Codemasters' F1 series continue to put in the mileage, upping the competitiveness, expanding the F2 series and adding the My Team mode for what is the most comprehensive package to date.
- Lots of content and accessibility options
- Slick presentation
- AI drivers are competitive
- My Team offers impressive scope
- Some features feel like box ticking exercise
- Classic car mode could be more expansive for 70th edition
- Review Price: £54.99
- PC, PS4 (tested), Xbox
- Deluxe Schumacher edition
- Split-screen multiplayer
- F1 eSports mode
- F2, My Team and Career modes
The Austrian Grand Prix showed how exciting and unpredictable F1 can be – and also laid down a marker for the F1 2020 game to emulate.
The F1 games have come a long way since Sumo Digital‘s F1 2009 for the Wii. Codemaster’s latest is its biggest, most comprehensive facsimile of the motorsport, and the best take on it yet.
F1 2020 also pays respect to this year being the 70th edition of F1 Championship, with the game shipping in two versions: the Seventy Edition and the Deluxe Schumacher edition on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
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Codemasters has been slowly building up its F1 games throughout the past few years. It has refined Career mode, brought in classic cars – which returns with a bevy of Michael Schumacher efforts – improved its AI drivers, and launched new modes in the fully licensed F2 series, which now feels part of the racing furniture.
Given my last experience was F1 2018, first impressions of the handling indicate it hasn’t changed significantly. I see this as a good thing, as there tended to be a period of readjustment with each new release, upping the difficulty curve in the process. The racing in 2020 is still demanding and requires concentration, but isn’t inaccessible.
The wealth of driving aids will help those looking to (literally) get to grips, with race styles in Standard and Casual. The former is for experienced racers and allows for assists to be switched on or off. Casual offers the most accessible F1 experience, removing the more complicated systems and throwing on assisted steering.
While racing has more of a toe in simulation (although ERS has been simplified), it’s not iRacing levels of realism. Disable all the assists (which I’m not brave enough to do), and you’ll set yourself up for a more challenging drive. The tweaks made to the handling are welcome. It feels smoother and braking distances are shorter, so you’ll need to judge it correctly when jostling for position.
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F2 cars are a different kettle of fish. They’re stiffer, braking distances are longer and the cars lack the aerodynamic flair of their F1 counterparts. The combination of understeer on entry and oversteer on exit means you’ll need to keep your inputs smooth. If you do make a mistake, the flashback feature is always there to rescue you.
AI driving has been improved. They’re much more up for it than I remember, especially at harder difficulties. At Master difficulty and above, the AI hound your gearbox, dive bombing your inside line or toughing it out the outside. Overtakes aren’t a procession and they’re more aware, making little moves to cover you and out you off. The result is that racing feels more tactical and challenging. Expert is good enough for experienced drivers, but if that’s too easy, Master, Legend and Ultimate are available.
Career Mode has been expanded, and you can now start your career with a full season in the junior category and advance to F1; or go down the route of the new My Team mode. This allows you to create a 21st team, and you can sign your own drivers (initially from the youth categories), power units, create your own (predictably garish) team livery and assign cash/resource points to develop your car.
It offers a shot at glory or the prospect of failure as you attempt to meet objectives and balance the books. I can imagine it becoming F1’s version of FIFA’s Career Mode or Pro Evo’s Master League. The interview format that Codemasters brought in a few years ago is key to keeping your departments happy, but the presentation of your answers still feels rather dull. However, the idea of being a constructor is much more interesting, with your input and decisions key to propelling your racing outfit to the top.
The feeling of FIFA’s Career Mode is amplified by Driver stats. Using real-life data from the past five years, drivers are rated according to four categories (experience, racecraft, awareness and pace). Your character will also get stats, which you can develop further in Career or the My Team mode.
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The sense of speed is exhilarating and visuals are superb in HDR. Tracks are accurately replicated and the atmospheric lightning show the tracks at their best.
There are new tracks in Vietnamese Grand Prix and the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort. Hanoi is a high-speed circuit with long straights but takes a while to learn its corners, while Zandvoort is more of a rollercoaster; it’s banked curves (including that last corner), and sharp turns making it a fun and technically challenging track.
F1 2020 is the slickest presentation of the sport yet. There’s none of the melodrama of the F2 story mode, but the expanded nature of the F2 – you can do a taster, short or full season – elevates that sense of going from the bottom to the top of the racing pyramid.
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The growing F1 eSports scene, which got a huge boost during lockdown, gets plenty of attention with its own dedicated section. I haven’t had a chance to test out the multiplayer much, but build up to a race mirrors a race weekend where you go through practice and qualifying to determine your grid position. On race days there’s a race every hour on the hour, and if no one is in the lobby with you, you’ll line up against AI bots.
Are there aspects that could be improved? Sure. The podium celebrations always feel pedestrian and samey. The Invitationals are full of the usual time attacks, overtake and checkpoint and feel like a box-ticking exercise – it would be more interesting if Codemasters could get the license (if there is one) for Race of Champions. The selection of answers for media duties and keeping your departments engaged is still rather ho-hum in its execution.
I’m not wholly convinced by the audio either. It’s not the rattle of revs on the power units, but collisions which feel like boxy thuds rather savage, explosive shunts. Technically, there’s a brief bit of texture pop-in every so often and sometimes the black loading screens can go on for a bit too long.
Should You Buy F1 2020?
If you’re an ardent F1 racing fan there’s no doubt about getting F1 2020. It’s the most comprehensive and authentic take on the sport yet, with the improved AI, and the My Team mode presents a compelling chance to guide a fledgling team to championship glory.
Codemasters has iterated on the core and made it even better with a wealth of modes and accessibility. The Schumacher Deluxe edition is just the cherry on top for Schuey fans looking to get their hands on his most famous drives. Right now, F1 2020 is one of the best single-player racing experiences available you can find.