This review was supposed to be shared with you all before the launch of the 2021 edition of the official Formula 1 video game. Better late than never I suppose.

To the average person, it’s hard to explain why we buy what is essentially the same game every year. For every new season of Formula 1, there is a new game to mirror that season’s schedule, cars, driver lineup and tracks. Of course, there are a plethora of improvements and changes to the game with each edition as well. But those are the kind of details you’d only pick up if you played F1 or similar games on the regular. The last F1 video game I played was for the 2014 season. So, stepping into F1 2020 was a big shift in terms of the graphics, the game mechanics and the sheer level of involvement.

Platform: PC
Input: XBOX 360 Controller
Driving aids: Mild traction control, ABS, braking only racing line
AI Difficulty Setting: 55 to 69

I played the game almost exclusively in single-player, playing multiple seasons in both Driver and Team careers modes. Both provided their own set of challenges to progress in the game, even against Level 55 A.I. The vehicle development tree is like a skill tree in most story mode solo games. Replace character abilities with vehicle characteristics, split into four key departments – Aero, Chassis, Engine and Durability. You earn resource points by performing well over a race weekend and that includes your free practice sessions as well. These points can be used to upgrade different aspects of the car and you never have enough to upgrade everything you want (unless you play multiple seasons flawlessly maybe). This format forces you to plan your upgrades, make practice sessions count, and strategise your season. 

Add to that the fact that upgrades take time before getting applied to your racecar. These developments can also fail at times which further delays the car’s updates and costs more resource points. 

In Team Career mode, you also have to spend your earnings on updating each of your four development teams. Speaking of earnings, you also have to manage your sponsorship selection in order to get the most money from the contract on a regular basis. An easy problem to run into is a high bonus for a good result (minimum P4 finish or fastest lap in practice) but at the cost of a lower guaranteed amount. It’s safer, at the start of your F1 2020 experience, to opt for sponsors who have low expectations for a low-reward bonus but offer a decent weekly amount as standard. Another expense is managing your second driver. However, some of the immersion is lost because you can only sign a contract for around 84 days which means the renewal is renegotiated twice a season. 

The driver’s career mode is similar but different. You no longer have to worry about sponsors or investing in the various development teams. But you still need resource points to upgrade your/your team’s car. As the driver, you can choose to start from F1 straight away but it is worth doing a season in Formula 2 to understand the difference in formats and in the cars. It gets repetitive but that’s an endurance element to the game which I enjoyed. It is now on you to renegotiate your contract with your team and deliver the results expected of you to keep your boss happy. If not, you can get dropped or not be able to renew your contract with your current team. The contract negotiating section of the driver career mode could take lessons from the EA Fifa series where there are so many details and steps that it feels more realistic.

As a racing game experience, I’d say Codemasters do a good job of providing a balance of casual arcade and serious simulator racing experiences. Even though I enjoyed playing against a mildly challenging AI using my Xbox controller, I also got to participate in local competitions and occasionally play with friends too. In many ways, the F1 game is a way to share one’s passion for the sport and not just as a racing sim. 

Final thoughts

F1 2020 is a fun game but it’s far from being a great one. Perhaps one of the reasons for that is they launch one every year so they don’t focus on perfecting it, rather experimenting with it in every iteration. As a hardcore F1 fan, and if you can afford it, its always fun to pick up a copy of the newest version. Even if you wait just a couple of months, you’ll be able to get it at a discounted rate which is when it offers better value for a casual gamer.

Based on what I’ve seen, you will get the most out of F1 2020 by using a racing wheel and sim setup. But you can have a lotta fun even with a keyboard or controller.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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