is turned up quite drastically to the hardest settings across the board even to the point of shifting gears manually with no braking assist, pit assist, strict corner cutting penalties, simulated vehicle damage, no flashbacks and much more besides. If you thought that appeared to be difficult, then be prepared to face the harshest A.I. driver and driver proficiency levels in addition to full length practice sessions, qualifying and races throughout each season of your entire career, while being locked into the first-person perspective from within the cockpit of the car for the most lifelike F1 experience F1 2017 has to offer.

Before beginning your first practice session; you will meet with Emma Jenkins who introduces herself as your personal manager and informs you of your contract offer in a meeting located in her office within your chosen team’s hospitality areas. Emma rather unnervingly takes you through how the team reserves the right to terminate your contract if your performances are not up to standard, although if you achieve consistently positive performances then she will be able to improve your contract, while also actively updating you on invitational events that elevates your driver’s popularity and image by driving historic cars.

Practice programmes include track acclimatisation which involves positioning at least part of your car within a small gate on the track to effectively learn the track and gain points in the process towards a green target, although you can also attempt to achieve a purple target which actually requires each gate to be approached at the optimal speed. Tyre management allows you to choose a tyre compound and attempt to keep the tyre performance within the purple optimal tyre wear window or the green moderate tyre wear window as the red heavy tyre wear window will prove unsuccessful during the completion of three consecutive laps which have to be individually completed within the target time. Fuel saving is similar to tyre management as you attempt to lift and coast through the corners to maximise performance despite reserving fuel as efficiently as possible in order to complete three laps which have to be within the target time for each lap, while simultaneously remaining in the purple optimal fuel saving window or the green moderate fuel saving window as the red fuel saving window will be unsuccessful; in what is essentially preparation for lasting until the end of a 100% race distance or to have more fuel for later on in the race for aggressive overtaking manoeuvres to progress through the field. Qualifying pace is determined by achieving an objective of setting a time to finish a practice session in a certain position or higher, while race strategy develops your team’s approach to the entire race from the amount of fuel onboard at the start of the race to your pit stop strategy which is focused around telemetry that is gathered within a 5 lap stint were you are allowed to push the car as much as your driving style requires. Team objectives comprise of five tasks that vary from race weekend to race weekend such as completing a fast sector, completing an entire lap with minimal fuel usage, performing a DRS test by activating DRS, chaining multiple consecutive corners together during the track acclimatisation practice programme and completing a lap with at least two different car setups within the same practice session. There are naturally bonuses for session participation in each of the three practice sessions, each lap completed up to 10 laps per practice session, completing team objectives and a disciplinary record depending upon how much you have been penalised or a clean penalty free practice session.

Practice programmes are especially important as they deliver resource points which can be utilised to efficiently allocate funding to an area of the car that requires development including 30 resource points for achieving moderate success or 50 resource points for optimal performance within each category with a further 25 resource points available for completing team objectives. If your team can afford it within their respective budget; they will allocate a certain amount of resource points to start on the development of your car early in the season, while you can also earn resource points for strong performances in qualifying sessions and races.

Car upgrades have been massively expanded in F1 2017 to now include 115 upgradeable components to push the boundaries of your car’s ever evolving performance. Upgrades and your current budget can be viewed and chosen from the research and development tab on your driver’s laptop which includes four all-encompassing areas of the car to upgrade comprising of chassis, aerodynamics, power train and durability represented by what is essentially an RPG style skills tree in which the next upgrade component within that specific quadrant will not become available until the previous component has been built onto the car in exchange for a varying amount of resource points. Chassis incorporates weight redistribution, weight reduction and tyre wear, while aerodynamics improves front downforce, rear downforce, drag and DRS, alongside power train which enhances engine power and fuel consumption, although durability also plays a huge part as it reduces wear on power units and gearbox components throughout a range of enhancements to general wear, internal combustion engine, motor generator unit kinetic and heat, energy store, turbo charger, control electronics and gearbox.

Efficiency and quality control can be bettered in the chassis, aerodynamics and power train departments which in turn lowers the probability of the new component failing; therefore presenting a risk and reward factor as players can focus all of their resource points on component upgrades in the hope that they do not fail or spend some of their resource points on creating a team that is less prone to mistakes albeit losing some ground in the development race in comparison to your competitors, but the further flipside being that should an upgrade component fail, it would have to be sent back to have more resource points spent on fixing the problem. Some upgrades have more of an impact in enhanced performance in comparison to others which is showcased by a key that defines minor, major and ultimate performance progression per upgrade component, while it is also important to contemplate the strategic decisions of how soon you want an upgrade fitted to the car as upgraded components take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks to be perfected; yet investing in your team’s improvements in efficiency and quality control has an instantaneous affect.

The laptop also covers a multitude of features beyond research and development including a HUB which includes a news feed of your most recent on track accomplishments, current drivers’ and constructors’ standings, a trophy room and tutorials providing videos narrated by Anthony Davidson regarding the multi-functional display, safety car and virtual safety car procedures, pit stops, formation lap, tyre management and much more besides.

After the three practice sessions leading up to the qualifying before the first race of the season; your personal manager will inform you of your new rival which for the start of the opening season in career mode will be the team-mate you selected to be retained within the team you chose to drive for. This is rather fitting as you start life out in a team as the second driver attempting to gradually become the more dominant driver in the team as you will earn praise for finishing ahead of your team-mate in any session. You can keep track of who is leading the rivalry from after completing the first qualifying of the season onwards with the rivalry intensifying as both drivers strive for being the first to reach 30 rivalry points by earning points for finishing ahead of your team-mate in a variety of objectives per session which are represented via a statistical analysis such as if both drivers finished the race, finished on the podium and had a penalty free race as well as comparisons of finishing position, fastest sector times, fastest lap time and more besides. Rivalries will change from driver to driver that race for teams competing for track position around your area of the grid throughout the course of the season, although rivalries will more than likely come full circle to be revisited at some point.

Immediately after the first race weekend; Emma will introduce you to Jonathan who will formally provide you with the opportunity of participating in your first invitational event in which classic era cars are driven. For the first invitational event; you have a choice between an overtake challenge at a short circuit variation of Silverstone were you will be driving Damon Hill’s 1996 world driver’s championship winning Williams with an objective of overtaking a specific quantity of cars before time expires from a rolling start, while the alternative is to attempt to overtake slower cars than Fernando Alonso’s 2006 world driver’s championship winning Renault who have a head start over you before completing the allocated amount of laps at a short circuit variation of Suzuka.

Everything from the first season carries over to the second season including your research and development progression from the previous season, while there is always the possibility that if you have chosen a team further down the grid to work your way through to a front running team that impressive performances may earn you a contract offer at a team with a faster car and more resources.

Grand Prix mode provides the opportunity of racing on a single track with the ability to have a single short practice session of 30 minutes to three full practice sessions of 90 minutes, 90 minutes and 60 minutes, one shot qualifying, short qualifying, full qualifying or a full race weekend against a grid containing 19 opponents. You can choose from any of the official drivers, cars and teams from the 2017 season or classic cars, although classic cars have the ability to be utilised within a single class, multi class and spec category races, alongside any of the 20 tracks from the 2017 season or the 4 short circuits and retaining the freedom to adjust the race length from 3 laps, 5 laps, 25%, 50% to a full length race distance for each circuit and full customisation of race settings, assists and weekend tyre allocation. Grand Prix mode doubles up as a customisable championship mode in which any number of 1 to 24 races can be added to the season calendar in any order, while players can repeat their favourite track throughout the entirety of the championship with an updated world driver’s and constructor’s championship table following each race.

Championships mode provides an entire set of championships comprising of multiple races in modern era and classic era cars with an initial 7 championships available, while the rest of the 20 championships need to be unlocked through positive performances which earns a bronze medal for 4th place, silver for 2nd position and a gold medal for winning at the end of a season. There are varying rules and stipulations throughout the championships; for instance Classic Championship Season contains 12 rounds worth of 5 laps, 25%, 50% or full distance races in which your 19 opponents can choose the same car as much as they want with points scoring reverting back to the former system of 10 points for a win and only the top six cars scoring points, while Sprint Championship contains six 5 lap races in which a full grid of modern cars have their grid order randomised for the first race with championship order being reversed to decide grid positions; therefore providing a set of unique championships that feel fresh and are thoroughly entertaining to participate in. There is also an opportunity to replay the 20 unlockable invitational events from career mode. Meanwhile, event mode provides a one-off downloadable race scenario which is designed to place the player in the centre of the action with a range of specific objectives to achieve.

F1 2017 introduces the inaugural Formula 1 Esports Series in partnership with F1, Codemasters and the global leader of esports events and competitions known as Gfinity. Gamers will compete in qualification events throughout September 2017 to determine the quickest 40 drivers who will then progress to the live semifinal events which are hosted at the Gfinity Arena in London on October 10th and 11th 2017. The top 20 gamers will progress onto the Finals comprising of a three race event in an attempt to be crowned the first-ever Formula 1 Esports World Champion; which takes place at Yas Marina during the same race weekend as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 24th and 25th 2017. The winner will be offered the opportunity to attend a race on the 2018 F1 calendar as well as becoming a character in the F1 2018 game which provides a permanent reminder of the winner’s success in the first-ever Formula 1 Sports Series. Further prizes include for the winner includes being the Formula 1 Esports Champion Expert for 2018, while gaining automatic qualification for the semifinals of the subsequent Formula 1 Esports Series.

Time Trial mode provides you with the opportunity to set the best lap time around any of the 20 tracks from the 2017 season and 4 short circuits in an attempt to climb the leaderboards of the fastest times as you compete against players from across the world to see who performs the best lap time in a one lap scenario in dry or wet track conditions, although if your car leaves the track momentarily or if you feel the need to use a flashback, then your lap time will be immediately invalidated. An interesting gameplay mechanic produces a ghost car from your personal best lap time, while notifications inform you of your current position and a rival above your current position has their ghost car appear in your time trial to provide added motivation to push beyond the limitations of your personal best lap time and even experimentation with your rival’s racing line and telemetry. You can complete as many consecutive laps as you wish as your customised driver within a full selection of cars and teams from the 2017 season and the quota of classic cars, while you can also customise your car setup and driving aids to your ideal preferences.

However, for all of the new gameplay elements; there is a major problem returning from F1 2016 in the form of the Energy Recovery System (ERS) being nowhere to be seen which is rather odd as it is essentially an updated version of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) which featured in previous F1 games by Codemasters. Disappointingly, this removes an element of strategy from the racing as players would have previously looked to deploying ERS at just the appropriate time to push for an overtake such as daring to utilise ERS round the outside of a fast bend or perhaps even the more common overtaking manoeuvre by utilising ERS and DRS simultaneously in harmony with a slipstream throughout the duration of a long straight; therefore the removal of ERS does nothing to improve the excitement of wheel to wheel racing.

There is a vast amount of assists to make for a customisable experience for players who are newcomers and experts alike including driving proficiency; off, low, medium or high braking assist; anti-lock brakes; off, medium or full traction control; off, corners only or full dynamic racing line in 2D or 3D; manual with clutch, manual, manual and suggested gear or automatic gearbox; and an off or on pit entry and release assists. There are also a variety of race settings in addition to assists such as the A.I. driver level; flashbacks; parc fermé rules; off, reduced, full or simulation vehicle damage; inclusion of the safety car depending on race length; off, corner cutting only or on rules and flags; regular or strict corner cutting stringency; formation lap depending on race length; and manual or assisted race starts.

The time of day editor introduced in F1 2016 returns; once again providing the ability to alter the time of day to starting any session at the official time, a random time, sunrise, morning, midday, afternoon and sunset throughout all 20 races and 4 short circuits, while you can also adjust the time progression speed to 0, 1, 2, 3 or 5. Despite introducing the chance to race at Monaco at night time; the time of day editor has not achieved its full potential as players have the opportunity to change the three night time races located in Bahrain, Singapore and Abu Dhabi into a daytime race; yet you cannot take any of the other 16 daytime races and turn them into a night time race. Not only can you not select a night time race, but starting a 100% race distance during sunset once more never results in reaching night time conditions even when set to a 5x time progression speed with a noticeable lack of any change in the positioning of the sun and no movement in the positioning of shadows on the track surface which is evident given the amount of trees situated trackside on certain tracks such as Spa.

Weather conditions include dynamic weather with such possibilities as a dry practice, wet qualifying and dry conditions descending into full wet conditions come race day or changeable weather conditions to that affect; clear weather with no risk of rain; light cloud with a small chance of rain; overcast with an increased chance of rain; light rain within the race; and heavy rain throughout the race, alongside the ability to customise weather for each individual session. All weather conditions are modelled accurately to present a unique challenge as each type of weather will result in your car behaving differently; especially in wet weather conditions as your car will begin to aquaplane before you reach full throttle on a long straight, therefore requiring a feathering of the throttle to counteract the possibility of the rear of the car stepping out during full wet tyre conditions.

The handling is really on point as tyre compounds will provide differing grip and durability, while the car’s engine power is important as it will change how far you can push under braking and how you approach corners from having achieved the engine’s top speed. Driving with a maximum speed car setup will prove to be tricky when braking for corners even during dry weather conditions as braking will need to start earlier in order to retain your preferred racing line; particularly following a high speed straight in Montreal and Monza. Dry weather in comparison to wet weather conditions is completely different as the track becomes slippery during wet weather conditions with the rear of the car often unexpectedly stepping out which needs to be quickly corrected to avoid the potential of your car aquaplaning. Driving without assists provides a realistic feel of driving a powerful F1 car as you will need to apply the throttle gradually in an almost feathering of the throttle as a full immediate application of the throttle will result in the backend of the car stepping out and potentially sending the car into a spin, while braking too abruptly will lock the tyres resulting in most likely missing the apex of the corner. Classic era cars are certainly harder to handle as they are more prone to stepping out at the rear of the car, therefore quick reactions are required to prevent a classic era car from spinning.

The car setup can be changed in the pits which can potentially provide a significant performance advantage if you experiment enough in an attempt to absolutely perfect your car setup for each track. The car setup is spread across five presets including: maximum downforce, increased downforce, balanced or default, increased top speed and maximum top speed. Each of the five presets provide a variety of settings throughout eight categories which may also be customised to your personal preferences, while there are also options to save or load your preferred car setups. Custom car setups include the ability to increase or decrease the kilograms of your fuel load; changing the front and rear wing aerodynamics; changing the transmission from the differential adjustment when on and off throttle; calibrating the front and rear camber and the front and rear toe of the suspension geometry; changing the suspension at the front and rear suspension, front and rear anti-roll bars and the front and rear ride heights; adjusting the brakes by increasing or decreasing the amount of brake pressure and front brake bias; changing the front and rear tyre pressures; and adding or removing ballast from the weight distribution.

There are five tyre compounds of which three are chosen for each track including ultra soft, super soft, soft, medium and hard tyres for dry conditions dependant upon the track or intermediate and wet tyres for wet conditions with every tyre reacting differently to the track layout and surface resulting in varying lap times and durability; therefore providing a true reflection of tyre strategy from the real world of F1.

There is some really impressive realistic damage modelling including loss of tyres following a heavy impact with the barrier or a collision with another car, the front wing becoming detached which will affect the handling of your car until a pit stop has been made, aerodynamic carbon fibre bodywork flying through the air in a variety of directions after a lesser impact which is not race ending but could affect the behaviour of your car, engine blowouts following a mechanical failure or too much mileage on the same engine and more besides.

Notoriously harsh penalties from previous F1 games by Codemasters are still rather frustratingly unresolved in single player and online multiplayer. I received a two second time penalty for an innocuous collision with Kimi Raikkonen under braking at the first corner of Brazil during the Sprint Championship when I was starting from 20th position and he was starting from 19th place. Warnings are handed out for insignificant contact with another car or accidentally leaving the track, despite losing time in the process by having a greater distance to travel in order to re-align the car with the racing line. There never seems to be any dynamics to the situation to provide an ounce of leniency in certain circumstances such as a rival driver aggressively hitting your car as you are approaching a corner resulting in your car being forced off the track only to be warned for exceeding track limits, while the same could be said for full wet track conditions when accidentally aquaplaning into another car or off and back onto the circuit through a corner.

There are 7 superbly positioned camera angles including a third-person camera positioned close to the rear wing of the car and a second third-person camera positioned further back to provide two separate views of the car and the track surface up ahead amongst the surrounding environments. There are three first-person perspectives positioned from the front wing of the car looking directly ahead with no bodywork, a second camera angle positioned in the centre of the front wing surrounded by intricate bodywork and front flaps with the third first-person perspective providing a driver’s eye view from within the cockpit as the complex steering wheel can be seen while peering out just above the front wing with an incredibly detailed left and right mirror to view what is happening directly behind your car. Two cameras are mounted onboard above the driver’s crash helmet with the first positioned directly behind the crash helmet looking ahead but not providing any view of the cockpit and a camera positioned further to the left of the crash helmet showing the cockpit and steering wheel, but the common thread between both onboard mounted cameras is that they both show the high amounts of G-Force being experienced by the driver. Vast customisable camera options allow players to set specific parameters for the cockpit, TV pod and TV pod offset with a 40 point system for genuine customisation for the field of view and horizontal offset to be zoomed in or out; lateral offset to be moved further to either side; vertical offset to be raised or lowered; angle of camera to be increased or lowered in height; near clip plane decides at what distance a nearby object is no longer rendered; the mirror angle to be increased or lowered in height; as well as the amount of camera shake, camera movement and a look to Apex limit that is displayed in degrees. As great as all 7 gameplay camera angles are; it would have been amazing for the gameplay and replay camera angles to include a helicopter camera angle from high above the circuit following the action with the sound effect of the helicopter in the mix, while a driver’s eye camera from within the crash helmet with limited peripheral vision, breathing and a pulsing heart rate to emphasise the intensity of the sport, alongside camera angles attached to the exterior of the car looking out just above each of the tyres.

You can watch a full race replay with the ability to watch in slow motion, pause, fast forward, rewind, change the camera angles for a different view of the action and to view the action from the previous or next driver. You can view the replay from the 7 gameplay camera angles, while there is an eighth camera angle in the form of a dynamic camera angle positioned away from the car changing from camera to camera in the style of Gran Turismo. The onboard, first-person and third-person cameras can all be rotated with the third-person perspectives both having the capability of rotating 360 degrees in order to view your car in more detail as well as the nearby competitors and the scenery, while the first-person cameras provide detailed views of the bodywork and tyres to the left and right and a rear view of the spoiler, more focus on the mirrors and the rear wing, alongside the onboard cameras providing a left and right view of the scenery and a greater focus on the bodywork towards the rear of the car.

It is disappointing not to see a Vita release of F1 2017 after the pretty good F1 2011 retail release on Vita showed true potential for where the series could evolve on Vita, although the consolation is remote play. F1 2017’s remote play performance is excellent as the graphics, audio and general performance are the same quality as the PS4 version, while the control scheme has only been optimised to naturally re-map the DualShock 4’s touch pad to the Vita’s touch screen for replays and flashbacks. Otherwise the default control scheme during remote play is not optimised with acceleration moved from R2 to the right of the rear touch pad and braking moving from L2 to the left of the rear touch pad. I had the best remote play experience with F1 2017 after creating a custom control scheme in which acceleration was re-mapped to R1 with braking moving to L1 and switching the camera angle changing of R1 to the right of the rear touch pad and moving the voice control menu from L1 to the left of the rear touch pad; therefore providing a comfortable control scheme much better suited to the racing genre on Vita.

The controls are well mapped to the DualShock 4 controller and are almost fully customisable. The default control scheme consists of pressing R2 to accelerate; pressing L2 to apply the brake or reverse the car; holding X during manual starts; pressing X to manually shift up a gear; pressing square to manually shift down a gear; pressing triangle to activate or deactivate DRS; pressing triangle to engage the pit limiter; pressing R1 to change the camera angle; pressing O to produce the multi-functional display; pressing L1 to produce the voice control menu; moving the direction of the left analogue stick to the left or right to steer your car in that direction; moving the direction of the right analogue stick forwards, backwards, left or right to appropriately manoeuvre the camera angle to look in that direction; pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad to scroll through the MFD menu; pressing R3 to chat in online multiplayer; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu.

Despite the customisable control scheme; there is no way of mapping the steering to the gyroscopic motion sensing functionality and the touch pad can only be mapped to once instead of the left and right sides having their own purpose. It is surprising as the gyroscopic motion sensing functionality could have provided an alternative steering method to the left analogue stick, while the touch pad implementation is under utilised as it only enters into a replay followed by pressing square to select the moment of your flashback after a collision or a general loss of track time. This is somewhat disappointing as an optional control scheme from MotoGP 13 on Vita included tapping the appropriate side of the rear touch pad to shift up or down a gear; therefore it is clear that this level of functionality is possible for a controller in a racing game. The light bar provides a multitude of colours depending upon the current scenario such as flashing a light tone of red when waiting for the red lights before the race commences, green under normal racing conditions, yellow within an area of the track that has yellow waved flags following an incident, blue during the presence of blue flags, red for collisions and much more besides. There is lots of vibration when applying the throttle during high acceleration, shifting through the gears, braking from high speeds and collisions which certainly increase the immersion.

A range of steering wheels designed specifically for racing games on PS4 are supported including, Buttkicker, Fanatec Club Sport Shifter SQ V1.5, Fanatec CSL Elite, Hori Racing Wheel, Logitech Driving Force Shifter, Logitech G29 Racing Wheel, Pace Wheel, Thrustmaster T80, Thrustmaster T100, Thrustmaster T150, Thrustmaster T300 – F1 Rim, Thrustmaster T300 – Ferrari GTE Rim, Thrustmaster T300 – PS Rim, Thrustmaster T300 – TM Leather 28 GT, Thrustmaster T500 – F1 Rim, Thrustmaster T500 – Ferrari GTE Rim, Thrustmaster T500 – GT Rim, Thrustmaster T500 – TM Leather 28 GT, Thrustmaster T8HA Add-On Shifter and Venom Hurricane.

F1 2017’s driver and car models, track surfaces, trackside details, lighting, shadows, lens flare, weather conditions and textures all look better than ever with everything adding to the genuine accuracy of driver, car and track representations in comparison to the actual tracks. There are a variety of nice graphical touches including heat haze from the rear of your car and opposing cars which realistically creates the sensation of heat radiating from a car running at high temperatures. The use of lens flare when the camera angle you have chosen is pointing towards the sun is appropriately balanced as it moves across the screen based upon the positioning of the sun and also disappears when the sun is obscured by trees, grandstands or buildings. Rain effects recreate the intensity of the rain as rain droplets run down the camera, while grass flicks up onto the camera when going off-track and tyre smoke is produced when locking tyres. PS4 Pro support enables a 4K resolution achieved by checkerboard rendering which is complimented by further technical improvements such as enhanced environment reflections on car bodywork and more accurate shadows and optimised shaders for higher quality trackside details, alongside HDR support produces more natural, believable colours and lighting which is all incredibly impressive given its consistent 60 frames-per-second, while gamers with a PS4 Pro and 1080p television benefit from down-sampling resulting in smoother graphics and finer details being present in the distance. F1 2017 does not support PlayStation VR with creative director Lee Mather sighting that there are lots of elements within the user interface which would require optimisation to communicate everything to players without compromising the experience when playing F1 2017 on a virtual reality platform.

F1 2017 certainly boasts slick and polished presentation that is very appropriate to the subject matter and nature of the game which is realised by a close-up view of the on track action. The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, career mode menus, championships menus, grand prix menus, online multiplayer menus, time trial menus, online leaderboards, events menus, options menus and various gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick or touch pad. There is mostly an air of TV style presentation with pre-race build up that provides an overview of the track layout accompanied by a full grid line-up which carries through to the gameplay with data overlays of the gaps between two drivers; fastest lap; track and tyre temperatures; formation lap, alongside post-race coverage for the latest championship standings.

Audio is projected through a variety of mixes including 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound. A noticeable improvement in voice-overs includes a variety of facts and analysis projected through each track’s tannoy system such as the redesigned cars for the 2017 season, who may thrive in wet weather conditions and who to look out for in the world driver’s and constructor’s championships which certainly builds the atmosphere of a big race weekend vibe. Voice-overs include your personal manager informing you of your latest contract offer and your preparations for the next race, while your race engineer provides advice on where you can increase the pace on track, events taking place up and down the field, strategy and much more besides, alongside pre-session and post-session commentary from David Croft and Anthony Davidson. David Croft provides enthusiastic pre-session introductions about the history of the specific track and even the full grid order in pre-race commentary with Anthony Davidson responding with technical knowledge of the track, while they return post-session to provide classification of positions and analyse what has occurred. David Croft and Anthony Davidson do well with their lines of dialogue to build the anticipation ahead of a session and analyse through post-session segments, although the code responsible for selecting certain lines of dialogue in accordance with what events have taken place during the race is capable of repeating some of the post-race commentary from race to race far too often which was also a problem in F1 2016. This occurs particularly when driving as one of the front runners with Anthony Davidson’s commentary referring to how all of the conditions and car setup combined together to assist the race winner in their victory, while the same can be said for the driver of the day who tends not to have improved their position by that much of a margin from their grid placing and also not having performed a spectacular overtake to be worthy of the honour in the respective race. However, there is still no mid-race commentary which means there has in fact been no mid-session commentary in an F1 game since Martin Brundle and James Allen’s commentary in F1 Championship Edition on PS3 in early 2007.

Sound effects include the roar of the modern era engines which realistically represent their real-life counterparts as they shift up and down through the gears during acceleration and under braking, while sounding even better than F1 2016 since the re-designed cars made their debut in the 2017 season with subtle differences in the engine notes between each of the cars depending upon their respective power and engine supplier, alongside the authenticity of the classic era cars. Further sound effects include hitting the curbs, crashing into an opposing car or the barrier, aerodynamic turbulence or wind particularly in long straights such as at Monza and engaging DRS. The ambience really elevates the atmosphere as the crowd cheer with anticipation prior to the start of the race and celebrate during the podium, although the crowd could do with an increase in volume as they can be a little quiet during the races. A nice touch is crowd’s ability to raise the volume for a home driver’s success during the race such as Lewis Hamilton performing overtakes and driving past grandstands at Silverstone, while you can hear the engines of the cars positioned around you on track as everything is appropriately balanced in the audio mix. Music mostly consists of the usual mixture of classically performed dramatic instrumentals fused together with some catchy rhythms.

The DualShock 4 speaker is utilised as efficiently as F1 2016 through adding to the realism by producing a further layer of audio projected from a different direction to re-create the atmosphere you would anticipate an F1 driver to experience when in the cockpit surrounded by F1 cars when on track. The DualShock 4 speaker produces the voice of your race engineer who provides updates periodically throughout the race which links into the voice control menu to create one of the absolute best and most clever implementations of the DualShock 4 speaker to date.

The trophy list includes 51 trophies with 38 bronze trophies, 10 silver trophies, 2 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Timing is Everything bronze trophy for setting a clean lap in any Time Trial; the Déjà vu bronze trophy for using a flashback; the Weather Man bronze trophy for creating and racing in your own weather scenario; and the Back on Track bronze trophy for resuming a race using a mid-session save. Harder trophies include the Top That silver trophy for setting the fastest lap time in all three practice sessions, qualifying in pole position and winning the Grand Prix and the 1% Club silver trophy for winning a 25% + distance race against Ultimate A.I. opponents. There are five online multiplayer trophies including the Asserting Dominance silver trophy for winning a total of 5 online races; the More to Come bronze trophy for completing a race in an online championship; the Welcome to the Real World bronze trophy for obtaining a rank of 10; the Competitive Streak bronze trophy for obtaining a rank of 25; and the Another Lap silver trophy for obtaining a champion star. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 25 to 30 hours to platinum the trophy list.

There are two sets of difficulty levels with one set appropriately assisting your driving proficiency and the other allowing you to set how hard the A.I. controlled drivers are to race against. Driving proficiency difficulty levels include beginner, amateur, experienced, professional and elite with each level containing their own respective race assists such as beginner affording every available assist, while amateur dials down the braking assist to medium and experienced turns it off completely in addition to only providing a medium quantity of traction control, corners only for the dynamic racing line and only having a manual gear shift with a suggested gear. Meanwhile, professional switches every assist off other than the medium traction control, although elite goes as far to even take that luxury away for absolutely no assists, while there is also a custom driving proficiency level in which players can fine tune their experience. The A.I. driver level has received a major overhaul as it now revolves around a slider ranging from 0 to 110 that sets not only the difficulty level, but also the difficulty within each difficulty level as very easy ranges between 0 to 19, easy from 20 to 39, medium ranges from 40 to 59, hard ranges between 60 to 79, expert from 80 to 89, master ranges from 90 to 94, legend ranges between 95 to 100 and ultimate from 101 to 110. The major difference for a higher slider positioning within the difficulty level and between each separate difficulty level is the aggressiveness of the A.I. in which the A.I. controlled cars will look to overtake you at almost every straight and corner resulting in you having to be more defensive through the corners in order to avoid being overtaken at every opportunity the A.I. drivers professionally engineer from getting a great exit out of a corner to engage the throttle a little earlier and taking full advantage of the slipstream, alternatively diving up the inside of a corner or perhaps even trying to surprise you around the outside of a corner or fast bend.

Just as disappointingly as the previous F1 games on PS4 is a lack of split-screen multiplayer despite it being a highly requested feature with many fans of the Codemasters F1 series and F1 in general who took to social media to ask for its inclusion in not only F1 2017, but also the two seasons prior to that. F1 has been split-screen multiplayer on PlayStation consoles since F1 ’97 on PS1 and especially given the fact that the final F1 game on PS1 being F1 2001 quite sensationally featured two player split-screen multiplayer for a full grid of cars in a championship mode with in-race commentary from Murray Walker and Martin Brundle just goes to show how possible and fully featured a split-screen component can be in an F1 game. Technology is scaleable as each generation of console gaming produces hardware to allow developers to push the boundaries that much further in both graphical and processing capabilities; therefore a console three generations after the final F1 game on PS1 should be able to deliver 1080p and 60 frames per second in split-screen multiplayer. If anything, split-screen multiplayer should be pushed further with four player offline split-screen in a full or customised championship season and the ability to have an incredibly social experience by hosting three friends locally and a further 16 players online or joining another player’s lobby for four player split-screen online multiplayer; fans of split-screen racing can only hope this will eventually be heard and reacted to appropriately in a F1 game in the not too distant future.

Online multiplayer performance is exceptional as it is as fluent and provides the same sense of speed and graphical fidelity as the single player game modes, just as much customisation, up to 20 players racing and the ability to include A.I. of any difficulty level to flesh out the grid. The online multiplayer experience is mostly user friendly as there is a spectator view option for players joining a lobby after a race has already started, while a further nice touch is a host automatically migrates even during a race when the host player leaves the online lobby. The only negative with the online multiplayer experience is that players are unable to start an online race against only A.I. controlled opponents when there are no players to join your lobby which leads to a potential unnecessary wait when it would have been far more convenient for a host to start against A.I. opponents and for players to be able to drop into a race in place of A.I. after a race had begun.

Players can earn XP to show off their skills and experience by gradually levelling up from one rank to the next through winning races, finishing on the podium or top half of the field, qualifying in pole position, setting the pace with fastest laps, front row qualifying and the amount of distance driven with every objective containing its own milestone progression in which bonus XP will be rewarded for achieving an objective a certain quantity of occasions. Earning XP to level up your online multiplayer rank is an excellent gameplay design choice as it provides players with motivation to continue racing even after a crash means there is no chance of a podium; as there are that many objectives to strive for and some objectives such as distance driven and finishing within the top half of the field that are still realistically achievable.

Public matchmaking has seen the biggest revamp throughout online multiplayer in comparison to F1 2016; as rookie, sprint and endurance modes have been replaced by an 11 point slider which allows players to choose their preferred race distance in order to tailor public matchmaking searches towards the player’s unique preferences. Custom game includes a session list for players to view a listing of available lobbies to join or creating a lobby with a clear listing of the connection strength of the online lobbies’ host, who is hosting the online lobby, lobby type, session type, current progression of the session, current track, modern or classic era F1 cars, the quantity of players who have joined the lobby out of the maximum amount of players allowed and the finer details for the currently selected session such as duration, condition and assists. Create custom allows players to create their own lobby which can be open for anyone to join, players from your friends list or by invitation only, while providing a full quota of session options, race settings, adding or removing A.I. controlled drivers for precise grid customisation and assist restrictions in which everyone joining your lobby will have to race within specific limitations and rules. Online championship offers players the chance to create their own customisable championship with as many or as few of the 20 races from the 2017 season and the 4 short circuits as you prefer and any variation of practice and qualifying as well as further customisation such as naming the championship.

Online leaderboards focus on the fastest times from each player with rankings covering all 20 tracks from the 2017 season and the 4 short circuits in dry or wet weather conditions in the modern or classic era of F1 cars with every leaderboard containing each player’s position; name (PSN ID); the best time set by each player; the date the lap time was set; the team; whether or not a player was racing with a custom setup; and the assists used by each player, while you can compare your positioning on the leaderboards with players that occupy the top positions, players from your friends list, globally with players from around the world and to immediately find and display your position within any given leaderboard.

F1 2017’s replayability stems from a variety of areas including a much expanded 10 season career mode that is complimented by the introduction of invitational events, more practice programmes and a significant improvement to research and development that is reminiscent of a skills tree from the RPG genre. Elsewhere, F1 2017 ventures into a debut Esports series, while Championships mode introduces a set of 20 championship seasons covering varying rules and stipulations, alongside classic era cars that make a return with a total of 12 cars between 1988 and 2010. There is also the return of Pro Career, Grand Prix and Time Trial modes in single player accompanied by fully customisable online multiplayer for between 2 to 20 players in which players earn XP for completing a range of objectives to level up their driver and competitive Time Trial focused online leaderboards throughout all 20 tracks from the 2017 season and 4 short circuits, while further customisation comes in the form of the time of day editor, driver proficiency and driver A.I. difficulty levels that will collectively have fans of F1 as a motorsport and in gaming coming back for more for quite some time.

• Title: F1 2017
• Developer: Codemasters Birmingham
• Publisher: Codemasters/Koch Media
• System: PS4
• Format: PS4 Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1/2-20 (Online Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
• Hard Drive Space Required: 34.10GB (Version 1.05 – PS4 Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download)

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