As a reviewer, my job is to play games and write a report on my thoughts on the particular title. While on the surface it seems a simple task, I’ve learned over the past year that it can be more complicated than it appears. Player bias and personal taste can play a massive role in the enjoyment of a game. While I strive personally to be open-minded, gaps in my knowledge and my playstyle can cause me to fail to connect with a game sometimes. With no experience and a willingness to learn, I dove into F1 2018.
To start, my personal experience with the genre and the subject must be stated. Racing games are not titles that I often frequent, especially the more realistic ones. The experience with racers I do have is with the popular and simplistic Mario Kart series, though I spent a good amount of time playing F: Zero GX in my younger days on the Nintendo Gamecube. The less cartoony franchises of Horizon and Forza are games that have never reached my library, though I have dabbled once or twice with them.
Adding to my limited game experience, racing as a sport has never been my cup of tea. I do enjoy and have a basic to advanced knowledge of my Cleveland teams and their respective sports, but other sports have never appealed to me. Racing, in particular, lacks a diversity in design at times for me, no matter the type. F1, or Formula 1, is a branch of racing that I will admit to knowing very little about.
So going into F1 2018, I was worried about the barrier to entry. My fears grew as I searched the title screen options, and found no tutorial. The choice not to include this feature is both a massive mistake and a bright red flag. By not including it, the game alienates and weakens the chance for enjoyment for anyone not fully invested in or knowledgeable about the sport. There’s a difference between being a niche game, which has their place and pandering to non-fans. In this instance, the highly complex subject of the non-common place F1 Racing needs some type of guide to help attract a new audience.
So with a no way to teach myself, I decided to try out career mode. Here, I figured, I would be eased into the game, and have some of the terms and concepts introduced over time. I was wrong. I was immediately thrust into a situation where every concept was foreign, and terms were thrown out as if I should know what was being discussed. Whereas Blood Bowl 2 slowly taught each individual term and feature, F1 2018 expected me to come into the game knowing everything and dropped it all on me from the world go.
In terms of options, there is some wiggle room in customization, and it’s one of the few positive aspects I can discuss when talking about F1 2018. Almost every feature has an option for assistance, with presets for skill levels and A.I. difficulty adjustable. For those who know what they’re doing, I would assume it’s a nice way to slowly train yourself to maximize your talents.
Unfortunately, I personally found the changes to be minuscule at best, and non-existent at worst. Trying to teach myself somewhat, I gave myself control of only the throttle and brakes. I was assisted in many aspects, including a line to follow that would detail the best course taken, and that indicated where and how long I should brake on curves. Despite this, I was unable to keep pace with a single computer controlled car and found myself double lapped in only a few rounds of a track. It was enough to cause me to quit that session.
Exploring other options as I jumped on next, I found an event mode and felt that it might be more enjoyable or even just relaxing. What I found was the same race style as the career race, but without the gamification menus the career offered. Doing my best to have fun, I inevitably crashed out of the race due to a light collision, and quickly left that mode.
I last played trying to pick back up my career. Having lost the race due to crash (brought upon vowing to take out the guy who was seeking to triple lap me), I found the next event to be a checkpoint match. Here, I decided to stow my pride and make things as easy as possible. With the game controlling everything but the gas, I still spun out and failed to feel like I was having any fun.
The biggest issue overall was the ironically unrealistic feeling of realism. Every time I was in the driver’s seat of any of F1 2018’s cars, I found it only masquerading as realistic. Everything from the airy controls to where I spun out seemingly at random, all made for the car to feel unreal. Not helping is the damage, from what felt like simple bumps, being catastrophic. Now this all could be the case with real F1 Racing, but if so, it still doesn’t excuse the overall problem; realism does not equal fun.
At no point during the game did I find myself enjoying being behind the wheel. The power fantasy of being an F1 driver was never executed due to the poorly implemented features, and lack of teaching. This was exacerbated by the visuals never conveying the speed or weight of the car. The collisions I had might have been at high speeds, but the game failed to represent this.
On the subject of visuals, the game is selective on where they put in the work. The cut scenes and models are designed with care and detail. However, all the polish on the important aspects took away from other areas, particularly in the tracks. One reason the cars lost their sense of speed is the environments being dull and uninteresting. The few times I’ve played either Forza or Horizon, the landscapes were vibrant, and helped create a sense of placement during the race. At no point could I tell where I was during any race in F1 2018.
I did not look forward to writing this review. One thing I took away from this experience is that F1 is not a sport for me, and this game was designed for only fans of the sport. If you are a fan of F1 Racing, chances are your experience would vastly differ from my own. The lack of knowledge I held was a major barrier to entry for me, and the game failed to build me into any type of fan, despite me wanting so badly to be impressed.
If you are an F1 Racing fan, then this might be the game for you. If you aren’t, stay clear, as F1 2018 is a game built for current, highly knowledgeable fans, and for only them. As a game to introduce concepts to new players, it is an absolute failure.
A PlayStation 4 review copy of F1 2018 was provided by Codemasters for the purpose of this review.