F1 2021 PlayStation 5 Review – Can this be a championship contender? – Here we are, another year and another Formula 1 title release. If you have kept up to date with my reviews over the years you will all know that this is one title I look forward to playing and reviewing. The general rule of thumb when it comes to annual releases of sports games is that they get better year on year, however for me last years release of F1 2020 fell short of the mark. The other issue for me was that in February EA acquired Codemasters. It just felt that once again EA wanted to get their hands on another cash investment that they did once have control over but without care for the actual games. I had decided that I wasn’t going to let this fact cloud my judgement on a franchise that I have loved for years; so much so that this year I went out and bought F1 2021 for myself rather than request a review copy. Thankfully the studio in charge of making the game this year has made some wonderful improvements over last years release.
The world of Formula 1 was set to incorporate some radical changes into the rule book which included completely new car designs, however due to Covid-19 these changes were put on hold until 2022 meaning that Formula 1 has been left in a 12 month holding pattern.
It has always been hard to fault these games on the main feature which is the racing. Track designs as well as handling and overall physics have always been brilliant and when you view your race from inside the cockpit there is a real sense of speed as you watch and hear the scenery fly past you. That coupled with the fact that the handling models which have been used for the games are so brilliantly flexible allowing both first time racers and seasoned veterans to get the most out of driving makes them so much better.
F1 2021 PlayStation 5 Review – Breaking Point
Breaking Point is where you will want to start the game. Its the all-new story mode in F1 2021 which does feature familiar faces from the past. It introduces you to the world of Formula 1 really nicely. You take on the role of Aiden Jackson in the final race of the Formula 2 season needing to secure victory in the race to see your promotion into the world of Formula 1. Yes, this has been done before in previous releases however this is he first time there is a fully-fledged story mode in the games. We have seen attempts at a vague story of drivers competing to get into a Formula 1 team before, but never in this much depth including phone calls from the team boss, on and off track disputes with your team mate and of course the phone calls from your Mum. It would have been nice if they had tried to introduce some of the real world issues into it and to tackle how drivers have been coping with the worldwide pandemic, but it is still a strong addition to the series. Think of it like the story EA always tries to incorporate into their releases of FIFA but more exciting.
When you get to the Formula 1 stage you get to choose between 5 teams to race for – Williams, Haas, Alfa Romeo, Alpha Tauri, and Racing Point (which becomes Aston Martin during the story due to the name change going into he 2021 season). You meet you team mate, Casper Akkerman, a Dutch journeyman with an illustrious career that’s mostly behind him and find here is a rivalry between the two from the start after an on track clash. The story does start with the beginning of last years season, so all liveries are from last season as well as the drivers that haven’t been unseated by you and your team mate. This story spans over a couple of seasons, so at the end of the first season a lot of changes come into place including driver changes in teams as well as the likes of Renault becoming Alpine. You do get the chance to race as both Aiden and Casper, so see each drivers point of views as to what is happening within the team.
Races within Breaking Point vary from full race sessions to joining the race after a beautiful looking scene plays out on track and you have to achieve certain goals. There are moments when you join the action and have to make up places on the grid. Once you have achieved that another scene will play out. OK, the story itself isn’t exactly fantastic and as I have said, they could have incorporated real world events into it even if a little as it is initially set when the pandemic hit. That being said, what we do get is a welcome addition to the franchise.
The cutscenes that have been used within the story are unlike anything Codemasters have ever done before and watching them play out on the PS5 look amazing. They have definitely utilised the performance of the latest gen console to a good level. Whether or not it has been fully utilised; I don’t feel that it has as I encountered some issues with scenes flickering when there were driver confrontations or chats with the team boss. The cutscenes however did run beautifully. It does feel like a springboard however to further stories with Jackson and his journey as when it does wrap up, it seems very rushed and leaves you wanting to know more about the future star. This is a tactic that EA have incorporated before however within FIFA, so it could be their overall voice on it.
F1 2021 PlayStation 5 Review – Career Mode/My Team
Of course Career Mode plays a massive part in F1 2021. Unfortunately you cant start this from a few seasons ago like you do with Breaking Point however it does feel that a lot of this mode has had a huge overhaul but not so that it is massively obvious. All welcome additions to a returning player such as myself. The one thing that did start to feel like a grind in all the other previous games was during the free practice parts of a race weekend having to complete certain tasks in order to gain resource points. The ability to run quick, automated programs is defiantly a welcome addition. It saves on how previously if you wanted to skip the grind for the points you would loose out on them altogether. This was something that I would start to do more and more in previous games and jumping straight into qualifying for the race rather than concentrating on repetition grinding for the points.
There is also the option to leave the R&D department to the AI which is useful if you can’t be bothered to mess around in the menus too much, but I did take control in the early races to make sure that my budget wasn’t blown straight away. The R&D system that we have come to know over the last few years has had a nice facelift and doesn’t feel too complicated or overwhelming as I felt the old one did to newcomers of the game.
I feel that something that does need a mention in the game is the new damage mechanics that have been brought in. Previously there was mainly damage to the front wing on contact with other cars as well as the tyre wear and an occasional flat tyre. This year great strides have been taken to incorporate more areas of the car that can be damaged. These include the floor, Barge Boards and Side Pods which if damaged will cause severe drag in the car slowing it down. Also, if you clip a wall a little too heavy it is possible for the tyre to delaminate loosing grip or even burst. All of the above adds more and more to the authenticity of the game making you think more about the way you drive as the penalties in damage are ramped up.
My Team is pretty much the same as Career Mode, but instead of driving one of the already established teams on the grid you can design your team from the ground up employing a second driver, designing the car with its liveries as well as the team colours etc. Then once all that is set become the 11th team on the grid and show the rivals what you can do. Using everything from Career Mode as far as the R&D is concerned build your team to take on the world and aim for winning the constructors championship. You can even purchase new second drivers throughout who’s overall performance scores are constantly updating.
F1 2021 also introduces a pair of new two-player career modes, where you can link up with a friend to play as either rivals or teammates. These are online based which is worth noting as there is a split-screen option but is separate from these modes.
The handling of the cars doesnt seem to have changed much, but for someone who has played these games for the most part of the history I can notice subtle changes. The cars do feel a little more responsive when changing direction and do keep you on your toes if you hit a curb at the wrong time sending the back end out. This can be caught in time, but more often than not it will send you spinning and usually into a barrier.
F1 2021 PlayStation 5 Review – Black Flagged
ESports is once again a part of the game, but unfortunately its not up and running upon release of the game as it has been the last few years. If you are looking to take part in these competitions, be patient; its not coming until Winter 2021 which is a huge let down for the game.
This is not the only thing that lets the game down. For the first time in a long time there is no classic cars involved so the sound of the game feels flat. No more V8 engines screaming at max revs down a long straight, and I do miss that. That being said, elsewhere the sounds have certainly been tweaked for the better as far as the car sounds. Transmission whine during gear changes adds a new level to the immersion.
Other issues with the game is that it cant keep up with real world change. There are tracks missing from the game upon release but there is the promise that Imola, Portimao, and the new Jeddah street circuit are reportedly coming free at some point this year. I just hope it doesn’t take as long as the ESports section as a lot of people will have lost interest by this point.
F1 2021 PlayStation 5 Review – Chequered Flag
F1 2021 is easily the best game so far in the series. Definitely the best looking (probably due to playing on the PS5) as well as being the most customisable instalment to date. Codemasters have got everything right this year with what they have released to date. Co-op play with a friend is a welcome addition if not a little overdue. Breaking Point is a great starting block to build on with future releases.
The character designs are still a little limited for the game; you can only choose from set head designs as has been the norm over the last few years. By now I would have liked to see either the ability to upload your own head into the game or at the least be able to modify heads that are there.
I would possibly like to see a game with a storyline that’s a little more gritty. By that I mean that Netflix have released Drive to Survive over the last three years; an interesting and unfiltered look behind the scenes within the F1 paddock. Breaking Point does what it does well, but after watching Drive to Survive it just doesn’t quite feel right, especially when the boss of the team is tearing you a new one. I just cant wait now until next years release to hopefully continue the story to see where it goes and hopefully se the characters develop even further.
The simple fact of the matter is that F1 2021 is a must play for any racing fan out there. It is miles ahead of anything else that is out at the moment and easily wins the Constructors Championship.
Want to see the full features trailer? Look no further