I used to be a huge Formula 1 fan, my era was eighties and nineties. I have to admit to not really being into the sport today like I used to be. Ayrton Senna was my driver, and when he died at Imola in 1994, for me, F1 died with him. Still, I continued to watch for a while after Senna’s death because of one man, Michael Schumacher. Shuey was the bad guy I loved to hate, my pantomime villain. Then when Schumacher retried (the first time) from the sport in 2006, I really had little interest anymore. But even so, I still think F1 is a fantastic sport and do have an interest in it to this day, I just don’t have the passion for it like I used to. My interest for the sport extends to F1 games, the latest of which. F1 2020 from Codemasters is released tomorrow… if you have the Deluxe Schumacher Edition, if not, you’ll have to wait a few more days. I’ve had my review copy for a little over a week now and I’ve put in a good few hours. So, time to take a look at the latest F1 offering from Codemasters.
Right, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. An F1 game is an F1 game, is an F1 game to be honest. You’re hardly going to see any major advancements over last year’s edition. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. The thing about the Codmasters’ F1 franchise is that they are quite simply sublime. You’re just not going to find a better Formula 1 game around… well Codemasters do have the official licence, so it’s not like they have too much competition in that regard.
The game kicks off with you creating your avatar. Look, sex (yes, you can be female), name, nationality, etc. Then it’s to the main screen where there are a multitude of options available. Solo play allows you to take part in various singleplayer races and events. There’s the basic time trial with you tearing around any of the twenty-six tracks (twenty-two official F1 circuits and four shorter variations) in the game on your own just trying for fast times, this is a great mode for trying out car set-ups. Grand Prix mode allows you to create your very own season. Choose a car and driver and then create your own season with between one to twenty-six races, you can even have twenty-six of the same track if you want. Set your difficultly from the wide range available, use driving assists and so on. Choose the length of not just the races themselves from only five laps to full length, but you can also tinker with the entire race weekend too. Short or longer practise sessions, one shot or full qualifying. You can create your very own race season.
Both the Time Trial and Grand Prix modes allow you to race using any of the cars in the game. There’s the official Formula 1 2020 cars, a selection of classic cars from 1989 to 2010 or even race in the Formula 2 2019 cars.
Then there is Championship mode. This one is split into two separate modes itself. First up is Championships where you can take part in various pre-set events such as a full F1 2020 season, Classic Championship, F1 Sprint, F2 World Tour and even a Legendary Tracks event. A wide variety of races across both F1 and F2 featuring several decades of cars. The second mode features the Invitational Events, twelve special events with specific restrictions and challenges. Checkpoint Challenges where you have to race through checkpoints before your time limit runs out, Pursuit in which you have to catch and overtake all opponents within a lap limit, Time Attack is self-explanatory and Overtake Challenge where you must overtake a set target number of cars within a time limit. Each of these challenges are on set tracks using a specific car. So that’s your singleplayer options, and I’ve not even talked about the extensive career mode (later).
Then there are the multiplayer modes. Weekly Events are usually tied with the current, real-world F1 season. Leagues allows you to take part in or set-up custom made online league races. Then there are both ranked and unranked single online races. Finally, there is the return of split-screen mode where you and a friends can enjoy some couch F1 races together on the same screen. Just to finish, there’s a theatre mode which allows you to relive some of your finest moments in a highlight reel, as particularly interesting races are compiled into handy highlights which you can save and re-watch whenever you like. Plus, there’s a showroom where you can look at any of the cars in the game from the 2020 season, the 2019 F2 season and even all the classic cars in much more detail.
F1 2020’s biggest new feature is an all new My Team game mode. Here, you can create your very own team instead of playing as one of the officially licensed ones from the grid. To be honest, I’ve been screaming out for a create a team mode in an F1 game since playing F-1 Grand Prix Part III on the SNES in 1994 (loved that game). Yeah, it’s great jumping into a Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes or whatever. But when it’s your own team, it just feels a bit more special. The My Team mode offers you the chance to be a driver/owner and even throws in some light management gameplay too.
You start out by creating a team name before choosing a main sponsor. Different sponsors offer different benefits. For instance, one sponsor may offer you a bigger initial payout, but smaller bonuses per race. Or maybe your chosen sponsor will give you a smaller sign up deal, but bigger bonuses. If you meet you sponsor’s goals through the season, then they are more likely to offer you even more money, money you’ll definitely need to keep your team afloat. Next up is your engine provider choice, again, each of them has their own benefits, but you have to be careful not to spend too much and keep an eye on your bank balance as you still have to sign a second driver to join your team. Drivers have varying skills that can be levelled up as you race and they gain experience. Then, as long as you’ve not blown your budget, you can create your team. Next you have to choose and design your car’s livery, there are only five pre-set liveries to choose from, but more via DLCs. The livery customisation really is little more than just being able to change colour schemes, it’s very basic really. There are no Forza style custom creations here. Once that is done, it’s then on to designing your team badge that will be on your car and driver overalls, etc. Finally, you have to select an overall colour scheme for your team. Once all that is done, you’re then ready to unleash your newly founded F1 team on to the grid.
In between race weekends, and back at your team’s HQ you can invest in R&D to help improve your car, upgrade your factory facilities to help improve your drivers, sponsors and general car build. Hire drivers from the driver market, create new helmet designs, give your driver a new pose/celebration, design overalls. Then if that’s not enough, you’ll also have to find things for your employees to do between races. Hold parties, send drivers on training, make promotional films, etc. All actions that can increase your team’s morale and profile, improve work ethics and so on. There’s really quite a lot to keep an eye on when maintaining your team. It’s a very light management aspect over dedicated F1 management games that never feels like it’s taking away from the main event of racing. It’s a nice balance between F1 simulation and a management game.
When you do hit the track, your custom team will not be very competitive at the start, this is why you need to invest in new tech and research new parts. You’ll really struggle at the back of the grid (if you’re not playing on easy) and it’s a slow progression. Keep the sponsors happy and the money rolls in, invest that money on factory improvements, R&D, better drivers and before you know it, you’ll be fighting it out on the track for points and maybe even the championship itself. The My Team addition is the biggest to the game and is bay far and away the stand out feature of F1 2020.
The standard career mode has also seen some new features added. The pre-Formula 2 races are back from their introduction in F1 2019 and been improved upon too. Now you can choose to race a short three race season, a mid range six race season or even go for a full on twelve race season in F2 before advancing to the big leagues in F1. Though they seem to have removed the story element that was in the previous game. Then even the F1 season itself can be adapted to suit your tastes. Like the F2 introduction, you can change the length of your F1 season, add and remove races. You can essentially create you own custom season from all the circuits available. Both the My Team and standard Career modes feature a ten year career to follow. If you play with a full race weekend and full race length, that’s a lot of F1 action for your money.
Then there have been some general tweaks and refinements. I personally found the cars, both F2 and F1, a bit easier to drive in this game over previous ones. They seemed more stable and controllable. A virtual rear view mirror has been added and so has a ‘casual’ mode which allows you to make your driving experience a little easier if you’re looking for a more arcadey F1 game over a simulation. Podium Pass allows you to unlock new avatar items and you can even create your very own trophy cabinet to show off best victories and accolades. Then there are two brand new tracks for the 2020 season with the first ever Vietnam Grand Prix at Hanoi and the return of the classic Dutch GP at Zandvoort. Both tracks offer some great and varied racing.
I may not have the passion for the sport like I used to, but I do still enjoy playing the games and this is the best F1 game around. The refinements over last year are not huge at all, but they are noticeable. I found the cars handled far better, more nimble with less under-steer than the previous games. The career mode is as great as it was previously and allows you enjoy the F1 circus your way with so many options and variables. Make the game as easy or as hard as you like with a multitude of gameplay tools. Turn on traction control, breaking assist, make the AI easier, change the number of laps per race and so much more. Pretty much any and everything can be tinkered with and fine-tuned to suit your personal play style and difficulty level. You can even alter the amount of races per season and pick and choose specific tracks to race. Or you can go full on pro career mode with a full season, full race distances, full race weekends and zero assists, high AI difficulty at the flick of a button if you want a genuine Lewis Hamilton feel.
The addition of the My Team thing is great. It has the right balance of management sim and yet it doesn’t feel overbearing. There’s a good deal to take in, yet it’s not so in-depth that you feel lost on all the options and variables of running your own team. I felt a sense of pride and it all seemed much more personal when racing in my own created team over just choosing one of the pre-existing ones. Slowly building your team from the ground up, taking on an inexperienced driver and watching them grow via experience made earning a half decent finish in the middle of the pack feel really deserved, in a way that jumping into a Ferrari and securing podiums regularly just does not do. The My Team mode is brilliant.
But there is one thing I found disappointing if I’m honest. I’ve been playing the special Michael Schumacher edition and for me, I found the extra content severely lacking. F1 2019 also had a special edition, a Senna & Prost version. The extras allowed you to not just drive some of their iconic cars, but also drive as and against Senna & Prost too in special race challenges. You could even play as either in the career mode. The extras in F1 2019 showed there was potential to grow in new titles with similar ideas.
This Schumacher edition really has very little going on. There are four of his iconic cars and some cosmetics for your avatar… that’s it. You can play as Shuey I guess, if you select him for your avatar, but I don’t remember seeing him in the driver’s selection for the My Team mode. I’d just thought that with having the licence to one if the most celebrated F1 drivers ever, that Codemasters would really do something with it, and they haven’t. I’ve never been the world’s biggest Michael Schumacher fan, but I do respect him (mostly). Personally, I’d love to have seen Schumacher specific challenges, memorable races of his that you could relive either as Schumacher or one of his rivals. Drive into the side of Damon Hill to cheat your way to win the championship, play as Rubens Barrichello then after out-driving Michael Schumacher all weekend and in the race, be told to move over to let him win, that kind of thing. Actually drive as and against Shuey in specific challenges and memorable moments from his career like you could with Senna & Prost from last year’s game. But all that’s here is the option to use Schumacher as your avatar, the four cars and some minor cosmetics. It just seems like a waste of the license to me.
Plus this year marks the seventieth anniversary of Formula 1 too. There is a little bit of DLC to celebrate this momentous occasion… and again, it’s nothing more than a small handful of cosmetics. You’ve got seventy years of F1 history to celebrate, so how about some classic cars and drivers? Brabham, Häkkinen, Moss, Fangio, Lauder, Clark, Mansell, to name a few. Maybe some older tracks that haven’t been seen for years like Estoril, Brands Hatch, Sepang, Fuji, Hockenheimring, Imola… well maybe not Imola? They could have featured the original tracks and updated ones. A documentary looking at the history of the sport or at least some of its more stand out moments good and bad? It’s not everyday you can celebrate seventy years of something is it? There’s so much Codemasters could’ve done with the seventieth anniversary of of F1, but what you get instead is a new car livery and a helmet/overalls design. For me, the extra content is really not worth the extra money at all. Seven decades of the sport completely ignored.
So is this worth buying? If you’re a die hard F1 fan, then you’ve already made up your mind. This is an F1 game, very, very similar to the previous entries (which were great). There are no huge strides of advancement here, just the same thing as before, updated with the new 2020 line up. But that really is the crux of the problem with these yearly update-style games, I’m pretty sure they could just update the new info with a bit of DLC instead of a whole new game. The My Team addition is great, best thing about F1 2020, but again, I’m pretty sure they could’ve been added via a piece of DLC.
But saying that, this is still a damn fine racing title, you’ll not find a better F1 game around. If you are going to grab this, I’d suggest just sticking with the standard edition of F1 2020 as the DLC extras are bare-minimal and a step backwards from last year’s Senna & Prost content. I got my review copy for free and I still felt let down by it if I’m honest. Unless Codmasters have more planned for the Michael Schumacher licence in the future, then I really don’t see the point in spending the extra for it here. Then the seventieth anniversary of F1 is just completely wasted here too. Great game, amazing addition with the My Team thing but the DLC is really a let down.
Still, at least you can actually drive a full season in the game, unlike the real 2020 Formula 1 championships…