When F1 2020 was announced back in April, we had a global pandemic on our hands. We called it a fantasy game because in reality the F1 season was suspended indefinitely. People flew in from around the world to see the opening race at Melbourne, Australia (our home city) which was cancelled at the very last minute due to this ‘Novel Coronavirus’ that media outlets had begun reporting on. How quickly it all came reckoning on the planet, and it wasn’t until last weekend that the F1 season officially kicked off in Austria (albeit with no crowd and strict social distancing in place), so what better time for F1 2020 to hit the shelves, and our review to follow suit.
This year sees several changes to F1 2020, including My Team mode where you take full control of an eleventh F1 team to take on Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull… or maybe just try and catch the Williams team from the back of the pack. Other welcome changes include two-player split-screen and two new licensed circuits (Zandvoort and Hanoi). This year marks the 70th anniversary of Formula 1 racing at Silverstone, UK and so naturally fans will find a F1 2020 Seventy Edition available at launch which includes in-game 70th anniversary items such as a helmet, race suit, badge and car livery.
The menu screens are largely unchanged from last year’s F1 2019, but they have been slightly streamlined to get you to where you want to go faster. The new My Team mode makes its presence felt, but you can also start a traditional Driver Career, or participate in your own custom Grand Prix, Championship, and Time Trial mode. F1 Esports gets its own section in F1 2020 where you can check out all the happenings of the best F1 Esports drivers in the world, which is a market that continues to grow each year. You’ll also find customisation options for your car liveries, characters and badges in the main menu, as well as a showroom to observe the Formula 1 cars and a theatre to view your favourite replay highlights.
As mentioned, My Team mode allows you to create your very own custom team complete with a name, sponsors, and unique customisable look. Your look can continue to evolve each race week if you choose, and as it’s your team you get to pick your racing partner. The idea of My Team mode is not to come out of the box fighting, but instead to build a successful team, working with your racing partner. You probably won’t win the Constructors Championship in the first season, but as you invest more money in your vehicle and team, eventually you’ll find yourself (and hopefully your partner) on the podium.
The ‘Research & Development’ tree is back, allowing you to invest in different parts of your car more heavily such as the aero or power train. A new feature however is the ‘Facilities’ screen, which is where you will spend most of your race winnings and sponsorship money. There are six facilities in your team: Aerodynamics, Chassis, Powertrain, Durability, Personnel, and Marketing. Each area requires attention, but you can also shut down different facilities to save money if you’re going broke. The Personnel tab allows you to upgrade your racing partner, though maxing out any facility is a huge drain on your finances. The Racing Simulator alone cost $23 million to fully upgrade, which doesn’t even put your racing partner on the podium.
Things can move very fast in F1 2020, but nothing is instant, and the My Team mode is a great new way to manage your career and keep you coming back for more seasons. The new Podium Pass is an added bonus that gives you points as you play the various modes which can be used to unlock different liveries, emotes and other rare and exclusive in-game items, similar to the items you get in the Forza series’ wheelspins. F1 2020 also allows you to have a shortened season of just 10 or 16 races instead of the full 22, which is convenient because it looks like that’s what will probably happen in real life this year. You can customise which races you want in your 10 or 16 too, allowing you to carve your own path around the world for the F1 2020 season.
Most importantly though, the gameplay in F1 2020 is a pleasure. It’s accessible to newcomers and casuals, but also fully customisable for the hardcore simulation racers among us. Unlike some other racing sims, when you connect your wheel F1 2020 lets you choose from a long list of different wheels to have personalised handling for your specific wheel, which you can then customise further to suit your own style. On the other end of the spectrum, casual fans can make F1 2020 play like an arcade racer with their controller, keeping many of the assists on and difficulty low.
We had a lot of fun testing out vehicles from the past and present on the many different tracks on offer, including the two new tracks in the Netherlands and Vietnam. The racing line wasn’t perfect, especially on turn 11 of the French Circuit Paul Ricard where it just stayed red despite not needing to slow down at all. The handling has been slightly reworked, and we found interactions with other vehicles felt as you would expect. The race stewards are out to get you for any mistakes though, so don’t expect to get away with cheeky nudges like you might in other racing games.
Speaking of cheeky nudges, this year’s multiplayer has plenty of options including (finally) the introduction of 2-player split-screen, which, mind you, is amazing! Other modes include ranked and unranked races, a weekly event to compare yourself to racers around the world, and leagues where you can join one and then complete certain custom events for rewards. There are so many different gameplay options in F1 2020 that it actually feels like it’s more than just an F1 game.
It’s hard to fault the graphics both on the track and off it now in F1 2020 as Codemasters continues to push towards a photo-realistic emulation of the pinnacle of motorsport. We get closer each year to that objective, and with the next generation of consoles around the corner we could be almost there. Our two main issues this year are objectively circumstantial. The environments surrounding the race tracks aren’t anywhere near as highly detailed as the tracks themselves, such as Melbourne’s skyline looking more like 2010 than 2020 (Where is Australia 108, Codemasters?!), and another thing we noticed was some rather low-resolution pit crew animations when you happen to drive past them while they’re tending to another car during a race. They’re minor, yes, but we’re hoping the power of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 along with the latest RTX graphics cards and DDR5 RAM for PC will allow Codemasters to truly push boundaries and make for an ultra-realistic Formula 1 racing experience in the coming years.
It’s amazing to consider how far the F1 games have come this generation. Codemasters wasn’t confident releasing F1 2014 on the current gen, so we didn’t actually see any until just five years ago. F1 2015 received a mixed response, averaging 60-65% across the board, so it’s fantastic to see how far it’s come (especially in the last three years) and what must be in-store for the next generation with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. F1 2020 is the most fun you’ll have in an F1 game this generation no matter your skill level, and with plenty of gameplay modes you’ll find you keep coming back for more.
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed F1 2020 on an Xbox One X console in 4K using an Xbox One Controller and a Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel 458 Italia Edition with a review copy provided by the publisher. For more game information, head to the official website.
- Super smooth handling; accessible for all styles of racers - An entertaining swansong to wrap up the current generation of gaming - The best F1 game ever. Period.
- The driving line on turn 11 of Circuit Paul Ricard is wrong - Codemasters desperately needs to redo the Melbourne skyline - Low res pit crew is better than no pit crew but still needs work.