F1 2017 put to the test - cleverly optimized
F1 2017 is again the only game with the full F1 license this year. Only here can you get all the "real" drivers, teams and tracks, including, for example, the Finn Valtteri Bottas as the successor to the retired world champion Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes cockpit.
Because of the insolvency of the Manor racing team, just like in real life, there will only be 20 drivers in F1 2017, and the Grand Prix in Germany will be canceled this year. This year's changes to the regulations have of course also found their way into the game, including the wider chassis, lower rear wing and the resulting greater downforce. This also has an impact on driving behavior, but more on that later.
The career - almost never
First of all, we want to pay tribute to the career mode of F1 2017, because it is one of the best in the entire genre. In principle, the career is not that different from last year, but it gets a little better with a few fine tricks.
We are still putting together a driver in a simple editor (in F1 2017 we can start as a woman for the first time) and then choose a team. It's nice that the game still gives us the choice of which racing team we want to go to, but with well-known teams like Ferrari or Mercedes we have to live with higher expectations from the team bosses. Then we experience decisive situations from the first person perspective in short sequences, including discussions with our agent or the development manager of our team.
Unlike in the predecessor, the locations now change every now and then, for example we are in the office of our agent or the control room for vehicle development, which also creates an atmosphere , even if the options for movement are still very limited. All we can do is look around the room and use a laptop to select our next races and training sessions, nothing more is possible. Apparently, Codemasters is saving freely accessible areas such as the paddock and Co. for one of the next F1 parts.
Tech tree as a highlight
The real qualities of the career mode, however, lie in the abundance of opportunities that arise between races. Because of course you can continue to drive the classic race weekends with various training and qualification laps, but you can also work meticulously on racing strategies (e.g. how many pit stops there should be), or try out different racing setups and, for example, tweak aerodynamics or differentials.
The absolute highlight this year, however, is the significantly expanded research and development system . Last year there were only a few parameters that you could have your technicians research on, in F1 2017 there are a whopping 115 in various categories such as engine, aerodynamics or chassis, which fan out in a huge module tree.
It is up to us whether we let our crew do research on slightly cheaper parts, which then may wear out faster, or whether we want to invest directly in more expensive and better upgrades. That always leads to exciting considerations, especially since the pressure increases steadily during the season due to the also diligently developed competition - great!
Motivational training programs
As in the predecessor, we learn the points required for upgrades in enormously motivating training programs in which we have to stay on the ideal line for the next Grand Prix as quickly as possible, keep the tires in the ideal wear range or learn how to use our fuel efficiently. This is of enormous relevance, especially in the higher levels, when you drive the entire race distance, and it ensures depth and a general understanding of the sport - we like that exceptionally well, just like last year.
The newly added invitation races provide additional variety, in which we have to master certain scenarios in historic F1 racers such as the McLaren MP4 / 6 from 1991 or the 1996 Williams FW18, for example overtaking a specified number of vehicles in a certain time. That seems a bit artificial, it loosens up the often very strenuous (in a positive sense) race weekends pleasantly.
The bottom line is that the career mode is absolutely suspect of reference, even if the presentation still looks expandable because of the characters' wax figure faces. In addition, beginners in career mode could be a little overwhelmed at first due to the many possibilities. We therefore recommend the many useful tutorial videos that explain the purpose of the individual options.
Good driving model as usual
In addition to the career, individual championships, invitation events, Grand Prix and time trial laps can also be completed, and there is also an extensive multiplayer mode, which we could not try out at the time of the test, however, due to the lack of online opponents.
Regardless of the mode, the driving behavior of F1 2017 is still in the almost perfect range between arcade and simulation, which you can push in one direction or the other with the help of various aids such as traction controls, ABS or a rewind function.
This makes for a great driving and speed feeling, which a VR mode would have crowned, but unfortunately this is missing. In return, Codemasters succeeded in virtually integrating the aforementioned aerodynamic adjustments to the F1 cars. The bolides are a bit richer on the road and also react a bit faster, due to the increased width, however, you have to be more careful than ever when overtaking, especially on city routes like Monaco, the entire field of drivers gets very tight very quickly.
Otherwise, the physics model has all the strengths of the 2016 predecessor, including clearly noticeable tire wear. The damage model can be set in different levels and seems a touch more comprehensible to us compared to its predecessor, although total losses could be provoked in the test, but these occurred significantly less often during a Grand Prix than last year.
110 AI levels
The less frequent accidents are certainly related to the revised AI system , the difficulty of which can now be set in a total of 110 levels using a slider, this suggestion for improvement came from the community.
Sure, nobody should really take advantage of this abundance of gradations, but the transitions are now finer and still clearly noticeable. If the opponents are still quite stringent on the ideal line in the lower setting regions and can be overtaken well, they dare to be much more confident later, for example pulling past us on the inside of a bend and do not shy away from one or the other bump.
It is also nice that the penalty system this year is a little more comprehensible than it was sometimes the case in F1 2016.When cutting corners, we now get a sense of the extent to which the leeway can be exhausted more quickly. It is annoying, however, that we still occasionally receive time penalties if a competitor only touches us lightly.
The technology: solid but with room for improvement
So while F1 has stepped up a gear with AI in 2017, Codemasters treads a bit on the spot when it comes to technical presentation , which is generally not a bad thing. There are also great lighting effects (for example when the sun is low), chic vehicle models and successful rain races that can also be "felt". The tracks, on the other hand, seem a bit sterile, the spectators at the edge are motionless and the faces of the character models lifeless. F1 2017 even manages 4K resolution on the PC, and the frame rate is not limited.
When it comes to sound , Codemasters delivers the usual solid food with decent engine noises, informative pit radio and the commentator duo Stefan Römer and Heiko Wasser, known from their predecessors. Before a race, the two of them provide nice analyzes and introductions to a Grand Prix, but could seem a little less generic in some places - for example, they only present our self-made driver at the Haas racing team with "a Haas" on the starting grid.
The best way to steer F1 2017 is with a steering wheel. In our test with the Logitech G27, the force feedback was decent and gave a good feeling for the loss of traction and driving over the curbs. Codemasters racing game also offers a wide range of options for calibrating the steering wheel and settings for vibration and force feedback. The racing cars can also be precisely controlled with a controller. If you want to drive with a mouse and keyboard, you should definitely create your own control setup, since in the default settings of the German version of F1 2017, acceleration is on the A key and braking is on Z.