Behind the wheel of F1 2018, the level of detail here is ridiculous

Around a week ahead of the official release of F1 2018 (August 24th), I got access to review the official Formula 1 title on PC. Many, many hours will...
F1 2018 on the Next Level Racing GT Ultimate V2 sim with Logitech G920

Around a week ahead of the official release of F1 2018 (August 24th), I got access to review the official Formula 1 title on PC. Many, many hours will be spent behind the wheel over the coming weeks and months, but day 1 impressions are important so it’s time to offer up some thoughts about what’s changed this year.

After downloading around 37GB on Steam and making sure I had the latest Nvidia GeForce drivers for my GTX1080, I fired up F1 2018 for the first time and immediately started my career.

There’s a quick driver creation process where you choose from a present set of heads, select a helmet, number, flag, name and nickname used in audio throughout the game. I would have loved to see some character customisation to allow you to better create a driver that looks more like you, but I guess there has to be something left to do for F1 2019. 

21:9 support in-game

Live Settings updates

My racing rig includes the gorgeous 49″ Super Ultrawide Samsung QLED (CHG90 for those playing at home). The game automatically recognised the display resolution which was great, however it is worth noting that while the game engine supports the 21:9 aspect ratio, the menus don’t, they’re still 16:9. 

A seriously seriously appreciated change in F1 2018 is the ability to see live updates to the settings changes you make. This is particularly effective when adjusting your field of view. Whenever you’re racing, you can enter the settings and the adjust values that are immediately reflected in the background of the UI. This removes any trial and error to get things setup, just the way you like. 

Check out those tyre warmers

Graphics

This year the game is looking better than ever. That’s kind of expected with each new generation, as the developers, Codemasters, have had another 12 months to refine their craft and leverage the latest GPUs have to offer. 

In F1 2018, we get to race new tracks like France which looks absolutely stunning, while the lighting effects making even old favourites look brand new. Everything just looks more refined, there’s more curves where there should be, more detail in the off-track objects and it all combines to deliver the most realistic F1 experience to date. 

My monitor and now the game supports HDR, if yours does, make sure you switch this on as it makes the game look even more incredible. Note, this isn’t on by default. 

Gameplay

This year your driving journey sees the return of much more career development, while continuing work with the R&D department on vehicle improvements race-to-race. 

After signing with a team, expect to take questions after races from the media, which impacts your and your teams reputation. Some will enjoy the ‘life of a driver’ experience, others who prefer to focus on the racing can skip through this stuff fairly quickly. 

In terms of the racing, one of the biggest changes is the way the cars react to the environment. The developers have done an amazing job on the physics here, with the suspension components moving as you crash across the curbs and you feel the car scrape as it creates sparks, a trademark of the 2018 cars. 

It’s important to remember back to the start of the season when all the 2018 rule changes came into play. Specifically the shift to wider tyres and upgraded engines which result in faster lap times. Until now, we really haven’t been able to compare ourselves to real-life lap times, as the needle has shifted so significantly over 2017 times.

Of course the controversial Halo was introduced this year and as expected the game includes that. Unfortunately there’s no option to turn it off completely, which I understand as the game is about reflecting reality, there is however an option to remove the halo support column in your view. This looks kind of weird, but if you love cockpit view and hate the halo, it may be your best option. After racing for a while I really didn’t find it an issue at all, surprisingly, you do get used to it. 

With the difficulty set Pro, with the AI at around 50%, I found the racing was challenging, while allowing me to succeed, which makes the game a lot of fun. You have to work for overtakes, setting up a pass over a number of corners and leveraging both ERS and DRS to get the job done. The wheel-to-wheel racing is what we racers live for and F1 2018 delivers that in spades.

Game Modes

Game modes

I started with Career and have completed a few races, but then challenged myself to Time Trials, as well as a couple of special events. Of course being an Aussie I charged into Melbourne to set a time. In Dry conditions, I managed a 1:25:157 which had me at 33rd in the world, how someone a 1:18:971, I’ll never know. 

While the game’s narrow focus on Formula 1, compared to the diversity of something like Project Cars 2, Assetto Corsa, or Forza 7, it does go deep in that category.

There’s new (modern) F1 cars, as well as many traditional favourites from eras gone by. This was available in last year’s game, but has been enhanced this year. Racing old cars on new tracks is something that never gets old. 

Standing on the top step

Overall

After spending time with F1 2018 on PC, the game is outstanding. Whenever developers sit down to make a racing simulator, their objective is to create an experience that feels as close to reality as possible. 

In developer diary videos released in the leadup to the release of the game, they expressed the attention to detail, paid to faithfully recreating virtually every component of an F1 car and the environments they race on. The physics engine in F1 2018 is amazing, enabling you to feel the car more than ever before.

This means, after dialling in your preferencees to the wheel and pedals configuration, you feel connected to the road, able to take corners at ridiculous speeds and a realistic requirement to modulate the brake pedal to prevent locking a tyre (which comes with a nice puff of white smoke) and damaging it, which impacts your race.

It really is hard to convey just how deep they’ve gone to deliver this experience, you just feel the curbs and ripple strips more than before, you feel the car slide and I particularly loved having to look in the mirror to see the DRS open. All the cars sound and work differently, so when you get a chance to drive F1 2018, make sure you don’t just race your favourite team, race all of them. 

Great job Codemasters, your investment on delivering a detailed, realistic experience has paid off big time. Expect the full review in the next week, after many, many more hours in the seat. Even

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
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