COVID-19 may have delayed Formula 1 in real life, but Codemasters is still here to deliver some top notch F1 action with F1 2020. Other sports titles have been around longer, but the F1 series has seen consistent improvements over the years. This year’s entry is no different, with a plethora of new game modes alongside the same excellent gameplay that we all recognise. There are a few blemishes, but they don’t detract from what an excellent F1 simulation Codemasters has created.
Story – Expanded Yet Reduced
Sports titles have never really had meaningful stories in them, focusing on gameplay over narrative. F1 2020 is no different, which is disappointing as the light story elements from F1 2019 were refreshing. There are no rivals to move into Formula 1 with and that element of rivalry made the previous game more interesting. I would have loved to have seen the developers expand upon the story elements and give us some truly detestable rivals to race against.
But Driver Career hasn’t been neglected, far from it in fact. F1 2019 introduced F2, but only let you race a handful of times and had you simulate the rest of the season. F1 2020 expands on the introduction of F2, allowing you to play out the entire 2019 season if your heart desires. There are no rivals, but the game gives you the option to earn your way into Formula 1 rather than start there from scratch. If you don’t like the sound of that, you can jump straight into a Formula 1 season immediately. Codemasters has gone above and beyond this year, making the game as customisable as possible.
However, the biggest addition to the series is the brand new Team Career mode. This allows you to create your own team and race as an owner driver. You’ll be asked unique questions in interviews and manage everything from the design of your car to team activities.
Gameplay – Familiarity With A Difference
Most of the changes in F1 2020 are in Team Career mode, and I’d highly recommend that you start there. It’s by far the most in-depth mode and there are tonnes of new mechanics to play around with. As the owner, you must oversee and manage every aspect of your team for maximum efficiency. You have to deal with sponsors, allocate funds to improve different departments, oversee car upgrades, and even create your team’s brand. With a handful of designs, you can customise your car any way you want along with your team’s badge. It’s a dizzying amount of customisation, and something that other sports franchises like FIFA could certainly learn from.
This level of management even stems into hiring a second driver for your team. Codemasters has implemented a new Driver Market where you can bid on drivers or poach one from another team. You’ll often bid against another team by offering the driver in question upgrades to their salary until one of you bows out or the timer runs out. There is the odd occasion where an AI team will snipe you at the last second, which feels a little unfair, but for the most part, it’s an interesting new addition.
Podium Pass and Microtransactions
Now this may turn some of you away. The F1 series has been microtransactions free since launch, but F1 2020 has a new Podium Pass system. It’s very similar to the battle pass systems in games like Apex Legends. Each race you finish or challenge you accomplish, whether you’re offline or online, will grant you experience which will unlock tiers of the Podium Pass. These tiers give you access to different liveries, outfits for your driver, emblems, and celebrations. You can unlock skins without buying the pass, but with the upgraded pass, you’ll earn higher quality customisation items.
I’m not the biggest fan of battle passes in premium games, but the pass is entirely optional and only contains items for customisation. If additional monetisation like this doesn’t bother you, then it won’t be a problem, but I thought it worth mentioning in case you’re strictly against it.
Codemasters nailed the gameplay over two games so don’t expect any massive changes to the way the games feels or any new mechanics when you’re out on the track. Your practice sessions will play out exactly as before, as will qualifying and the race itself. The only minor change I noticed was the addition of an “Overtake” button. When activated, it automatically gets the full power out of your car so you don’t have to keep increasing and decreasing power in the menus.
Other than that, it’s business as usual. Some may say that it’s a flaw, but I have no idea how Codemasters could improve their standard gameplay. As far as racing simulators go, F1 2020 is almost perfect. I only have two criticisms, the first being that F1 cars do seem a little more brittle. Even the slightest bump against another car can damage your wing, and you often won’t realise because the game doesn’t tell you if you damage your car slightly. There was one instance where I was struggling to get around corners and had no idea why until I saw my diagnostics and found out the left side of my front wing was broken.
The second is that the post-race interviews can be repetitive and almost nonsensical at times. Two particular questions that stood out to me was when the interviewer asked if my teammate enjoyed racing in his home country, even though I shared the same nationality. There was also a question that forced me to praise my second driver despite him having a penalty at the beginning of the race and then having to retire from the session. The interviews can be somewhat of a chore after a race rather than something you enjoy doing.
Despite these two minor issues, F1 2020 remains to be the best racing simulator I’ve ever played. The multiplayer is fun and intense and the career modes are both in-depth and incredibly realistic.
Graphics and Audio – Hit and Miss
Whilst F1 2020 shines in the gameplay department, the graphics are far too hit and miss. Graphical issues during pre and post-race cutscenes are far too common and make the game look visually slapdash. You’ll frequently deal with missing textures, blurry character models and designs, and the odd headless driver. Whilst it’s funny at first, it diminishes your podium placement and even happens so often that it can be frustrating. Outside of races, the game’s visuals need plenty of work.
However, during the races, the game looks brilliant. The level of details on the cars is so visually appealing and sparks flying off the back of cars during straights always look incredible. The weather effects in the F1 games have always been brilliant and F1 2020 is no exception. When the rain lashes down and obscures your vision, it makes driving that much more tense and thrilling. Clearly all the effort was in making the races themselves look as good as possible, and it shows.
As for the soundtrack, there’s literally nothing new to talk about. F1 2020 uses the same music as the previous game throughout, which is a little disappointing. Some licensed music would be welcome to liven up the sections in-between races, rather than just silence. The sound effects are realistic, the voice acting is acceptable although a little robotic, and the game is audibly average.
F1 2020 was reviewed for PS4 with a key provided by Codemasters.