Formula 1 as a sport hasn’t moved on a great deal since last year, the specs are broadly the same, the driver market barely moved and the only major change was the addition of a sort of safety toilet seat to the cars.
In spite of that, we’ve got a titanic championship battle between two four-time world champs and, would you believe it, some decent racing. It’s the same story with F1 2018 the game; the changes are minor, but the end product is still well worth your time.
The career mode has been beefed up slightly since last year’s outing, with some extra R&D tweaks to consider as you develop your car. The literal headline addition is press interviews, though, where you can either offer a banal sponsor-pleasing summary of your race or just launch your toys clean out of the pram, Hamilton and Vettel style.
It’s more window dressing than a meaningful mechanic, and isn’t going to rival FIFA’s stellar The Journey mode, but it does at least make you feel that bit more like a returning hero after a hard session on the track.
And those sessions will be harder than last year. The red mist has truly descended and the computer-controlled drivers are now far more aggressive, happy to clatter wheel rims at 240kph and launch low-percentage lunges into corners. They’re fallible too, making believable errors like locking up and running wide, though sometimes that also means they’ll accidentally pot you like a pool ball in the braking zone. Usually it’s the race to end all races, occasionally it’s just the end of your race.
In terms of the visuals, there’s been a big overhaul to the lighting that makes this the most convincing F1 title yet. Whether it’s the heat haze at the brand-new Paul Ricard circuit or the gunmetal grey gloom of Silverstone, the atmosphere is pitch perfect. The only clue that you’re not watching the real thing is that it’s 1am on a Thursday morning rather than 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. Also you’ve put a McLaren on the podium.
It’s easy to forget, because there are only the usual incremental changes this year, that F1 2018 still offers one of the most complete, authentic and feature-stuffed racing games out there. As we said last year, F1 games have never been better and that streak continues in this year’s instalment. If you’ll excuse the horrendous pun, this really is a winning formula…