F1 2020 Review

Here we are then, the day every Formula 1 fan and gamer marks on their calendar. That’s right, despite some fear amongst the community that Codemasters may have had to delay or even out right cancel this years game, F1 2020 arrives on Xbox July 10th , or you can get 3 days early access with the Deluxe Schumacher edition. But with the global bastard on the prowl, is it any good? One thing I can tell you before we start is with the amount of content in this game, you won’t be getting bored anytime soon!

The first thing you do when the game launches, like last years entry, is make your avatar. Pick your helmet, and already you can see some of the additional content they’ve put in the game; now you can edit the colours of your race suit. “So?” I hear you ask. Well if you’re someone who plays F1 online, then previously you’ve probably seen a podium that seemingly had triplets on it due to them all wearing the same gear. Well, now something as little as editing your own race suit helps to make it YOURS.

Once that is done, you’re greeted with the main interface. It’s the same tiled experience as last year, which is a good thing as it’s easy to navigate for newcomers and old, so… where to start? Do you jump into Time Trial and try out the new circuits added for the 2020 season at Hanoi or Zandvoort, or perhaps you have the Deluxe Schumacher edition and want to experience any of his 4 classic cars on offer.

Or why not go into customisation, which goes into even more detail this year. I already mentioned you can edit the colour scheme of your suit, but now you can create your own badge for online use, and also add sponsors on to the car to once again make it feel like YOUR car.

Maybe you don’t want to race straight away? Then head to the showroom to check out the new Alpha Tauri Livery (Formerly Torro Rosso), or perhaps the 2019 F2 cars, and of course there’s the 20 gorgeous classics – the 1995 Benetton B195 is a personal favourite of mine!

If you’re confident in your abilities, you can always find your feet by hopping online and start racing other people from around the globe in ranked or unranked modes, or perhaps you’re looking to join or create a league. If you don’t fancy racing straight away, you can always visit the eSports tab and catch up on the latest goings on over there.

The gameplay has improved from last year; I can’t quite find the right words to describe it, but it has a more ‘real’ feel to it. Game Director Lee Mather came out and said they had taken feedback from real world F1 drivers on board and adjusted the handling model to make it more realistic. It’s made the game more fun to play, and I can envisage more players experimenting with their assist comfort zone – I for one have been able to take the ABS assist off for the first time since 2013!

Speaking of assists, there is a new ‘casual mode’ which will let new players not familiar to the franchise or racing games in general find their feet. The off-track surface is easier to rejoin for a start, while there’s also a steering assist where the game will pull you towards the racing line if you stray too far. An automatic ‘reset to track’ option, the control of fuel mix, and DRS able to be set to auto are also options, while casual mode also simplifies the menu screens to potentially make things less complicated.

The only slight negative, having played with a control pad is that some circuits feel like steering wheels have a slight advantage over the pad, it’s not a major issue but one worth noting.

As you can see there’s loads of content and we haven’t even got to the juiciest bit yet! The vanilla career mode is present with some added features in there. You’re presented with 4 options before you start your career. You have the F2 taster, which is three races at three different tracks with added scenarios. How you do determines how you’ll be looked at by the F1 teams, and unfortunately there is no Devon Butler or Lukas Weber this year! You also have the option of doing a short F2 season, a Full F2 season or you can just jump straight into the Formula 1 cars.

Like the previous games, you have any of the 10 teams from real life to choose from. So you can partner with Lewis Hamilton and try and put a stop to his quest for a record equalling seventh championship, or maybe start from more humble beginnings and partner the recent F1 eSports champion George Russell (no relation) and raise them to the top.

You can now choose how many races you want to do in a season, with the choices being the full 22, 16, and 10. In the shorter seasons you have the ability to choose which tracks you want to do, so if you’re like me and you’re absolutely atrocious at Monaco, you can leave it out. You’re also not locked into that option either, as you can change the length and tracks at the end of a season. Before your first race you’re greeted by fan favourite Will Buxton, but don’t worry F1 game fans; Claire is still there to ask you those all-important questions!

The Pro’ career makes a return this year for the more seasoned professionals who enjoy pain, locking you in to the full 22 race calendar, while all assists are turned off and the AI difficulty is maxed out.

You have facilities this year that give you a weekly income of precious resource points to boost your Research and Development. The R&D page itself has had some tweaks; you can now try to ‘rush’ parts, but this comes with an increased risk of failure, so you have to think about whether you reeeaaaallly need that shiny new part for the next race. There is also the bonus where if you are a team like Haas that uses Ferrari engines, then if Ferrari upgrade their engine power, you get that upgrade too. Neat!

Contract perks are gone and have been replaced by 4 driver perks, which you can purchase once you’ve earned enough money. These perks can be used to boost your acclaim rating or earn more resources during each race weekend.

Showmanship and Sportsman are no longer a thing, with the experience you earn at the end of a race changed to Acclaim. Which is a good thing, as in last years game you could have already achieved 90% experience by the end of season 1 with 9 season to go!

Now I feel like it’s time to introduce the brand-new mode for this year’s game: My Team. Yes that’s right, even with all the previous content from last years game still here plus the tweaks, they’ve added even more meat to this already delicious steak. “But, what’s My Team?” I hear you ask. Well, let me tell you. It’s a new mode that us F1 gaming fans have been calling out for for a long time. This year you can make your own team and be on the grid as the 11th team as both an owner AND driver!

With new modes like this, sometimes they can be rushed and you can be left a feeling a little disappointed with what’s on offer before getting the full experience in the next game release. But not here; to Codemasters credit, it genuinely feels like they haven’t skimped anything off the top and have been planning this for a long time!

Your first task is to create the avatar you intend to use for your career, either starting from scratch or using the one you created earlier, then it’s onto your team name. Following that, you’ll be asked to choose from one of 4 main sponsors for your team, all of which have a different objective for you to try and beat over the coming season, as well as a signing bonus. You use this signing bonus to then choose which of the 4 power units you wish to use; Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault or Honda. Each has a different initial cost, and I went with Honda as it was the cheapest, but it came with the flaws of being the least powerful and reliable. Once you’re done assessing the pros and cons of each engine, you have to pick who is going to be your teammate for the season from a selection of F2 drivers, which can change depending on what engine you choose.

Next it’s time to get creative and choose your livery for the season; although there was only 10 options, and only 5 of which you could edit, so hopefully there will be more on offer once the game is released. Then it’s onto designing your badge and your team colours which you’ll see around your headquarters throughout the season.

This is where you meet Will Buxton for the first time as he interviews you about your thoughts and ambitions. This is actually great, as depending on your answers you can boost your facilities before you’ve even laid some rubber down on the track. Once you’re in, it has the same options as the normal career mode but with even more awesomeness. In normal career mode you can only look at the facilities but here, you can actively improve them. There’s 6 in total including Aerodynamics, Chassis and Reliability, a warning though; these aren’t cheap to upgrade, so get ready for the long haul.

Another new feature this year is driver ratings. Each driver has their own rating based on 4 areas – Experience, Race Craft, Awareness and Pace. These 4 then give the driver an overall rating, so as you can guess a 6-time world champion like Lewis Hamilton will have a higher rating then the rookie Nicholas Latifi. Each driver also has a salary, so the higher the rating the higher the salary. Like last year, drivers can move between teams in between or at the end of the season, so if you try and poach a driver from a rival team, you have to buy them out of their contract. It’s not as easy as that though, as each driver has an Acclaim rating. Your own team has its own acclaim rating as well depending on your on-track performance and how good your facilities are. So, if your team has an Acclaim rating of 5, a driver with an acclaim rating of 15 isn’t going to want to drive for you.

There’s also activities for you to do in-between race weekends, where you can focus on car performance, sell merchandise, or have your second driver do some simulator training to boost his stats.

Lee Mather has also confirmed that drivers can retire; so if you want Kimi Räikkönen or Sebastian Vettel in your team you may not have long to try and sign them! This also means that drivers from the F2 pool can be called up, another first for the F1 franchise. One last point on My Team is that at any point before you enter a race weekend you can customise your car livery and race suit, so you’re not locked into your first choice if you become unhappy with it.

If you don’t fancy doing the career mode you can always jump into your favourite F1 drivers shoes and do a single Grand Prix with them, or complete an official F1 2020 season. The same goes for the 2019 F2 cars and you can also do a Classic Car Championship. There’s also the invitational events you can play in the career modes as well.

I guess I should try and wrap this up…but I haven’t even covered the graphics or the audio yet! Being a racing game, first and foremost the audio is all about the engine noise, and it doesn’t disappoint. All 4 engines have their own unique sound and they’ve been even more refined from last year. The only audio that disappoints is the menu and replay music (replay music is the same as last year), but then you don’t play an F1 game for its menu music, do you?

Graphically the game is impressive but as we draw closer to the end of these consoles cycle there’s not really much that can be improved from the previous yea. Having said that, I don’t think I could ever get bored of looking at these F1 cars under the Bahrain lights.

Conclusion

F1 2020 is easily the best F1 game Codemasters has released. My Team is a great addition to the franchise and could quite have easily been released as a stand-alone title. The racing action is as solid – and good looking – as ever, and I only wish I could have tested the online portion to add another 2723 paragraphs to this review.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Good
  • My Team is a massive plus
  • Plenty of modes to keep you busy
  • More ‘realistic’ car feel
  • Casual mode is a good entry point for newcomers
Bad
  • Menu music is ‘meh’
  • Potentially limited options for car liveries
  • Using a controller feels like a disadvantage at some tracks
9.5
Excellent
Gameplay - 9.5
Graphics - 9.5
Audio - 9
Longevity - 10
Written by
I first got my hands on a gaming console in ‘91 with the NES and haven’t looked back since, playing on a variety of consoles and PCs over the years. Once a year you will also find me doing a trilogy play through of either Mass Effect or Dragon Age.

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