Enlarge (credit: Codemasters)
Reviewing the latest version of a yearly sports franchise game isn’t always something to look forward to. “It’s just like the 20xx you love, but now with one extra year on the date” can be hard to spin out into a full-length piece. Then again, persuading cynics like me to open our wallets again is probably an even tougher job from the developer’s side. I don’t envy the task in front of Lee Mather (the game director) and his team at Codemasters—luckily, F1 2018 is proof there’s genuinely a lot of thought going into that effort.
“It’s actually not the ideas that are the problem, it’s purely the time we have to create it,” explained Mather. “2015 was a tech establishing year [when the game moved to the new EGO engine]. The career added in 2016 was just the beginning, and we know where we wanted to take it, what features to add over time. With such a tightly constrained dev window, we can’t waste any time. We can’t just try things and throw them away if they don’t work.”
At its core, F1 2018 is a damn fine Formula 1 game. But the last two years’ games were, too, thanks to a revised game engine that’s right up there with the best in the racing genre. So to stand out from those past iterations, the crew at Codemasters has tweaked things all over the place this go round. Some of it you may not notice, like the way the new game renders skies, clouds, and environmental lighting. But some of it you definitely will notice, like the way you now have to manage your car’s hybrid system throughout the race or the RPG elements that have been integrated into career mode.