July 06, 2020
No one could ever accuse Codemasters’ F1 series of lacking depth. As far as racing sims are concerned, there are very few that can touch it in terms of the sheer wealth of options and attention to detail. F1 2020 is no different in that regard, providing everything you've come to expect from Codies' Formula One games, and a truckload more besides. And flippin' 'eck is it deep. It's deeper than the deepest deep thing you can possibly imagine. F1 2020 is not only unfathomably deep, but it's also the best one yet. Seriously. It's fantastic.
The linchpin of this year's instalment is the new My Team mode, a more involved career mode than the standard Driver Career (still present and correct), in which you manage every single facet of your fledgling F1 team. From your team emblem to your car's power unit (from Honda, Renault, Mercedes, or Ferrari), the car itself and which sponsors you choose to have plastered all over it, not a single stone has been left unturned. You can draft in your co-driver, manage your budget when investing in R&D – to build better aerodynamics, acquire chassis upgrades, enhance durability, and more. You can even plough cash into your marketing department, to ensure they make you look good, if you like.
While My Team sounds like it may be a bit overly complicated, everything is presented in a clear and easily comprehensible manner, allowing you to essentially take or leave as much or as little as you like. As ever, the racing can be tailored entirely to your liking, so you can opt for a full-blooded sim, a more casual experience with shorter races and whatever assists you fancy, or something in between. In My Team mode, however, it pays to immerse yourself in the nitty-gritty of running your own burgeoning racing outfit, and, since you're both the team owner and star driver, you can't help but get involved in every little detail.
In the spirit of giving you unfettered customisation options to play with, My Team or Driver Career seasons can be the full-fat 22 race affair in all its wonderfully bloated pomp, or a slightly easier to digest 10-race or 16-race season, missing out any circuits you don't fancy. Every race weekend comprises three days of practice sessions, a qualifying stage, and the Grand Prix itself, and, while that might sound like a long, laborious slog, the sheer quality of the core on-track experience is such that you'll happily drive lap after lap on a quest to attain perfection. Or veer as close to it as you can muster.
Simplified ERS (Energy Recovery Systems) now lets you easily toggle the overtake button on and off at your own discretion (energy permitting) for a temporary speed boost, while DRS zones continue to be a consideration. Lengthier races also demand management of tyre wear, fuel consumption and pit stop strategies, so going really fast remains but one aspect of F1 2020. Between races, there's wear and tear on your car's power unit and gearbox to consider, while your answers to media interview questions are connected to the morale of each department back at HQ. Compliment the fine work the aerodynamics team has done to your car, and you'll run the risk of ticking off the staff working on the chassis – sometimes it's best to be diplomatic, unless you really want that new upgrade for your front wing sorting out quicker, as morale boosts help speed up R&D.
As the season progresses, both you and your co-driver accumulate acclaim, which pools into a team acclaim level, granting access to new sponsors and other perks. Local split-screen co-op means being able to recruit a friend as co-driver, hopefully negating the ineptitude of the AI co-driver who normally languishes at the back of the grid, until you've made enough money to bring a more capable, better-acclaimed driver on board. While Driver Career and My Team modes offer deeply involving Formula One campaign options, outside of all that you'll find all of the usual modes and stuff, including one-off Grand Prix races and the always-compulsive Time Trial mode, where trimming hundredths of a second off a lap time is cause for celebration (and a slightly higher place on the leaderboards).
What ensures that F1 2020 remains fresh and engaging after hours of play is handling that feels tight and responsive, each car possessing distinctive subtleties and characteristics. Every circuit brings with it a unique set of challenges, too – new tracks, like Vietnam's Hanoi circuit and Zandvoort, in the Netherlands, standing out amid the standard roster of Grand Prix venues: the former a narrow and snaking street circuit-style death maze; the latter a seat-of-the-pants tangle of banked corners and fast straights. What's great about F1 2020 is that it brilliantly conveys an unadulterated sense of speed, and the danger of a Formula One race; every corner is a potential pitfall that can end a Grand Prix with a crumpled nosecone, broken front wing, or a wheel wrenched from its suspension. That said, a quick flashback means you can always turn back time, should things go awry.
Classic cars are back with a vengeance, too, celebrating Formula One heritage with authentic, iconic cars driven by the likes of Michael Schumacher, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, and Alain Prost. F2 is well represented, too, with its own dedicated set of cars from the 2019 season (2020 cars are set to be added in a free post-launch update), and as an optional precursor to the Driver Career. Chuck in single-player Championships, split-screen options, and a surfeit of online options, including Leagues and esports content, and there's no doubt whatsoever that almost every aspect of the motorsport is present in some form or other, while the breadth of accessibility features embrace racing game fans of every ilk and ability.
With each passing year, we've come to expect increasingly better things from Codemasters with each iteration of F1. And F1 2020 doesn't disappoint, seeing the racing specialist outdoing itself once again with a spectacular game that goes above and beyond. Loading times can occasionally be somewhat protracted, and the frame-rate during cut-scenes can be choppy, but these are insignificant niggles in what is otherwise an exemplary racing sim. You've got to appreciate and applaud what the UK studio has achieved with F1 2020. Not only is it a brilliant Formula One game – it's one of the best racing games around, full stop.
Cars sound suitably loud and angry (especially the classic cars), while commentary adds some colour to the TV broadcast-style presentation and the menu music lends a nice sense of occasion to proceedings.
Six games in to Codies' current-gen Formula One tenure, and it continues to look utterly sensational. Cars are totally authentic (bar the absence of Mercedes' lovely new obsidian livery) and track venues are wonderfully detailed. It's a peach.
Codemasters has outdone itself again this year, delivering a sim that's as accessible and fun or as stern and demanding as you want it to be. Either way, F1 2020 is an uncompromising racing game that handles like an absolute dream.
Two enormously deep career modes offer a ludicrous amount of content to get swept up in, while classic cars, more F2 integration, and expanded accessibility options make this the most comprehensive and polished F1 yet.
Another F1 trophy list, another set of tasks with near-perfect spread. There's a decent array of objectives to tackle, including ample trophies to encourage you to explore the game's new customisation options.
If this is how F1 goes out on current-gen, Codemasters should be proud of where it's taken the series, not only in making it more open and accessible to players of all skill levels, but also in bringing unprecedented depth, detail and immersion. Make no mistake, F1 2020 is the best Formula One game money can buy and a stellar racing experience in its own right.