The roar of the Tifosi. A thunderous, intimidating wail from the engine, drivers fist-pumping in the air, with the bright lights and some awe-inspiring circuits can only mean one thing.
Yes, you guessed it, Codemaster’s latest formula one entry is here.
This year see’s Codemasters playing it safe in terms of gameplay mechanics, but then you know the saying, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.
Which is exactly what Codemasters have done with F1 2020. Adding further polish and features to some of the most enjoyable racing mechanics you’ll have the joy of coming across, without changing the fundamentals that have made them win many plaudits throughout the years. Like previous editions in the thrilling Formula 1 franchise, F1 2020 is a mighty fine game. Offering the usual highs (not many lows) that are now expected of Codemasters and the game itself.
This year, Codemasters have added the “My Team” mode which appears to be the main attention-grabbing aspect to the newly released title. In “my team”, players have the opportunity to become the 11th entry onto the grid, competing over a 10 year period which sees older drivers retire, whilst upcoming stars from the F2 license get the opportunity to step up when the moment arises. Racing out on the race circuit but also manage the team from ownership like perspective. Starting up from scratch as you chase the prestige and commercial rewards of owning a team that wins both the constructor’s title and then with the fame and glory that winning the drivers championship provides, thereby making the owner highly successful and opening up a wealth of sponsoring opportunities as your acclaim improves.
It’s an interesting take on the motorsport which gives players the chance to understand just how complicated and time-consuming owning a formula one team can be. It’s not just a case of awaiting race weekend and tinkering with your car parts or race strategies. The mode helps you realize just how much effort and dedication a lot of the teams and employees in the sport put in to try to reach the pinnacle of the historic franchise. As the owner, you have to organize the weekly activity planner ranging from sponsoring opportunities to merchandise selling, driver marketing promotional work, and much more. All this affects the budget of the team which then has a knock-on effect on managing facilities and boosting the coffers in the research & development department to improve the race weekend performance. (As you start off the worst team on the grid).
Budget control is also crucial in the long term success of the team, perhaps you want Kimi Raikkonen representing the team’s colors to try and boost merchandise sales and performance on the track. Free agents and rival drivers are all for grabs if the price is right. With some of the sport’s biggest names like Hamilton, Vettel, and Botas costing many millions to represent your team, but then you have to ask yourself is the car able to justify the cost of the driver? What’s the point in splashing out $19million on Lewis Hamilton if the car’s competitive edge is around 15th on the grid, and even if you can break the bank and afford a Hamilton or Vettel, other factors will determine their decision such as quality of facilities and acclaim level. (Even the very best drivers would struggle to break the top 10 in a car lacking power.) Even then, the base performance of said driver will decline initially as they aren’t in familiar surroundings, perhaps without the same perks they previously had.
The only obvious omission from the “My Team” mode would appear to be starting out in Formula Two. Yet this isn’t a big issue as for those wishing to get their fix of that, it remains in career mode. To summarise “my team” mode, it’s a fantastic inclusion that gives the player a notably more personal experience than the career mode.
That’s not all, Lee Mather and his team have been hard at work using the latest tech in laser imaged data, also capturing plenty of drone shots to realize the full potential of the two new circuits Zandvoort and Hanoi, taking the total track number in this year’s game to 22.
As has been the case for a considerable time span now, the visual presentation of the game is top-notch. Circuits come to life with sharp twists and bends, floodlights illuminate tracks impressively as they reflect off the bodywork of cars charging menacingly around the tracks. Also accurately capturing every skid mark and scattered debris among the track as drivers aggressively defend race positions or line up advantage points to explode past rivals within the DRS enabled zones.
All of which toe in nicely with the in-game physics and AI. Handling is as challenging as ever but equally rewarding as I experienced at the Bahrain circuit. Aggressively charging round turn 11 going into 12, my sky blue Bettidon “my team car” flew round the bend, only to then lose grip on the track and swerve, resulting in loss of control and a full head-on collision with Sergio Perez. Despite those frustrations, watching it play out was highly eye-pleasing. AI pushes the player further than ever before with a variety in AI driving styles, making races even more unpredictable as there are different levels of racing intensity to drivers. Some AI will speed towards the inside at the first corner offering little breathing space while others will remain composed holding on to their track position making overtakes more difficult as you struggle to anticipate rival driver’s next move. All this makes the race strategy and car setup vital in securing the right balance to compete (races can be won and lost on getting the 1 stop pit strategy executed flawlessly).
It’s an insanely competitive game that perhaps isn’t well suited to the type of gamer that is looking for a casual drive taking in the scenery and landmarks. Yet that’s not to say they can’t be enjoyed. Budding photographers fear not. Photo mode returns and certainly adds a productive element to the game. Capture shots from almost any angle, whilst editing daylight settings, contrast, brightness, and more, was surprisingly fun and further showcases the superb detail in and around the race environment.
If that wasn’t enough single-player content for you to get your mitts into. For those gamers wishing to replicate euphoric, thrilling race moments from real-life, the multiplayer continues to get more stacked each year. The ranked, unranked, eSportes, leagues and weekly competition events will continue to keep race fans more than satisfied as Codemasters continue to push the game to the limits. Putting the power in your hands as players can customize all the race stipulations before events amongst a full grid of online players from around the world. Keeping a track of all this is the fantastically thorough super license. Which records all your online and offline race stats such as miles completed, podiums finishes, clean laps, penalties, and more. Scoring you by a rating system which no doubt helps identify the spoilsports and legit players.
Newly implemented this year is the “podium pass”. A basic feature that rewards players for successfully completing challenges with prizes like extra celebrations, badges, and liveries features.
Wrapping this review up, my experience with F1 2020 is one I won’t be ending anytime soon. F1 2020 showcases both the sport and video game at its finest. My only gripes are that loading times can feel quite lengthy, and the press interviews seem to lack personality. Besides those two minor flaws, It has something for everyone. An authentic, realistic experience for the simulator purists, whilst a jump in and go approach is there for the casual fan looking for some distraction and a good time via the likes of split-screen and time trial. It retains stellar production values, with solid framerates of 60fps and driver models, cars & tracks looking superb in 1080p. Single-player modes are expertly crafted to replicate the presentation from its life-like counterpart, whilst providing an abundance of depth that will keep players busy for many, many hours.
Just when you think Codemasters can’t take the game any further than the previous year, they continue to innovate and smash expectations. If this is the last entry on the current-gen of consoles then what a way to go out. The last decade has really seen Codemasters stamp their authority on the racing market in what I would term a golden era for them. With the next-gen on the horizon, I can’t wait to see future instalments in the F1 franchise and what else Codemasters have up their sleeve.
Many thanks to Koch Media & Codemasters for the Xbox One digital deluxe Michael Schumacher edition. F1 2020 releases on 10th July, for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC. Don’t forget to drop your thought’s on F1 2020 in the comments box below. Happy racing everyone.