Codemasters has now been in charge of the F1 franchise for more than a decade. In that time, the series has constantly improved to the point that it is now widely considered to be one of the most consistent and impressive racing games on the market. That’s largely because the developers have taken an approach of evolution rather than revolution when it comes to each new installment.
That essentially means that anyone who has played any of the recent F1 games would probably be able to skip the subsequent year’s entry. While F1 2019 was a definite improvement over F1 2018, it didn’t do anything too spectacular so could not demand fans to buy it. Like any annual sports game, if you can live without roster updates and fresh liveries then there’s not necessarily any need to upgrade. But F1 2020 finally breaks that cycle by including a new mode that really improves the overall experience.
My Team not only brings more customization to the franchise but it also injects extra depth into a career mode that hasn’t really changed all that much over the last few years. Rather than join one of the established teams simply as a driver, My Team gives you the chance to join the grid as the eleventh racing outfit. Acting as a manager in addition to a driver gives you a lot more responsibility. You can create your own livery, set a team name, and even decide on who the second driver should be to pair up with you on track.
Of course, there’s a lot more to being in charge of an F1 team than that. Being successful requires looking after the finances, such as choosing sponsors, and deciding how to spend the cash being brought in. Players should expect to compromise on things such as engine suppliers and second drivers, especially in the early days when money can be a limiting factor. This can even include scheduling events, carefully picking what your team should focus on each week. A marketing event might improve your finances but lead to a loss of morale with your designers or engineers, while a driver’s course can improve your fortunes in races at the expense of other departments.
There’s a lot of information to wrap your head around with My Team and it won’t be something that all players will want to invest time in. The focus on areas other than the actual racing is something that many people have been requesting for some time but it will also likely be nothing more than a distraction for those who just want to concentrate on the actual racing. However, I really enjoyed getting to grips with this aspect of Formula 1, which isn’t always at the forefront of the sport. It feels far more involved than the simple development trees that were included in previous editions, and your choices genuinely seem meaningful and impactful.
For those who aren’t interested in My Team, F1 2020 also includes a more standard Career Mode. This is pretty much what has been included in the series previously but it does expand on F1 2019 in that it adds the option to race a full Formula 2 season rather than just a few races. Experiencing more of the tracks in an F2 car is nice but the real benefit is that it also gives you more time to show off your skills and give a better impression to potential suitors in Formula 1.
Once that is over with, you can jump straight into the racing proper. Codemasters has gone further with the standard Career Mode than ever before. Obviously, the developers have added the two new circuits, Circuit Zandvoort and Hanoi Street Circuit, introduced to the calendar this year, even though they might not happen in the real world. Still, they’re rendered here in glorious detail. It is certainly nice to be able to try out some new tracks as there’s been a distinct lack of originality in this regard over recent years – although that can’t really be blamed on Codemasters because they’re not in charge of the F1 race schedule.
There are also a lot more options for players when it comes to deciding how long each season should be. Standard options include a 20, 16, or 10 race calendar but players are given the opportunity to develop their own. It’s surprising that this is something that has not been included in the past, yet allowing it now is a neat little addition as you can choose to only race at your favourite tracks. For players who are new to the F1 franchise, there’s a casual difficulty to help ease rookies into the action, turning on extra driving aides and taking over certain functions so they can focus on getting used to everything.
Outside of the season-long events, F1 2020 has a series of modes to try when you don’t want to commit to an hour-long session or just fancy getting behind the wheel of a car for some fun. Time trials are available for those seeking to top the leaderboards, while grand prix events can be tackled one at a time rather than as part of a championship. The ability to play through competitions with F2 cars or even classic F1 vehicles is a welcome move as well, providing plenty of options for players. In terms of multiplayer offerings, F1 2020 has the same online options that have always been included. One fresh inclusion is split-screen multiplayer, giving you the chance to play against others on the same console for the first time in many years.
When it comes to driving in F1 2020, there is really not all that much to complain about. This is undoubtedly one of the best handling and most accessible racing titles on the market. It doesn’t matter whether you want a sheer simulation experience or prefer a gentler approach, this game has everything you need. The controls feel responsive and light, allowing you to really feel the characteristics of each car in different conditions. There’s a wealth of options when it comes to driving assists to ensure that you can tune into exactly what works for you.
Out of the many racers I’ve played, I feel like the F1 series continues to be the leader in actually improving your skill set. Gradually turning off the assists as you get more comfortable has a noticeable effect on your speed, pushing you to actually get better. I haven’t found that type of motivation in other racing games and F1 2020 does it better than ever with more settings to choose from. Even those who are lacking in a lot of racing experience should be able to see an improvement and progress as they play more.
Once again, Codemasters has gone above and beyond in order to capture the sounds and sights of Formula 1 as accurately as possible. The cars sound realistic and the classic vehicles have a gorgeous rumble to them that is incredibly satisfying to hear when zooming around a track like Silverstone. The visuals are just as impressive, with each F1 car and circuit captured in stunning detail. The only real complaint is that many of the animations and models have still not been updated. Winning a race or talking to the reporters before a session is exactly the same as it was in F1 2017.
Since Codemasters acquired the rights to Formula 1, the developer has very rarely disappointed. In what is the last proper release on current generation consoles before the inevitable upgrade to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, they have outdone themselves. F1 2020 is the most complete and in-depth Formula 1 game that has ever been released, due in large part to the addition of My Team. Die hard fans of the sport will love the realistic simulation it can provide but F1 2020 also has plenty of appeal for more casual racers. This is easily one of the best racing titles of recent times and a must-buy for fans of the sport who want to immerse themselves in the on-track action.
A copy of F1 2020 was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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F1 2020 is not just a great Formula 1 game but one of the best racers released this generation, thanks to its responsive driving, wealth of options, and in-depth game modes.
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