Ever since the birth of the video game, the F1 experience has been at the top of the tree for racing fans. But whilst early iterations of the F1 game stopped, started, and failed to rouse much interest, it was when Codemasters took over that the glitz and glamour of the real-world sport finally had the chance to make it virtually. And for over a decade now, it has been Codies who have slowly but surely built on every annual release with new ideas, an updated team and driver roster, and visuals to blow the mind of any and all petrolheads. In fact, aside from a slightly dodgy period mid-10’s, what Codemasters have produced with their F1 titles have been nothing short of stunning. Now, here with F1 2020 that same team are looking to cement their place as the kings of racing – and it is with the launch of this latest game that it is proven they know a thing or two about the pinnacle of motorsport.
F1 2020 is, in my most honest opinion, the best F1 title there has ever been. And believe me, hot on the heels of reviewing F1 2019 with full marks, and having played dozens of F1 titles since I first got involved in the gaming scene back in the mid-1980’s, I didn’t think there was ever this much room for improvement. But I was wrong, and this latest take on the Formula One scene sees Codemasters deliver absolutely everything that an F1 fan could want, and then some.
As you would expect to hear, F1 2020 allows you the chance to become the greatest driver the world has ever seen – across both single player and multiplayer components. And F1 2020 provides opportunities galore for all, no matter whether they wish to go it alone against the AI, or compete with the best of them from around the online globe.
It would probably be with the solo options where most players would start, and Codemasters have included a wide variety of features here. Not just are the usual one-off Grand Prix or Championships in place, but the staple of the racing scene – the Time Trial – is also present. These all allow for any race fan to pop on, whack out a quick race or two, before heading off and going about their day, safe in the knowledge that they’ve got their speed thrills for the day. And no matter which you choose, there is a ton of content included here too, giving you the chance to slowly work your way through full seasons, classic car championships, sprint champs, the F2 World Tour and a whole host of Invitational Events each with their own scenarios and settings. Fancy taking part in a quick Time Attack, Pursuit race, or Overtake Challenge? F1 2020 allows for it.
It is however with the super deep Driver Career and new My Team modes that F1 2020 really ups its game. These both do pretty much as you would expect, with the Driver Career allowing you to replicate the rise to glory of the likes of Lewis Hamilton, across seasons in which you get to prove that your driving prowess is high. The options are open to how you go about this too – if you prefer to start with a little taste of the big time in F2 you can, but similarly those who wish to jump straight in at the deep end with the power of F1 are catered for. Picking your favourite team, and attempting to nail specific team objectives across either a full season, or a couple of cutdown calendars are all available.
What is nice with F1 2020 is that it caters for near on everyone too. This may be sold as the official videogame of F1, but that doesn’t mean just F1 nuts should get involved. In fact, with the toggling of the race style, those who aren’t quite as familiar with the tracks, the cars, the handling and the power of the show can knock things down a little with the Casual style. This sees F1 racing become easier and more forgiving, negating the effects of losing track position, simplifying menus, dropping down AI difficulty levels and increasing the assists. Of course, this doesn’t have to be the case and Codemasters are still definitely catering for the hardcore audience too, with a huge array of amendments allowed to race length, whether or not you wish to partake in a formation lap, full practice sessions and how qualifying works. Throw in the inclusion of parc ferme rules, how important a role tyre temperature plays, DRS and ERS inclusion, and whether or not you wish to utilise flashbacks when that all important vehicle damage gets too high, and this really is a game that has had a whole ton of thought dropped in. Basically put, if it’s a part of F1 in the real-world, you can toggle it on and off here – and yes, that includes having to take part in some damn interviews with roving pit-lane reporters.
But then things get deeper still with the stunning My Team mode. This basically takes everything that is included in the Driver Career, by moving it beyond the line to see you becoming the driver/owner of the 11th team on the grid. From there, it is up to you to work with your finances and sponsors to employ second drivers, point all manner of R&D teams in the right direction and dictate how the every day calendar plays out. It really does put you into the shoes of a Toto Wolff when off the track, and a Lewis Hamilton when on it, with every decision you make crucial to how the rest of your team sees you, and how their morale sits. As we all know, a happy team is a good team, and that is a crucial part of how the My Team series rolls.
Of course, for all the game modes, for all the assists, and for all the opportunities given, it is when you hit the track where a game like F1 2020 really shines. And boy, does this shine.
If you so wish you can play out any Grand Prix situation as deeply as you like, working through multiple practice and qualifying sessions in order to help your team understand the tracks, and your own personal driving style some more. This all ties back into the R&D that kicks around in the background, and so it’s well worth you spending the time to pound the tarmac and rack up the miles in hope that you can see your team gather better results in the process.
You’ll really feel it on the track too. With multiple camera angles again letting any and all express their own playstyle – although seriously, if you’re down with F1 you need that cockpit view – and again in-car management when going wheel-to-wheel with the rest of the grid is vital. This will mean utilising DRS when required, hitting the Overtake button should you need a burst, and playing around with fuel mixes, tyre strategies, pit-stop calls and more, all on the fly. And that’s without even worrying about the other cars that are on the grid and circuits at the same time as you are, with the AI giving a decent account of itself at all times. Even if you think it’s not, the opportunity to make things trickier or easy is just a button press away.
Don’t think that all the cars included in F1 2020 will feel the same though. Yes, every single one from the 2020 grid, through to the F2 roster, and down into the classics are proper thoroughbred machines, but they all play out slightly differently from one another. For instance, sit inside the 2020 Mercedes W11 or Red Bull’s RB16, and then jump into Michael Schumacher’s Benetton B194 or Jenson Button’s one-off championship winning 2009 Brawn GP BGP-001, and you’ll instantly notice the difference. It is probably this variety in car feel – and the whole host of options available at any one time – which gives F1 2020 such a great feel, with you needing to ever-learn no matter how many laps of a track you take in.
In terms of the multiplayer and it’s nearly as deep as that afforded the solo racer. Splitscreen local play is in place for those with a sofa-based mate to hand, but the real star is found in the online scene, with ranked, unranked, leagues and weekly events all present; the latter of which will see you needing to take in practice and qualy sessions prior to the big race. In fact, however you wish to go racing online, it is pretty much covered here with multiplayer matchmaking ensuring that you are placed on the grid alongside like-minded competitors. You can check on these other guys to ensure they are fair racers too, thanks to the inclusion of a Super Licence which details their playstyle and championship winning moments.
And when in race, the online side of F1 2020 very much replicates the solo opportunities. Granted, I’ve been playing this ahead of official launch, and so online racing chances have been limited, but from what I’ve partaken in so far, there is absolutely no lag, no stutter, no dodgy vehicle collisions and just good clean racing all round. It’s been a joy to play F1 2020 on Xbox One, across all settings.
So, if you’re looking for a really deep F1 experience, this is the game for you. And that is similarly true in terms of both the visuals and the audio. F1 2020 is an utter stunner in these respects. From the cars that could quite easily be mistaken for their real-world counterparts if you didn’t know this was a game, to the full detail in all the circuits, there is little to not find attractive to the eye. Even when in the garage, the hustle and bustle of the mechanics and team members working on your car come across in a fairly realistic manner – a point that Codies have struggled with for years previously. Yes, it’s fair to say that these aren’t the most detailed character models the gaming world has ever seen, but the real stars of the show are the cars and the circuits, and you really couldn’t ask for much more, no matter which of the behind-car, TV-pod, cockpit or bumper view cams you decide to take in. It all flows brilliantly too, and in my time with F1 2020 playing on both an Xbox One X and an Xbox One S, there has not been an inkling of lag or any hint of a glitch.
That audio is just as highly revered. Again when in the garage, or when working your way through the multiple menus found across the career modes, the sounds that are thrust towards your ears fully immerse you in the workings of an F1 team. But as you would expect to hear, it’s when you are out on track when the real goodies come to the party. Without over exaggerating things, I’ve been utterly wowed by the engine roars and screams, whether that be when learning the ropes in the F2 or Classic races, or en route to taking home ultimate goals with this season’s F1 beasts. Grabbing a set of cans – for the most part the superb RIG 800LX – and turning the sound up to 11 is THE best way to play F1 2020. That is all helped along by a brilliantly immersive broadcast style system and commentary that brings what you watch on your TV straight into your game.
I’ve been left struggling to find anything I dislike about F1 2020 on Xbox One. That struggle is real too, because other than wishing away a few seconds of loading screens, and wondering why on earth the special online weekly multiplayer events have been scheduled for near-on the exact time as the real-world F1, the only real issue I have with what Codemasters have produced here is the constant need to run with an external browser in order to take in the F1 ESports goodies. But then, that is par for the course with any game that runs the eSports angle.
So, F1 2020 on Xbox One is the absolute pinnacle of the F1 video game. What Codemasters have done in recent years with this series is nothing short of remarkable, yet they’ve still managed to continue to push things forward with every yearly iteration. If you’re a fan of F1, purchasing this is an absolute no-brainer, and it is also pretty much a must-buy to anyone who has any inkling of an interest in any motorsport scene. F1 2020 is as good as it gets – until Codemasters create another masterpiece next year.