The beauty of all videogames lies within the fact that they are all capable of transforming an uninteresting, and at times dull subject matter, into something that is both exciting and exhilarating. And to some extent, racing games are the best example of this phenomena, as over the years – or rather decades – titles such as Colin McRae Rally, WRC, Gran Turismo, and most importantly the F1 series, have transformed niche motorsports into towering colossi with mass, world wide appeal.
When one discusses a simulation of a real-life sport or any other activity, he/she has to be honest about the matter at hand. And the fact of the matter is that F1, as a motorsport, is probably the most mind-numbing thing ever created by a man. The vehicles are all alike, drivers are nothing more than sentient mannequins, and every single race sounds like a beehive, which somebody has poked with a stick. But fortunately, Codemasters, the developer behind videogame adaptation of the motor sport, has managed to transform the aforementioned snooze-fest, into one of the best racing video games on the market, with F1 2017.
The recently released F1 2017, just like the developer has promised, is a bigger and better version of its predecessor, which was already a highly successful, and critically acclaimed title. And F1 2017 has basically taken the core formula of F1 2016, and turned it up not to 11, but 12. The sheer amount of different options, and settings, is simply overwhelming. As in-game, one can alter everything from the rear spoiler, through brake settings, all the way down to camera angles.
At its core, F1 2017 is a much more of a personal experience than the sport itself could ever be. Every single adjustment, no matter how insignificant, makes one feel like he/she is truly working on his/her own vehicle. And as the time goes on, one will grow a bond with his/her favourite car, as by the time the first season of the story mode comes to a close, one will be more invested into his/her vehicle, than in majority of modern videogame protagonists.
F1 2017, unlike all the other titles – with exception of the Gran Turismo series – makes one care, but not about the season, or the leader boards, but about the car itself. And it that regard, F1 2017 simulates the motorsport at hand perfectly, as in reality all F1 teams don’t strive for a success of an individual but for success of the team – as being regarded as the best constructor, is much better than featuring the best driver within the team’s roster.
As a simulator, F1 2017 is as real as it gets, as it does exactly what it says on the tin, it simply allows one to simulate the F1 experience, but in a much more interactive, and engaging manner. But being an exceptional simulator, doesn’t necessarily make one an exceptional game. As games are at their core not about the simulation of reality, but about blurring the lines between the real life and interactive experiences. And F1 2017 has made an attempt at doing so, by further revamping its Story mode, which after a year, is still nothing more than a campaign encased in smoke and mirrors.
F1 2017’s Story mode, right from the very beginning, attempts to create a coherent world, full of intrigue and splendour. But unfortunately, just like its predecessor, it uses narrative devices to simply hide the fact that the said Story mode, is nothing more than a straightforward campaign. It starts off big with a handful of cutscenes, which are there to create an illusion of humanity, as both the agent, and lead engineer are trying to convince the player that his/her story will unravel as the season continues. But as one begins to complete race after race, he/she will come to realisation that the initial cutscenes, were just a ruse, and that this is not a story mode, but just another simulation.
One could argue that F1 2017 doesn’t require a fully-fledged Story mode like FIFA, because it is a hardcore simulator, and all that matters is how well the motorsport of F1 is simulated within the game. However, this doesn’t change the fact that the Story mode is in the game, and that it is simply weak. Yes – there are few more cutscenes as the season continues, but with exception of the invitational events, which are the only big new addition to the title, they’re all simply duplicates of what one could find in F1 2016. And even if one would try to stretch it as much as possible, and include the upgrade system as a narrative device, as it sometimes results in failures, which in turn result in cutscenes – it is still not enough.
The Story mode was F1 2017’s biggest selling point prior to the release, in the early stages of its marketing campaign. It was initially meant to be title’s greatest feature, but in comparison to the driving mechanics, and the in-game customization, F1 2017’s story mode is simply an afterthought. Some will surely find it to be entertaining, as the addition of the above-mentioned invitational events – which feature classic cars – allows one to dismantle the monotony of the ‘’Story’’. But when all is said and done, it has to be stated that F1 2017’s brilliance doesn’t lie within its Story, but within its brilliant design, and borderline flawless execution.
Despite of the fact that F1 2017, just like all the previous F1 titles, is and always will be a hardcore driving simulator, it has also been designed with casual gamers in mind. And this goes all the way back to title’s customization options, as they also cover driving mechanics, which one can alter at will. And F1 2017 can be as casual or as hardcore as one desires it to be. You want to drive the car with all manual settings ON, and with no assists? No Problem. Want to have fun with your friends online and simply slide around on the track using all the available assists? It can be arranged.
The fact that F1 2017, unlike Dirt Rally or Asseto Corsa, can be customized to one’s skill or desire, is arguably the title’s strongest point. As it ultimately transforms it from a niche simulator for F1 fanatics, into a racing game which all can enjoy equally. And some purists will surely find F1 2017 addition of assists, and numerous difficulty related options to be an affront, but they are ultimately title’s smallest fraction of the userbase, as casuals will always be the majority. However, while such direction can be beneficial for initial sales, it may not bode well for title’s longevity. And that’s because the said fanatics are in it for the long run, but if they are displeased with the direction, they may leave F1 2017 behind same as the casual players, rendering the title ‘s multiplayer component expendable.
In-short, F1 2017 is an incredible simulator, which does not only bring the titular motorsport to life, but also forms it into an exciting and engaging experience. And the addition of the seemingly endless customization options, only further reaffirms the fact that F1 2017, is one of the best racing simulators out there. However, regardless of its undeniable brilliance, it is not perfect. As despite all the claims made by the developer, title’s Story mode still feels underwhelming. But where last year Story mode was F1 2016 the only major feature, this year it is supported by numerous competitions, events, and classic cars, which increase its longevity, but also its appeal. And for the first time in years, F1 is more than just a sim for the hardcore fans – it’s a game for all.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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