2018 is turning out to be a rather brilliant season in the history of Formula 1 and as we approach the second half of the season, it’s time for the annual excitement over a new F1 game from the ridiculously clever people at Codemasters. Enter F1 2018.

The latest incarnation of the F1 series has the strap-line “Make Headlines” and boy does this game make headlines. It’s my favourite of the series so far, find out why.

The cars

Yes of course all of the 2018 grid are in the game, you’d expect that but they’ve also kept all the old school cars and added even more, including the epic Brawn GP car. Racing in F1 2018 is fantastic (more on that later), but racing old school machinery in a game that’s this good is just a treat for any and all F1 fans.

It’s so good that I now want more, if it weren’t for pesky licensing and legal issues I’m sure Codemasters would treat us to entire grids from highlight seasons. I’d love to take on Hill’s Arrows in 1997 and make the right thing happen, or get behind the wheel of one of the iconic yellow Jordans. But for now the historic car offerings are brilliant and more than enough to satisfy my urges for retro fun.

There are classic McLarens, Ferraris, Williams, Lotus, Renault and more. Driving these machines is such a different experience too, as with any older car you need to brake earlier and catch the sliding while powering out of corners – yes it’s really a lot of fun.

The tracks

All the 2018 tracks are present and correct, including the 2018 additions of Paul Ricard and Hockenheim. The amount of effort that goes into all these tracks really does come through, they are exact replicas and when focus on driving you’ll just become immersed in what seems like the real thing. 

I’m not sure what Codies have done with the track graphics, but it’s work – simply looks awesome.

The gameplay

The modes on offer are very similar to 2017 – Grand Prix, Time Trial, Multiplayer, Events and Career Mode. The latter is the major selling point for the 2018 edition. They’ve made the career mode even better and more immersive, putting you right in there, being an F1 driver, working up the ranks, getting the results and then also handling the media the right way to strike a balance between keeping the team happy and looking after yourself. It’s an ambitious idea, but it has been executed excellently. If you have the time to invest in a full career, just do it. 

I started out being Charles Leclerc because he’s the most exciting Rookie and he drives the Alfa Romeo Sauber and I’m rather fond of Alfa Romeo. Driving for one of the lower ranking teams is very rewarding and occasionally you’ll nail qualifying and have a great race, bringing home some serious points. Epic.

…And then you turn off the assists and it becomes more fun and much bigger challenge. And this is a great feature of the new game and much improved over previous versions. Even with the assists on, it’s exciting and good fun, but you can push too hard and lost a front wing – but it’s playable enough for a casual gamer to get a lot out of it.

And for the more seasoned F1 gamers out there, change the settings to something more realistic and you’ll have a challenge on your hands that really will test your armchair F1 skills. I tried this, it scared me so I’ve settled somewhere inbetween until I’m more in tune with the tracks and handling. 

Making headlines

It’s the aforementioned career mode that’s being pushed with F1 2018 because you can make headlines, but as for the game itself I think this strapline undersells it. It should simply be “F1 gaming, perfected”.

After 9 years of owning the F1 video game licensed they’ve absolutely smashed it in 2018 with a game so refined and well made that it’s an essential purchase for anyones collection, let alone F1 fans. The visuals are spot on, the AI is great, the car selection is brilliant, career mode is engaging, handling and realism is incredible.

Well done Codemasters. Take my money!