It's that time of the year again. The roar of the engines, the smell of burning rubber. F1 is back. I just wish it was released at the beginning of the 2018 Formula 1 season and not awkwardly arriving halfway through. It's still not just why Codemasters does it but development time can probably take quite a while, possibly accounting for rule, team and car changes, as well as having to deal with the FIA and Formula 1. Still, it's the only game that releases mid-season instead of at the start, like FIFA or Madden. Nonetheless, the F1 games continue to get better each year, barring a few momentary hiccups in the past decade. For F1 2018 it feels as if Codemasters really listened to the community and F1 drivers, taking plenty of changes on-board.
The major change here for those of us who use cockpit view will be the addition of the halo, a new device implemented to protect the drivers head during collisions. Now fear not, if you feel like it obstructs the view too much, the halo column in the middle can be removed in the settings, which is a nice touch from Codemasters. Field of view and horizontal and vertical angles can also be changed so you set it precisely to your liking.
The other big change this season is the addition of hypersoft tires. These are only available on certain tracks, just like the real calendar of Formula 1. Giving them a go in Canada and Australia, they are indeed incredibly fast. For me, the big change between F1 2017 and F1 2018 is the handling. Long gone are the days where the car just understeers into every corner. The handling is far more precise and, of course, whether using a controller or a wheel, don't forget to configure your input choice. Steering dead zone, linearity and so on are also once again adjustable, they do make quite a difference so if you're planning on picking up F1 2018 I'd suggest starting off with that before jumping into any races. A nice long circuit with lots of corners is perfect to start off on. F1 games from Codemasters tend to be some of the most customizable in terms of controls and camera adjustments, and F1 2018 doesn't disappoint.
Gameplay has, of course, improved as well. The cars handle much better than in F1 2017, which was a huge departure in the handling department from F1 2016. Without a custom setup in F1 2018, I can run faster time then I did in F1 2017 with a custom setup; same car, same tire, same controller calibration, pointing towards an overall improvement in handling.
The thing that has improved the most in F1 2018 though is the AI. Gone are the days where they're shown a blue flag and stay in their position without moving over, they now flat out move to the side to the let you pass. A welcome addition to F1 of the past decade. The career mode has changed quite a bit in the way teams research upgraded components. It is fairer between the teams now so that Ferrari and Mercedes take the same time as a smaller team like Haas or Force India (now known as Force India Formula One Team Limited). All have the same time to research, making things more balanced for players choosing a lower tier team.
Everything else is basically the same as far as time trial, Grand Prix weekends and so on. A few of the options have changed and the game's MFD (the display of information) is now far more detailed with far more information displayed. The most important addition is the DRS beep. Now you don't need to look at the bottom right to see when to activate it, although it's still a good idea to look at the minimap to see upcoming DRS zones.
The visuals in F1 2018 also appear to have gotten an overall redesign. Everything seems sharper with a stronger suite of colors. The requirements for the CPU have changed quite a bit for recommended settings but the GPUs haven't. On my system, the CPU and core clocks seem to be utilized a lot more in F1 2018 than in F1 2017, especially when in the pit lane or entering the garage. It seems as if Codemasters has also changed the factory POV as you have a much better view in 2018 then you did in 2017. Even the celebrations after a podium finish in 2017 would drop the frame rate almost to a stutter, but I'm glad to say this has been fixed. The frame rate can still fall but nothing like as drastic as its predecessor. Overall F1 2018 looks and sounds much better then F1 2017, which is a positive step after precious little changed from F1 2016.
Another good change that has been needed for some time now is audio. The car sounds were always pretty authentic but everything else was lacking somewhat. Codemasters has now changed this element for the better. The engine sounds just sound more crisp, more detailed and far more prevalent. For one, I'm glad you can actually hear the impact guns changing the wheels and tires during a pit stop. Previously, the audio was, well pretty much non-existent. It's great to have a Formula 1 game sound as good as it looks. It really does immerse you deeper into the game making it quite enjoyable, especially for those who use a DAC and headphones or just game on a tv with a quality surround sound system. The one noteworthy audio change that I absolutely love - DRS now gives a nice audible beep. No matter which view you're using, there's a nice loud beep when DRS needs to be enabled. It may take some getting used to but it's fantastic; in F1 2017 the beep was only for cockpit view and it wasn't hugely audible.
Now the big question. Should you buy it. If you haven't delved into the world of F1 on PC you absolutely should. This is the best version they've come up with yet and it's absolutely fantastic to play, especially if you're a new player. What about for those of us who already own F1 2017 or previous years? Some of you might already have bought it based on the Steam reviews and other reviews. The game is fantastic, from the handling of the modern cars to the absolutely vicious sound of past F1 models.
It is without a doubt the best F1 game yet. Whether or not to purchase it if you own the previous versions will be up to you. For gamers new to the world of F1 racing it's a no-brainer to go with the latest and greatest version, although there are probably enough changes under the hood here to justify an upgrade from F1 2017 for returning fans.