There are two things that I look forward to every year and that is the start of the official Formula 1 season and the release of Codemasters official title for the sport. Unfortunately as everyone knows, Covid-19 has put a hold on all major sporting events this year, but as I write this the first race weekend has just happened (well done to Lando Norris on an excellent drive).
The unfortunate thing for Codemasters is that due to the delay of the official season and a hold being put on official rules within the sport, they couldn’t really make any major changes to last years release. The other issue is that we still don’t know what the official season is going to bring. At the moment there are 8 races set to happen, the first just finishing. Beyond that there is rumours that circuits like Portimao, Imola and Mugello are on the cards, but nothing is decided yet. As such, Codemasters have focussed on a season that didn’t face any issues and feature all the official 2020 circuits which includes 2 new race weekends; the Hanoi Circuit in Vietnam and a renewal of life at Zandvoort in Holland. Unfortunately there is little chance we will see them in action as their dates have already passed.
So, as there is no major updates within the sports official rules and teams are literally driving the same spec cars as last year, where can the game improve and what was a great release last year? Well, it does seem that all of the tracks that were a part of last years game have just been brought back with no updates to them. They feel flat and no different unfortunately. There has been work on the 2 new tracks in Holland and Vietnam and you can tell a lot of work has gone into them. This unfortunately makes the rehash of the usual circuits noticeably worse than them.
Obviously there will be some patch updates coming upon release due to the delay of the season. The Williams livery has been changed and hopefully there will be an update to the new Mercedes Black livery very soon. Individual drivers performance is still to be tweaked. Track sponsorship is also still to be finalised as (for obvious reasons) no one knows what sponsorship tracks will be using. Move past all that and what are we presented with this year?
The main addition to this years title is the My Team mode. I am not going to go into too many other modes in this review as they are still the same as the last couple of years releases in F1 2019 and F1 2018. My Team however sees you take the place of the 11th team on the grid. My Team puts you in charge of your own team and build it from the ground up. You are in charge of everything, including hiring a second driver to propel the team to glory. Unfortunately this is where my first major issue is with the game. When I was looking through the list of available second drivers to hire right at the start I noticed that Anthoine Hubert was part of that list. I don’t think that it was a good move for Codemasters to include his name within the game.
For those unsure who he is, Anthoine Hubert was a French professional racing driver. He was the 2018 GP3 Series champion. He died, aged 22, following an accident during the feature race of the 2019 Spa-Francorchamps FIA Formula 2 round at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. It was a horrific accident which ended the career of a talented driver and shocked the entire paddock that weekend as well as the world as a whole. I really don’t think that it was a smart move by Codemasters to include his name and (pretty poor) likeness within the game, but thats just me.
There is a rather limited livery editor to design your car with and the same face choices appear that have now done the rounds for the last few years for your driver. These have been imported yet again from previous releases. The livery editor really does need to see much more freedom within its designs and not just limit you to set patterns on the cars with you being able to only adjust the colours of it.
Last years release did feature a small story mode to the game introducing you to the basics of the game through your driver competing in a couple of F2 races and some cutscenes, but really didn’t stand out as a great addition. Before the release of F1 2020 I knew about the My Team mode and hoped, if not prayed that it would be better than last years attempt. I had resigned myself to it not being. I was wrong!
You are placed in charge of everything that goes hand in hand with running a team. Every year in your career mode we are placed with successfully completing goals in free practice sessions at race weekends. These add research points to further develop the car. This has now been incorporated into the My Team game. There is however a lot more to do.
As team owner you are placed in charge of securing sponsorship for your car. All the sponsors have set goals for you to complete during the weekend which will pay out allowing you to spend money on upgrading the teams headquarters or hiring a new driver. Between races you can schedule activities for sponsors or bring boosts to your second driver or a little bit more much needed cash.
It does bring you closer to the behind the scenes feels of running a team, but there is a lot of things within the mode that have been recycled from other games. I just cant help but think some things could have been done a little better, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
F1 2020 Team Performance
Luckily there has been progress made within a lot of the other parts of F1 2020. The handling feels improved this year as well as the AI drivers defending more into corners. They are equally fair but aggressive at the same time. You can allow the computer to fully control the drag reduction as well as fuel mix and extra power delivered around the track if you want it to allowing you to just concentrate on overtaking and winning the title.
Sounds are still the same this year, but the crowds do seem somewhat muted. I didn’t notice cheers from the crowds as I did in previous titles, but I did hear clapping. It seems like a strange addition to be added over any form of cheering and a little too crisp from the drivers perspective over the engine sounds.
The controller mapping again feels natural and is easy to flick through numerous radio calls during racing as well as checking any damage or wear on the cars components. I did have a couple of issues when I tried to get team updates as to where my team mate was in the race and didn’t get a response until I tried again, but I could ignore that.
You are still limited to basic tyre choices at race weekends. 3 tyres for dry racing and 2 for wet races depending on just how wet it is. The sport has many more, but we only get soft, medium and hard compounds. I wish Codemasters would apply the other compounds like the ultra-softs to give us all a little more choice. As F1 2020 is an official game, it needs to add more to the motorsport to give an authentic feel.
EDIT: What I mean with the above paragraph is simple (for those that seem to think it is just the three tyre choices the teams get). Yes, teams can only choose from 3 dry tyre compounds per race weekend, but in the real world they are colour coded so we all know what they are running. The game just deals with Red, Yellow and White; Soft, Medium and Hard. Pirelli’s current convention has different names for each compound, marked with a different colour on the tyre wall. Those seven are hard (Orange), medium (White), soft (Yellow), super-soft (Red), ultra-soft (Purple) and hyper-soft (Pink). That is what I feel needs to be implemented within the game.
The game does continue to go from strength to strength, but I feel that as the major rule changes that were set to start next year have been put on hold until 2022, next years title will again be a rehash of everything we already have. Yes, Codemasters have tried to do a good job, and the game does feel great to get stuck into again but it is obvious what assets have been used from last years release.
The chequered flag
As the sport is celebrating 70 years this time round, it is nice to see the inclusion of the Michael Schumacher edition celebrating one of the best drivers in the sports history, but the game doesn’t seem to do that celebration full justice. Although they have tried to add a new aspect as far as My Team goes, it just feels like the games features from previous titles have been thrown into one for good measure. Issue now is, what can Codemasters do for next year as the sport will be staying the same again.
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were supplied with a review copy of the game. This has in no way influenced our views on the game as per our Review Policy**
F1 2020 is a great game, it just doesn't have enough new innovation this year for me.