F1 racing is without a doubt my favorite type of racing out of all the sub-genres, both in real-life and in videogames. The official F1 racing game series has always been known for bringing that added level of realism to the experience, both when driving and recently, all of the behind the scenes business elements required to keep a car on the track throughout a season. Every year this series gets better, both visually and in the exhaustive amount of detail that goes into creating a high-functioning simulation, and with a new year comes a new installment, and F1 2020 had me once again climbing into my bucket racing seat and calibrating my Logitech racing wheel.
It seems that every year I say “this is the most realistic F1 simulator out there”, and even though I didn’t review last year’s game I did play it and I would have said it then, but I will say it now about F1 2020. The one big missing element with this franchise has been the lack of personal investment, but with the addition of the new My Team mode you now get to create a driver, choose your sponsor, build your car, hire a team, and manage every aspect of your racing career in and out of the garage. If you’re a solo racer and don’t want to be bothered with the business side of racing you can also enjoy the standard Career mode or take part in the Grand Prix, Championships, and Time Trial modes.
Those looking to test their skills against human drivers will find a robust multiplayer offering with Weekly Events, Leagues, Ranked and Unranked matches both online or local using split-screen and LAN games. There is also a nicely integrated eSports section so you can follow the various league events. F1 2020 is all about choice. Every bit of content you could possibly want is available and it’s all scalable to a large audience of varied skill levels. You can go hardcore simulation or start tweaking a number of assists and difficulty sliders to turn this into an arcade experience.
Diving into the 10-year career mode was a surprisingly fluid experience with great instructions and pop-up tips to ease you into both driving the car and managing all the garage and business elements. It was nice that they allow gamers to experience the F2 Championship as an introduction to the main game to come. You can choose a short version or the full F2 experience or skip it entirely and go straight to the F1. The game features all the official teams, drivers, and 22 ultra-realistic recreations of real-world tracks from all over the world including two new ones; Hanoi Circuit and Circuit Zandvoort. In addition to current content that is updated regularly throughout the season you also have historic classic content to relive those special moments.
I spent way too much time stressing over all the little decisions just getting started. What engine should I put in my car, what sponsor should I sign with; picking a teammate, trying to answer questions during a press interview…there is so much more to being a pro racecar driver than just driving. But despite the initial stress, all these micro-decisions helped to create an unexpected bond with my team that made me want to be a better driver both on and off the track.
Once on the track it’s all about driving, although there is still a bit of systems management at play depending on how you have the game customized for accuracy. In full sim mode you’ll need to worry about tire temps and wear, engine wear, fuel consumption, charging your ERS battery and so much more. Conversely, you can turn on the new Casual driving mode and throw caution to the wind, banging your way around the track at full throttle – a definitely plus for the kids, especially in the new split-screen mode. Your choice of controller also factors into the difficulty, and while I totally recommend a wheel/pedal combo – even a basic one – for the most immersive experience, F1 2020 is totally playable with a gamepad. You just don’t get that added level of precision with steering and brake/throttle; something easily seen in replays as your car steers in more jerky movements and your wheels spin when applying too much gas using a gamepad trigger.
I was eager to try out the online aspects of F1 2020 and while the net code, matchmaking lobbies and other systems are all fairly stable I found that the community was lacking or at least sporadic during my month of gameplay. You really have to seek out the proper modes and likeminded gamers to race with otherwise you get some crazy kid who has no intention of taking the game seriously and bangs his way around the track. I still dip into the multiplayer menus once in a while but I mostly stick with the single-player experience. It’s far more rewarding with all sorts of badges to earn or just going through my library of racing highlight videos.
The presentation for F1 2020 is nearly flawless with stunning video and incredible audio that will scale with your PC. I had just upgraded to a 2080ti so I was able to run the game at 1440p with all the settings cranked and locked at 60fps on my ultra-wide ASUS screen. There are lots of options for tweaking the graphics to get the game running smoothly on nearly any modern system. The car models, pit crew animations, track scenery, and weather effects are simply incredible. There is also great lighting and shadows and expert use of motion blur to enhance that sensation of speed. There is fantastic audio with realistic engines, music, crowds, commentary, and radio chatter from the pit. Every part of the audio and visual experience is designed to totally immerse you in the experience of being an F1 driver.
Once again Codemasters has improved upon their iconic racing game, adding even more realism and choice to how you approach and play their game. F1 2020 is the culmination of many years of development across numerous installments that have come before it, and with new hardware on the horizon for PC and console I can easily see this franchise climbing ever closer to perfection in 2021. But until then, if you are looking for the best F1 racing experience in town, this is it.