F1 2021 Review

Richard Walker

Thus far, the 2021 Formula One season has been fairly unpredictable, what with tyre blowouts and Lewis Hamilton not winning practically every single race like he normally does. And with EA buying up developer Codemasters, it's not necessarily business as usual for the UK racing studio, F1 2021 being the first in the series to be released under the publisher's EA Sports label, and the first to boast a full-blooded story mode - much like EA stablemates FIFA (which has since ditched its story for VOLTA Football) and Madden NFL – no less. Titled 'Braking Point', F1 2021's narrative portion treads a similar path to other sports game story modes, like FIFA's The Journey or those seen in the NBA 2K series – it's a worthwhile addition, nonetheless, offering a welcome break from the standard Career modes we see year in, year out.


This looks like an accident waiting to happen.

Braking Point is also the headline 'new thing' for F1 2021, and, as such, Codemasters has evidently gone to great lengths to ensure it's a (mostly) compelling cinematic experience that's actually worth sticking with. The crux is a bitter rivalry between up-and-coming rookie driver Aiden Jackson and his veteran teammate Casper Akkerman, the former a young and inexperienced new driver striving to make a name for himself, the latter a stoic Dutchman who's been racing for years and is in the twilight of his career. On the sidelines is smug, shit-stirring dickhead Devon Butler, the antagonist of the piece, always on hand to sow seeds of doubt with a big, shit-eating grin on his face.

F1 2021's new story mode is certainly engaging while it lasts, although it does essentially boil down to completing a series of racing scenarios, some setting specific mid-race conditions to contend with. It's not perfect, however: the difficulty settings seem skewed; casual being far too easy, normal and expert being practically impossible to complete, while cut-scenes interspersed between the racing events are prone to tearing and slowdown. Some race scenarios can be very long, too, lacking the mid-session save option present in Career mode – once you're in a race, there's no backing out, unless you want to start over. Still, as a first crack at delivering a narrative-driven take on Formula One, Braking Point is remarkably solid, and, hopefully, something that will become a permanent fixture in future F1 titles – if nothing else, there's room for improvement in any sequels that endeavour to continue the storyline.

Elsewhere, F1 2021 is largely the same as it has been in recent years, albeit sporting an even greater level of polish and refinement, replete with all of the modes and features you'd normally expect. On PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, the game looks sensational, to boot, presenting near photo-realistic venues and car models bristling with detail, to complement the sharp, responsive handling. As ever, there's a wealth of options to tailor the driving experience to your liking, encompassing AI difficulty and myriad assists that make braking, steering, and all of that important stuff a little easier. And being able to use a flashback, when you misjudge a corner or have a lapse in concentration, is always a nice option to have.


For over a decade now, Codemasters has provided all of this and more, offering a comprehensive and deep Formula One experience across a range of involving modes. F1 2021 is no exception, its Career modes spanning the standard season and My Team, the latter enabling you to build your own custom F1 team from scratch, creating a driver, bespoke livery, and team logo, before distributing funds for your car's power unit, a second driver and whatnot. Beyond the new Braking Point narrative, My Team still delivers the most immersive journey through an F1 season, covering R&D to improve your car, management of team morale, and other key aspects that determine the course of your career.

The best thing about F1 2021 – much like many of the other entries in the series to date – is that it's all things to all Formula One fans. It's as simple and accessible, or, indeed, as challenging and granularly detailed, as you see fit. If you want the test of endurance provided by a full race, complete with tyre and pit strategies, shorn of assists and time-rewinding flashbacks, with manual gear shifting, then, by all means, fill your fire-retardant racing boots. Conversely, at the other end of the spectrum, you can have a quick dose of speed against rivals that won't put up too much of a fuss when you overtake, with lax rules that forgive the odd cut corner or needlessly aggressive bump.


Time for a quick pit stop.

Sometimes, it's worth firing up F1 2021 for a single Grand Prix or quick online race. Or, you can dig in for a longer session, roping in a friend to attempt the game's co-op Two Player Career mode with you, or for a bout of local split-screen racing. You can even play along with the current season as it unfolds via the new 'Real-Season Start' feature, if you like. The lack of classic F1 content might be disappointing, but few racing games offer such a complete and unfettered simulation, unreservedly authentic in its rendition of the motorsport, that's simultaneously welcoming to players of any and all skill levels. As Codies' debut Formula One effort on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, F1 2021 looks and plays like an absolute dream, and, as such, is a racing game that any self-respecting fan of the genre should add to their collection forthwith.

F1 2021

While it's a shame that classic cars have been nixed this year, F1 2021 is nonetheless an exhilarating racing game brimming with compelling modes and customisation features, as well as the new Braking Point story mode, for countless hours of wheel-to-wheel action. Another sterling effort from Codemasters, racing games don't really come much better than this.

Form widget
90%
Audio
80%

Decent pre and post-race commentary from Crofty, loads of radio chatter from your team, and the official F1 theme heard during real-life coverage of the motorsport all conspire to make F1 2021 sound completely authentic. Cars sound suitably loud and growly, as usual.

Visuals
90%

An astounding level of detail, right down to the little scuffs and scratches your car picks up during the course of a race, visible tyre degradation, and the various, exotic track venues like Yas Marina, Monza, and Monaco. F1 2021 looks incredible on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

Playability
95%

Codemasters has F1's handling down to a fine art now, so it's no surprise that F1 2021's handling model remains every bit as engaging and responsive as recent instalments. A range of sliders and other options mean you can tailor the gameplay to your own specifications.

Delivery
85%

Braking Point adds even more value to F1 2021 with its cinematic narrative, while the usual Career modes and new Two Player career inject even greater longevity to proceedings. Online leagues, events, and competitive options, as well as local split-screen, flesh things out nicely.

Trophies
65%

A list that will have you settling in for the long haul, with two seasons, a full Two Player Season, 50 online races, and plenty of other activities to grind your way through for the Platinum. There's a fair bit of overlap from previous lists, too, so don't expect any surprises.

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