I must confess before I start this review that I fell out of love with Formula One games some years ago. I tired of the high-speed, tactical gameplay and decided I wholeheartedly preferred the crash bang wallop of BTC and Rallying. The last F1 game I played was F1 2004 - back when Jordan and Orange were still teams - which, to its credit, I did play a lot. It's time to return to the professional's choice of motorsport however, to test my mettle against the best of the best.
Following three practice sessions (which are skippable), a simple, single-lap qualifier precedes the race. The race proper begins after you select your car and pit strategy, and is more engaging than the practice sessions from the get go, thanks to the freedom to take sharper corners and the fact there are racers at the back of the pack for players like myself to contend with, instead of having everyone speed right past.
You’ll also need to contend with weather and fuel, both of which make a significant difference to how the game handles. The weather is dynamic, if not very impressive on the aesthetic front (there's no spray from standing water, as an example), and using the right tyre at the right time can make or break your race. Fuel is linked to driving style, with braking and gear changes taken into consideration, and can be eaten through surprisingly quick if you don’t manage consumption well. The suite of assist and difficulty options can help you tweak things to your liking, which should make driving feel pretty solid whatever the conditions.
There’s good physical feedback from the controller in the corners and when braking, though it’s slightly disappointing that there are just four rigid directional views when manipulating the camera in place of free movement. With the tap of a button you cycle through information screens pertaining to your standing, though this can be difficult to absorb while driving. You can ask the engineer for specific info to make your life easier, and even do so literally with convenient Kinect voice command integration.
Like most modern racers, F1 2017 features a rewind function and executes it well; you see the last ten-or-so seconds of play and can choose when to jump back in, though attempting to fast forward the video does horrible things to the framerate and it’s easy to miss the desired point. Generally you’ll want to rewind following a collision, and, on that note, there’s thankfully a damage model that sees wings and tyres fly off vehicles.
People who like their racing with a bit more depth and strategy - and, of course, fans of Formula One specifically - will find a lot to like in F1 2017.
My eyes suffered similar damage (alright, maybe not that bad) at the hands of the game’s abundant tiny text. The visuals in general aren’t quite so harsh, generally looking pretty good besides the awful track textures (not that you'll see much of them).
There's multiplayer on offer, but it’s limited to pure Grand Prix setups with no bizarre, Forza-style extra modes - probably due to the license. Instant and quick race selections have some variety as there are a few classic cars to choose from - such as the famed blue and yellow Renault or the white Shell cars of the 90s, screaming engines intact - however there's only a couple from each era, making classic races a touch monotonous. Leaderboard races round out the offering and do what they say on the tin, with your willingness to asynchronously compete with friends and strangers dictating their worth.
Clearly this is a not a game for casual players, however people who like their racing with a bit more depth and strategy - and, of course, fans of Formula One specifically - will find a lot to like in this year’s entry into Codemasters’ long-running franchise.