Some folks jump out of planes or off of buildings. Some prefer to run with the bulls Pamplona, Spain. The real thrill-seekers willingly drive for Formula 1 teams. What was once the most dangerous sport in the world has gotten safer in recent years thanks to advances in technology and changing rules, but there remains no substitute for the thrill of driving for the win in Formula 1. Codemasters has been producing video game simulations of the sport for years and is ready to offer up its best shot at replicating what makes the sport one of the most beloved on Earth. F1 2020 further refines the experience laid out by its predecessors and adds an outstanding MYTEAM mode that puts it on the podium for best racing games on the market.
For those not already neck-deep in all things Formula 1, approaching the sport from an outsider’s perspective can be a bit daunting. It is a league of auto racing using the world’s fastest track cars piloted by (arguably) the best drivers on Earth. Events are held at purpose-built circuits (and on a few public road courses) known as Grands Prix. The sanctioning body is commonly known as the Formula One Group and they handle the administration of said events and their collection that makes up a season.
A number of teams work tirelessly to field competitive cars using any and all advantages they can exploit within the framework of a current season’s rulebook. These teams are operated at an exorbitant cost, where the top-tier operations spend nearly half a billion dollars per season. Many of the teams have direct support from the world’s major auto manufacturers, as success in Formula 1 can be very lucrative for brand image. The sport has enormous global appeal, with many drivers being heroes to their home countries.
In F1 2020, the focus for the development team at Codemasters is to introduce a MYTEAM option that works as a full-featured career mode. Players will create a new team and enter the 2020 Formula 1 season as an owner-operator. Due to the outlandish costs associated with running these teams, this particular scenario is incredibly far-fetched but maybe it could happen if Bill Gates had a dream to drive a fighter jet on wheels and his aging body could withstand the intense g-forces created when Formula 1 cars are cornering.
Players will name their team, choose some colors, and create a logo for branding purposes. A second driver must also be hired as each team enters two cars per Grand Prix. Predictably, the available roster of free agent drivers is lackluster, but the mode starts the team off with limited funds and no sponsorship, so the first season can be a struggle (as many real-life teams breaking into Formula 1 experience).
Managing the team requires the maintenance of multiple groups of employees, including chassis fabricators, powertrain wizards, aerodynamics guys, human resources, and marketing. Each department needs to be slowly upgraded and guided through multiple seasons of racing, with the eventual goal of winning a Formula 1 World Constructors Championship, the ultimate prize a team can achieve for a season. This is separate from the individual driver’s championship, so players must ensure that their entire operation is progressing rather than just aiming for individual glory.
Virtually all parts of the custom team mode are gamified to entice players to participate in all facets to earn points and money that are used towards improving the team’s standing and production. All of the pre-race practice events that return from Codemasters’ previous F1 games have also been cleanly married into the MYTEAM mode so that upgrade points and department experience can be earned through the participation of practice sessions. Running clean laps, driving to collect fuel and tyre data, and qualifying practice can earn upgrade points and also has the wonderful side effect of making you a better, more prepared driver for qualifying and the actual Grand Prix. Where it was easy to sim through practice in previous entries, the MYTEAM mode design adds real depth and satisfying progression to one of the most important parts of the real-life Formula 1 team experience.
Chasing the chequered flag
On the track, F1 2020 remains very similar to its predecessors, which is a good thing. Minor changes to race rules for the 2020 season have been implemented, such as designated DRS zones where drivers can only use the computer-assisted drag reduction systems built to encourage overtaking on certain portions of a specific Grand Prix track. A pair of new Grands Prix have been added to the mix, located in Vietnam and the Netherlands. Formula 2, a slightly less prestigious and less-costly-to-participate-in racing league, is also available this year for use in Time Trials, Season mode, and MYTEAM mode. Season length can now be customized as well, allowing for 10-event, 16-event, and full-fledged 22-event options. The shorter season length helps to keep things fresh as the work required for a full season can be a daunting undertaking. Shortened schedules can be fully customized to include the Grands Prix players prefer.
Perhaps the biggest on-track change is the inclusion of a new driving assist option that helps to make things easier for newcomers. In the full casual mode, the game will manage traction control, braking, and damage mitigation. Manipulation of fuel mixtures, ERS, and DRS systems during races is also automated, allowing the whole race experience to be less stress-inducing, which is very helpful, as simply participating in Formula 1 races is enough to induce sheer panic by itself. Codemasters has done a wonderful job supporting the esports scene over the years and F1 2020 takes another step in that direction with built-in online qualifying events and an information hub for all things in the competitive F1 gaming world. All the classic multiplayer modes make a return for those looking to mix it up online. Some classic rides from the glory days of the sport make an appearance, though the liveries sadly lack all their real-life sponsors (probably because people don't want alcohol or tobacco companies shown in-game). If I had to nitpick, it would also be nice to have a version of MYTEAM or championship mode that offered historical seasons and teams.
Nuts and bolts
I spent my garage time with the PC version of the game and I’m happy to report that things remain great for a franchise that has delivered quality PC versions in recent years. F1 2020 will run smoothly on a variety of hardware configurations and has options for dynamic resolution and image sharpening to allow players to squeeze out extra performance where needed. HDR support works well and delivers the best visual presentation possible. The only concern is racing under wet conditions, where the water spray, raindrops, and extra track reflections can cause framerate drops on tracks that run smoothly during the day. There are both DirectX 11 and 12 versions of the game available to launch, but I was unable to see much of a difference between them on my machine. The included benchmarking tool works well and is always appreciated.
F1 2020 instantly recognized the Logitech steering wheel setup I tested and I was able to drop into an event in short order thanks to the excellent wheel support found in the game. There is much fun to be had on a gamepad as well, with loads of fine-tuning options available. I was also glad to find that the Xbox One pad rumble triggers are fully supported on PC and do a wonderful job of providing feedback from the cars and tracks. One major letdown for the series continues to be the lack of VR support. F1 2020 feels like it is custom-made to be used with VR and seeing the feature fail to make the cut once again is a disappointment.
All things considered, F1 2020 offers a fantastic experience for Formula 1 fanatics. The MYTEAM mode is anything but a tacked-on bullet point and will likely be the most popular way to enjoy the game offline. It encompasses the entire Formula 1 team experience, save for the political red tape, dubious origins of financial backing, and the countless euro-trash orgies the top drivers are certainly participating in after making podiums. On the technical side of things, all systems are solid and the PC version is a strong performer. The lack of VR support stings, but maybe Codemasters is holding that back for the next generation. If you’ve ever dreamt of trying to pilot the fastest contraptions that human engineering has yet produced at breakneck speeds through astoundingly dangerous circuits, this could be the game for you. I know that if I keep playing and disabling more assists, my heart is likely to explode from the sheer terror of simply trying to qualify in a decent position for the Monaco Grand Prix. 9/10 flatspots
This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. F1 2020 releases for Xbox One, PS4, and Steam on July 10.
- Outstanding MYTEAM mode offers a deep and rewarding experience for offline play
- Excellent wheel support and options for gamepad players
- Slick graphical presentation that runs well
- Codemasters continues to foster its esports community
- Casual mode makes hopping into the game easy for new players
- No support for VR hardware
- Classic rides are limited to certain modes