Over recent years Codemasters have annually released the latest iteration of their official F1 game promising that it would be bigger, better, brighter and more immersive than the ones which came before it. And for the most part – at least over the last couple of outings – they’ve stayed true to that promise. But here we are in 2019 and once more the kings of racing are delivering their latest take on the glitz and glamour of the F1 circuit by pushing out a greater emphasis on visuals, realism, and driving opportunities. Does that mean they’ve developed the best F1 title of recent times? Well, I think they may just have.
F1 2019 is the official videogame of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship and, as you may expect, it covers all the relevant bases which that entails. It comes with all of the globe-trotting F1 stars racing fans look up to, it has all the teams that frequent the pitlane, and it comes with all the tracks from the 2019 season. But then it also comes with a ton more.
See, F1 2019 not only focuses on the world of F1, but in a rather brilliant segue into the career mode, it also comes with a decent bit of focus on the F2 landscape too, allowing the deep career mode to be able to run with an intense narrative at all times.
The main career will be the meat and drink of much of what F1 2019 offers – at least initially – and by kicking things off with a few set scenarios across the F2 feeder series, a bit of backstory ensures that you are immersed with every twist and turn. Focusing on yourself as an up and coming driver, the cutscenes and tale being considered centralise on you rising to glory alongside your F2 teammate Lukas Weber, and one Devon Butler – your bitter rival.
As this is set across the 2018 F2 season we also see the likes of F1 new kids George Russell, Alex Albon and current McLaren hot property Lando Norris competing in these races, all as you gear up for entry into the main event. These guys all follow you up to the F1 scene, allowing for a bit of familiarity when you make it in the big time, and after signing for your preferred team – each of which has their own high expectations (yes, even Williams) – it’s time to get down to racing.
And that racing is, quite frankly, brilliant. In fact, after spending time with every single F1 title since 1996 and the iconic Formula 1 on PS1 (and probably even anything that came before it), I think this may well be the best edition yet. Obviously with advancements in technology, budgets, skills, licenses and ideas, that really should be the case, but even here, following up from F1 2017 and F1 2018, 2019 still seems streaks ahead.
The handling is on point, the speed is immense, the attention to detail is stupidly high, and near on every single element of the racing side of F1 2019 is on point. I say near on, as whilst this is pretty much a petrolhead’s dream, the sheer depth of mechanical options, car setups, and in-game race management may well just put any non-F1 fan off a little. See, throughout your time in the cockpit of an F1 car you’ll constantly need to not just worry about hitting the throttle and nailing the apexes, but by opening up and actioning settings on your multi-function display via a combination of bumper buttons and d-pad inputs, you will find yourself needing to keep track of, and amend, every tiniest detail. This may seem a bit too deep, but it really allows for full immersion into the world of F1, keeping you in touch with your engineers, allowing for full race breakdowns as and when things happen, and making pitstop decisions on the fly in order to cater for the stunning weather system and equally as good tire degradation mechanics that mix things up. It’s a brilliant system that hammers home the complexities that real-world F1 drivers have to deal with on a daily basis.
The racing just seems to get better every single time you venture onto track too, and with an AI system that is tough but fair, you’ll really have to make the most of every opportunity that comes your way; diving down the inside of a rival at the tightest of corners at Monaco, or sweeping past them on the straights of China never fail to deliver. You’ll find the AI give what they take too, and even though blocking tactics do work, should you not be quick enough – or fail to action that DRS button – will find yourself falling down the grid faster than an out of place Haas.
But even when the racing finishes, it’s not just about blasting straight onto the next track and by taking to the team garage, reading your emails, answering some simple reporter questions, checking over your preferred team upgrades and more, you’ll constantly be kept busy. Hell, there’s even a reason to partake in the practice sessions prior to qualy and the race proper, with each team pushing out a number of challenges across the sessions. Compete, and succeed in nailing the objectives, in these and you’ll earn points which can be put into the car development side of things, helping you push your team on to greater levels. Fail, and well, you can just ditch them when a new offer from another team comes along.
While the majority of your racing time will be spent in the career, there are multiple other full championship options also available, like being able to partake in the full F2 season instead of the scenarios which the career brings. You can enjoy a classic championship with cars from years gone by, partake in some wet weather Grand Prix action and a whole load more. In fact, there are no less than 20 unlockable Championships to take part in, with enough racing involved in each to ensure that you are kept massively busy – no doubt until F1 2020 arrives.
Throw in some Invitational Events, the chance to race as a Legend and compete in some iconic Senna vs Prost battles – albeit via an extra DLC purchase – and a one-off Grand Prix in which you choose your own car, your own track and your own rules, and it’s fair to say that if it’s racing you are after, F1 2019 has you covered. There are also Time Trials in place, allowing you to prove yourself against the clock, again with a variety of machines available; this year’s beasts, the old classics, or those F2 racers from last year.
And then there is the multiplayer side of things, and yet again F1 2019 nails the vast majority of elements once more. With a thriving online scene and numerous players involved, when you find yourself bored with the multitude of solo options available, you will easily be able to find a decent race or two against real-world opponents. And in a total and utter twist from the norm, the racing seems to be pretty fair too, with opponents seemingly more worried about their online super licence and safety rating than trying to win the race at the very first corner. Of course there are exceptions to that rule, and as the online scene populates with even more racers, the bad guys will always creep out. But on the whole, my time with F1 2019 online has been a good one – across all of the ranked, unranked, league and weekly event options that are available.
So, all is good in the F1 2019 camp, but surely there must be some strange oddities that afflict the action? After all, no game is ever perfect. Well yes, there are some issues, but as a huge F1 fan, the majority of what is delivered is of the very highest quality and the downsides are far outweighed. Being picky though and I’ve noticed the odd variation shown in-game in terms of car positions, with one standout moment showing me sitting pretty in 3rd and looking for a podium, although two Ferrari’s and the current world champion were all in front of me on the track. I was watching this unfold for a few laps, hoping that things would iron themselves out as we reached the latter stages of the race, but alas, crossing that finish line and seeing the chequered flag resulted in a 4th place finish. That’s not the end of the world for someone competing in a McLaren though.
There are also the odd visual issues with racing online; sometimes seeing other cars stutter and jolt all over the track. Yes, this only seems to affect those racers in another part of the world, but buttery smooth online racing is not something F1 2019 is always able to deliver.
This visual issue is a strange one though as aside from that F1 2019 on Xbox One looks absolutely first class. From each and every car, cycling through the various camera options and spying the most minute of details, right up to the brilliantly recreated tracks, broadcast style cutscenes, and more, this is a game that is right up there with the very best lookers in the gaming scene. Yes, the character models could be a little better, but hey, we’re here for the racing and I’m not going to knock Codies for not quite nailing the visual look of some pitlane reporter who pops up every now and then. The audio is just as good, with the cars roaring away with glee, the now famous F1 theme blasting out in style, and the commentary team of David Croft, Anthony Davidson and the F2 team of Alex Jacques and Davide Valsecchi all doing a sterling job.
Even that damn placing bug hasn’t in anyway affected my time with F1 2019. Instead I’ve been left with a brilliant experience that has just reinforced my love of F1 even more, with a game that delivers stunning racing, a whole plethora of race options and visuals that are going to take a lot to be beaten. If you are a fan of the sport, are looking for a new online racer, wish to involve yourself in a lengthy career or just prefer to smash out a quick time trial or two, Codemasters’ F1 2019 delivers on all fronts.
The best F1 game of recent times? I think F1 2019 may well just be that.