"F1 2017" video game review: closer to wheel life

Formula One is still the pinnacle of motorsports, despite all its faults.

How do I know? With just a week left of F1’s annual summer break, my shakes have finally eased to barely, semi-violent convulsions. This is progress, people.

The pangs also have been subsided by Codemasters’ yearly release of the officially licensed F1 video game, and this year’s “F1 2017.”

Ever since Codemasters pushed back the release of its F1 title further into the racing calendar a few years ago, the video game has been a salve for the lack of real-world racing.

The newest iteration melds the current world of Formula One techno-wizardry with a handful of classics and an emphasis on deeper career progression. New (for some) Event and Championship modes offer varying degrees of race setups to subtly change the formula for casual racers, but neither deliver the depth and breadth of the Career mode, likely the game’s  bread-and-butter mode for most owners.

Saying that, however, would require putting a finger on what the game does best, which isn’t easy to do for seasoned F1 fans. Where “F1 2017” excels is in showcasing the speed and rapid-fire directional changes of a $15 million (or more) race car. What it lacks, is any drama associated with that speed: on- or off-track. Codemasters’ annual series has outpaced the competition in speed, but lagged in substance. “F1 2017” tries valiantly to keep the former and add more of the latter, but its success will be almost wholly based on how closely you follow the series.

F1 2017 screenshot

F1 2017 screenshot

The good

The game starts with a driver selection system that lets racers pick their avatar (male or, new for this year, female), helmet color, nationality, and number. F1 fans will immediately know why No. 1 isn’t available at the outset (it must be earned with a championship win) nor No. 27 (Senna).

The selections are purely cosmetic. Unlike other games that offer player selection, “F1 2017” won’t let drivers specify weight, reaction speed, age, or body type. Want your character to be as tall and lanky as Jean-Eric Vergne? Tough. Think Kimi’s ice-cream first personality would fit you better? Think again.

From there, the game steers most users directly toward Career mode, a 10-year window to race, win, and develop your own car into an F1 legend. Unlike previous years, which asked drivers to participate in a tutorial program that teaches skills like DRS, cornering, or overtaking, “F1 2017” throws users into the fire, feet first: pick your team and head to Australia.

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