While F1 2021 keeps to the same template established by the 2020 edition, it’s still Codemaster’s most accessible and enjoyable F1 racer to date, with the new Braking Point mode adding some Drive to Survive-esque thrills
- Accessible presentation
- Competitive driving experience
- New Braking Point storyline entertains
- Two-Player Career mode
- No big changes from before
- Braking Point New storyline separate from Career mode
- Two-Player Career Two players can now play Career Mode online with each other
- Esports mode Competitive Esports component
- My Icons Play as legends in the game with the Digital Deluxe edition
- PlatformsPC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
F1 2020 was Codemaster’s best F1 effort yet: years of building the foundations to form a thoroughly entertaining package for racing fans.
Much like the cars in this year’s championship, F1 2021 isn’t an overhaul of what came before, but a tweak of the current formula. If you’re hoping for a revolution, especially with the next-gen consoles established, you may be disappointed by what Codemasters has to offer.
But the breadth of content F1 2021 offers is impressive, the presentation slick and polished, and the racing is just as good as it was before.
Not much has changed with the core experience, but the one new feature is the ‘Braking Point’ storyline. Separated from the rigours of the Career mode, Braking Point is a scripted storyline that follows in the slipstream of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series.
Like that series, it’s more aimed at those unfamiliar with the sport, and there’s nothing particularly unsurprising about the ups and downs of the two F1 seasons it runs over. It’s a hokey but engaging story of two drivers – rookie Aiden Jackson and veteran Casper Akkerman – as they compete as teammates.
The first season is from Aiden’s point of view, while the second switches to Akkerman’s perspective and provides a nice balance as the story ebbs and flows, with background characters adding some depth. It’s not worth spoiling any specific plot points, but let’s say it takes familiar beats from rising rookie/ageing veteran relationships witnessed in real life.
You don’t play through a full season beginning to end, but selected races over the course of the season and even then you’re not necessarily driving from start to finish. Often, you’re catching up with the action in media res as races unfurl on track. Most of your tasks are to complete objectives to reach the next cutscene. Oftentimes you’ll need to drive like Speed Racer to hit them, but even if you fail there’s the option to restart and go again.
Career mode and My Team
Career Mode repeats the choice of starting in the F2 junior category and making your way to an F1 team or going straight to F1.
There’s the Two Player Career mode if you want to share the career mode with someone else online, and there’s also Real-Season Start, where you can jump into this current F1 season with points and standings as they were in real life – though you can’t become a Hamilton or a Verstappen – simply substituting for them instead.
Or you can take the reins of the My Team mode. Here you are the owner and driver of the 21st team in the championship where you can sign your own drivers (you can even add legends of old if you get the Digital Deluxe edition) and develop your facilities at your HQ as you try and lead your team towards the top of the grid.
Conversely, there’s a little more to deal with or a little less to actively engage in if you don’t want to – the choice is yours. If you want the full experience of dealing with minutiae of F1: keeping your R&D departments happy, training your drivers and using your resource points to develop your car, that option is there. But if you simply want to automate that side of the ‘business’ and focus on the driving, that’s possible too.
If anything, these changes serve to make Codemster’s F1 series more accessible than before. You can even simulate practice sessions through Quick Practice mode, but that carries a risk you may not earn as many resource points as you would if you were on the tarmac yourself.
The degree with which the game scales from the simple to the challenging is impressive in its breadth.
Casual and Standard race styles are now joined by Expert if you want a real challenge. At higher difficulties racing feels tougher as the AI aren’t afraid to stick a nose in – which can often end in tears – and with simulation damage on you can’t barrel into another car without coming off worse for wear.
At this level, races become a delicate balance of risk versus reward, and when you pull off the result you want it feels deserved, even if it’s simply not ending up last.
Handling is similar to 2020 for both F1 and F2 cars, which feel a little understeery but can also succumb to oversteer if you’re too greedy on the throttle. In the heat of battle, the slightest twitch could drop you back from being on the attack to being on the defensive, which delivers the lesson of smooth inputs and consistent times, especially if you’re racing with AI at Hard and above.
In terms of online play, there’s the eSports section, though that doesn’t seem to be going live until later in the year. Multiplayer offers the usual categories of weekly leagues, ranked and social races.
Visually it’s another attractive and atmospheric looking game that makes solid use of HDR. From an audio perspective it also hits the spot, capturing the sounds of brake lockups or the whine of the power unit as you power through the gears. Playing on the PS4 and so far there have been no noticeable bugs or issues so far.
Should you buy it?
If you’re an F1 fan: Codemasters’ latest is another authentic and accessible take on F1, with the new Braking Point storyline another engaging feather in its bow that’s worth diving into as an introduction if you’re new to the sport.
If you’re expecting big change:
Previous F1 games have been laying down the foundation and with the new consoles here, some may have expected the series to make a significant leap forward. That isn’t the case, but that’s not to say what’s offered isn’t any less engaging.
F1 2021 isn’t all that different from the 2020 iteration, but the tweaks made ensure it’s most accessible package yet. If you’re a newbie looking to sample F1, an experienced racer looking for a ‘near-sim’ challenge or a racing fan somewhere in-between, Codemasters has delivered another convincing and all-consuming take on the sport.
If last year’s version was one of the best single-player racing experiences available, then the same applies here. It may not be the big advance some were hoping for with the new consoles out in the wild, but perhaps like the upcoming 2022 regulations, seismic change for the sport and this game will have to wait.
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Yes it does, and it’ll likely be the same as the wheel support for F1 2020.
The Digital Deluxe edition features access to the My Icons roster of legends such as Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, David Coulthard and Felipe Massa.