For the first time in gaming history the official Formula 1 game will be released to coincide with just the second race of the real season – of course we are in unusual times and the game which we play this year will bear zero resemblance to the actual calendar. But rather than replicate a global pandemic in game form, we get what might have been in the tenth multi-platform release from Codemasters with F1 2020. There are some great headline-grabbing features this year with My Team, split-screen and cars from Michael Schumacher’s illustrious career to enjoy. Let’s dive in.
Taking Your Team to Glory
My Team is the pinnacle for a passionate F1 fan to develop their own team and see it progress to championship glory. Codemasters have succeeded in producing a fun game mode which certainly sets the foundation for building on this aspect in the coming years. You can choose your branding, colour scheme, team name, engine partner and a second driver. As you progress in your team management career, of which you are also a driver for, you earn money through sponsorship and achieving goals set by sponsors – these funds can then be put towards improving your team facilities and in turn improve on-track performance.
All sounds very promising, but it has been implemented in what can only be described in a lazy way. Once you get through the gloss of setting up the team and getting into the first race, the interaction as a driver-manager is totally overlooked and I was lost on the whole concept of this driver-manager when asked in a PR interview whether my team supported me – where is the option for, “duh…its my own team you blithering idiot”. The racing aspect of My Team is identical to the normal driver career and there is no real difference outside of developing your facilities and having a few more options to play with in between races.
I feel Codies have missed a huge opportunity here. The My Team mode should be all about the team – both drivers. Back when I was playing Geoff Crammond’s series of F1 games, you had the ability to choose multiple drivers to race as. I don’t like racing as myself in My Team – I’d like to choose both drivers and race as them both. Fade between both drivers a couple of times through the race, you can literally play out team orders and you are driving as the team. After 3 races in the My Team career my car needed replacements to its engine components – but as team manager I can only make changes it seems on my own car…the second driver for whom I am paying looks after themselves. It is this laziness in overlooking the small details that causes irritation and will hold back the product from getting a top mark.
The My Team is the leading feature this year but there are some additional features worth mentioning. Split-screen returns which is great to see but it would be nice if you could complete a co-op career in this mode. For solo-paying we now have a virtual rear-view mirror and instantly becomes a must-have option turned on as on-track battles become much more intense. The full Formula 2 season can now be completed as a precursor to doing an F1 career – however there is no new story mode which is sad to see. You also get two new tracks this year in Hanoi (Vietnam) and Zandvoort (Netherlands) which won’t be raced on for real until 2021. Hanoi is a Korea/Valencia hybrid and feels very soulless. Whereas Zandvort is a fun circuit and the closest F1 can get to as a rollercoaster ride.
Michael Schumacher Gets the Classic Treatment
The seven-time world champion takes his turn in being the classic era feature driver for F1 2020. It is great to see the Jordan 191, Benetton 194, Benetton 195 and Ferrari F2004. Whilst great to see more classic cars – particularly from now defunct teams the point of their inclusion is minimal. Upon loading the game there is no pomp and circumstance about Michael Schumacher featuring in the game and I had to go find it buried in the Time Trial section. The classic cars remain a gimmick, nothing else. Codies cannot even find the time to create car-specific leaderboards for online – so if you do an incredible lap around Monaco in the Jordan 191, you’ll likely still be at the bottom of the leaderboard because someone has set a time in a 2010 RedBull.
It is a similar story with the in-season invitationals. No change here – same type of arcade events we have seen in previous years which have zero resemblance to anything happening in real life. Instead of these boring “invitationals” why not have them as part of a race weekend or ideally create a fake Goodwood Festival of Speed where you take a car up a hillclimb. I often find these invitationals get in the way and take away from the simulated season feel of F1.
What about the racing though?
Thankfully, the core of the game remains strong and the handling is better than last year which was already good. There have been some noticeable tweaks and the car feels like it is rooted to the track more – I immediately found I could throw the car around a little more and didn’t have that loose rear end haunting me. Another area which has been improved is the race start and the getaway from the lights is a lot more balanced to your rivals. The onscreen display has been improved and the inclusion of more TV-style data coming up along with a higher number of driver time intervals shown is good to see.
Same old, same old…
As a standalone product F1 2020 is the best F1 game to date and if it was the first game released, it would easily get a 9/10. But this is the tenth iteration in a franchise and once you get through the new features you will find little new to the actual game itself. The commentary intros are similar or even identical; the engineer is still the same at all teams, even in F2; the engineer makes the same idiotic statements, such as being told at the start of qualifying, “we have a problem with the car, you’ll have to remain in the garage until its fixed” (5 minute countdown on screen), and then says, “you should get out on track!”; the celebration videos are the same again and we still see the same faces in all teams, and why do they celebrate in the garage – I want to see team members hanging over the pit wall cheering as I cross the line; there is still no fully manual formation lap or pit entry nor a manual slowdown lap. Also it would be nice instead of the 2D/3D line markers to simply have a Gran Turismo style “Brake” flash up on the screen – just that, nothing more.
But my biggest bugbear is the practice sessions. They have been the same practice sessions for years now. They are not enjoyable, they do not reflect real F1 and are simply a dull chore. Incentivising completion by rewarding you points as part of driver acclaim is not the answer – they are simply boring. This is a massive area for opportunity to create a fun gaming element – create over a hundred different practice programmes of which are randomised and you get six or seven at each track. You turn up and you don’t know what you are going to be doing in the practice sessions. They could be unique to the track, R&D improvements, testing on worn tyres, doing aero work, systems checks, pitstop practice – so many ideas. There could be DLC – I would pay for new practice programmes! That all said, this is the best F1 game ever made and as a stand alone product we’ve given it an 8 out of 10, but for those who have been along for the journey a score of 7 would probably be more appropriate. There is a lot that is positive in F1 2020 but as raised in the review, a lot still to get on with improving. Codies have introduced a solution to boredom for this year – thankfully you can simulate practice and still get rewards from it. Job done.
F1 2020 Deluxe Schumacher Edition will be released on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC (DVD and via Steam), and Google Stadia. A Limited Edition F1 2020 Steelbook, also featuring Michael Schumacher, will be available in via selected retailers and if you are interested in our video podcast supporting this review, you can see it below.
- Split screen
- Innovative My Team mode
- Virtual rear-view mirror
- Full 22 race calendar including Vietnam and Netherlands
- More classic cars
- New features feel unfinished
- No Story Mode
- Many aspects from previous titles carried through to F1 2020 so it doesn’t feel like a new game
- Classic content is a gimmick
F1 2020 is packed full of content and has everything you want or need from an F1 title. The new features and those first seen from last year though have not been fully thought through. With F1 2021 having a year of stability next year ahead of the overhaul in regulations for 2022, my only advice to Codemasters is to take 2020, refine it, and deliver a masterpiece to see out this era of Formula 1.