Title: F1 Review
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Genre: Simulation Racing
The racing simulation genre has evolved tremendously over the years, but most seem to focus on dream cars drivable on the street. While it’s fun to get behind the wheel of these luxurious cars at top speeds, nothing really tops the exhilaration that Formula 1 racing provides. When it comes to the Codemasters developed F1 2020, we hope to feel this fast-paced adrenaline rush experience in the palm of our hands. Thankfully, we get a lot of that and a little more.
F1 2020 introduces a new mode called My Team, which follows a player’s 10-year career in managing and racing their team to the top of the F1 Championship. This mode is essentially a complete fantasy league, as players have the option to pick everything from their custom made racer down to tires they want to use during practice laps.
When crafting a team, players can first pick a sponsor with a signing bonus, conditions required to get the most earnings, and a parts supplier that balances weekly cost to performance. Next, a second AI driver that assists in your acclaim and overall ranking going into Formula 1. Finally, players are given a facility to manage the team, activities, contracts, departments that they have access to between races. Those departments are broken up into four spaces: Aerodynamics, Chassis, Powertrain, and Durability. These facilities are made up of teams that work hard to ensure your car is the fastest and longest-lasting, as long as they have the cash, morale, and acclaim to do so.
Players provide those resources in many ways throughout the campaign. Winning races, fulfilling contracts, beating out rivals, and answering interview questions are opportunities to bring in money, acclaim, and resource points to upgrade the facility and cars. However, the actions you take can also have a negative effect on your managerial skills. For example, players who gloat can earn more acclaim but at the cost of staff morale, which might slow down production. Additionally, ranking low in races hurts the team’s funds, which might cause you to close some departments down.
The complete control of your success has always been at the heart of sports titles, but adding instances that put teamwork and management to the test works well for this title. However, it also takes a lot to get that point, and the deep and confusing menus don’t make that any easier. Progress was also slowed down by the lack of key terms in tips, which made it tough to find answers to one-off questions that I had.
The other mode available is My Career, which is a toned-down version of My Team that has players focus on just time management, car upgrades, and racing. There are still interviews, but they only give you the option to shout out your departments. I felt like this mode is a bit oversimplified since it takes away sponsorships, which added a layer of money management and challenges to the races. Without that, My Career mode feels bare and could have been rolled into a standard racing mode. If the intention was to make a less in-depth mode for new players, I say drop acclaim and focus on earning sponsorship money to upgrade car stats.
Other modes include Grand Prix, which has players select a team and driver before creating their own list of tracks to race on, and Championship where players choose preset leagues. On the multiplayer front, split-screen makes a return from F1 2014 and allows a pair of racers to select their team and tracks to race it out to their heart’s content.
When it comes to the racing itself, Codemasters has taken its long history in the genre and injected it into all the small details. From acceleration, players can see and hear the force and roar coming from their sources and surrounding cars on the track. Letting go of the clutch on the green expenses loud and crackling engines that makes racing exciting in the first place. Even when passing close to walls and stadium seating, sound signatures shift appropriately as it bounces off surfaces. Small details like car’s undercarriages spark up against the pavement or pieces of the wing chipping away after minor crashes create imagery no different from watching a real-life highlight reel online.
Thanks to the default settings, F1 2020 is tuned towards new players, which allowed me to get used to the handling and pace for the fast cars. This provided me with more than enough control to dial in the feel, assists, and difficulty of the AI. While I couldn’t tell you the difference in AI levels between 35 and 37, ramping up the 110 point scale from Easy to Hard shows more aggressive driving in the form of blocking paths, creating small gaps or straight up squeezing racers to the edge of the road. Meanwhile, assist options are a lot more than manual or automatic gearboxes. The levels of braking, racing lines, start launch, and fuel assists allow for fine-tuning what players need help in to enjoy a great racing experience, and I’m all for it.
When looping around on the track, there are aspects of the car that degrade over time as the player pushes the vehicle to its limit. Things such as tires can wear and loosen the car’s grip to the track, and a low battery or fuel could degrade the performance of the vehicle if players don’t make an effort to conserve them. However, most of all, damage to your car’s chassis means taking a hit to its aerodynamics and alignments. All of which adds to the challenge of surviving a race while aiming for first place. Thankfully, it’s easy to see where you need to improve or what you need to conserve.
To further the accessibility of F1 2020, there is a casual racing style that can be toggle before a race. This simplifies the driving mechanics by auto setting a lot of the gameplay menus and make mistakes out on the track less consequential with more relaxed off-track driving, steering assists, and reset to track. These settings help make the game less daunting compared to the endless menus, tweaks, and management found in My Team mode. Not only do I think that Codemasters created a game with the best of both worlds, but I can also see a veteran player taking a quick breather race without worrying about their status.
F1 2020 is by far the most accessible simulation racer available, without sacrificing what genre fans love. There are dozens of menus to get lost in with customizable options, but also just as many accessibility features for newcomers. Sadly, the differences between My Team and My Career aren’t as vast as I’d have liked, but nothing really takes away from the fact that this is a damn good racer.
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