F1: 2020 cover art

F1 2020 Impressions

This article is a first impressions article based on my first few hours of F1 2020. A full review will follow.

From the moment you boot up F1 2020, you’re immediately met with a dizzying array of options that is indicative of the skills required to master the world of Formula One racing. Codemasters pulls no punches in what is most certainly their best iteration of Formula One racing to date. This is a deep and enthralling racing game that has options for rookies and veterans alike.

The standout mode this year is easily the entertaining ‘My Team’ mode. Codemasters have overhauled the career mode to be much more deep and engaging. You’re given the reigns of a brand new custom team in the F1 season, and you have to drag yourself to the top. Success depends on much more than just good racing. To win, you’ll also have to make smart decisions in R&D, keep sponsors happy to ensure a steady flow of funds, and tune your car for maximum efficiency in each race. As a huge fan of management games, I felt like a little kid who just got a shiny new PlayStation for Christmas.

R&D in-game screen

You could easily lose yourself in the menus. Well, that could partly be due to the fact that the menus still don’t have mouse support (Codemasters pls). There are options for the options. This can be all too overwhelming for new players, but a smart tutorial system and a willingness to learn meant I’ve quickly gotten used to what is required of me to compete at a competent level. The community is fantastic and I quickly found myself on the Steam Workshop on day one to find new car setup guides to help shave those valuable seconds off of lap times.

If all the robust systems in the game feel too overbearing, the game does give you the option to fine tune the difficulty to your liking. Races can be shortened to 25% of their length and you can turn on driver assists for the more complex systems such as DRS or ERS. The game also has an option to change the driving to ‘arcade’. This has the added effect of ensuring that your tyres don’t lose grip on the grass after you miss a sharp turn. The accessibility settings are a nice touch for a “rookie” driver such as myself. I never found myself blocked from accessing the game. Instead, I’ve found myself slowly turning off the assists as I grew more confident in my driving.

Fine tuning a power unit

Codemasters have also nailed the racing on the track. The cars feel fantastic, and the force feedback on my wheel was great. The visuals are also stunning and the attention to detail on the tracks so far have been faultless. It took me a fair few practice laps to master Turn 15 on the Australian Grand Prix. There is a real sense of speed as you burst through a straight with the ambient noise filled with the motor whirring at full power. There’s a sense of satisfaction that is rarely matched by other games when you pull off a perfect overtake on a hapless driver. Speaking of drivers, the AI seems to be quite aggressive this year. I’ve seen some very aggressive overtakes and they aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with you for the racing line.

That said, there are a few missteps along the way. Soft tyres are currently far too overpowered on the shorter races. There seems to be little disadvantage to using soft tyres on short races. It seems like the scaling may be a little broken. The soft tyres seem to last for more than 50% of the race, resulting in little wriggle room for tyre strategy. This problem is largely alleviated if you bump up the race length to 50%, but its still worth mentioning. It is also important to state that this issue didn’t really detract from my overall experience of the game.

My time so far with F1 2020 has been exhilarating. I’m constantly being drawn back to complete that next race in My Team and to try and shave a few more seconds off my lap times. Codemasters have managed to create an engaging ‘CaRPG’ that is equally tactical and beautiful. If you’re a seasoned F1 fan, I’m sure you’re already busy playing, but if you’re someone who’s on the fence, F1 2020 provides the perfect springboard to kick-start your F1 career. For now, you’ll find me back on the track.

You can find F1 2020 on Steam here.

F1 2020 is also available on PS4 and Xbox One.

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