Delayed by several months due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Formula 1 finally graced our screens this past weekend with the Austrian GP officially kicking off the 2020 season. Despite much uncertainty about whether we’d even have any Formula 1 action this year, the team at Codemasters were working hard from the comforts of their home polishing off its latest F1 game with many new advancements and innovations that take the long-running racing franchise to a new level with more personalization over your experience than ever before.
F1 2020 is unquestionably the best Formula 1 game yet. It’s stuffed to the brim with content and features, including the all-new “My Team” experience. As the name suggests, this mode allows you to create your very own Formula 1 team. You’re the boss, so expect to be making plenty of on-the-fly decisions that’ll affect your co-driver, car mechanics and even the team’s relationship with the media. Your financial spend is also accounted for and making the right investments will be key to your success.
I never expected that Codemasters would be able to dethrone its classic Career Mode as the flagship experience of the Formula 1 games, but My Team surpasses it by quite a margin. The customization goes far beyond the boundaries of the Career Mode and finally, you can manage a team however you desire. In addition to your management efforts, your driving prowess is just as important. Because F1 2020 is a driving game first and foremost, you’ll still be behind-the-wheel on the track representing your team, sponsors and the efforts of your mechanics. Sponsorships are key to the financial success of your business. A team with high-paying advertisers can more easily afford investment into their car and engine development, attracting the big players in the league which can be bought out from the driver’s market.
Decision-making in My Team begins immediately. You’ll need to choose a name, pick a primary sponsor, decide on an engine power unit and hire a co-driver. From there, you’ll also customize your car using a selection of liveries and alter the team’s branding by settling on an emblem and the relevant team colours. Players are given the freedom to curate the gameplay experience from there, choosing between the new casual and traditional simulation options, whilst also adjusting the length of the Formula 1 season and deciding on which GPs it’ll feature. These shorter season options are new to F1 2020 and even apply to the renowned Career Mode. Race length and AI difficulty can also be balanced to your liking.
Your Formula 1 journey then kicks off with an interview from one of the sport’s most legendary broadcasters, Will Buxton. He’ll ask about your team’s entry to F1 and whether you’ve made the necessary investments to make a notable impact. Your answers to the press affect team morale but refusing to answer them will lead to more challenging questions in the future if the media become frustrated by your responses or lack thereof. My Team tracks everything you do, including your total financial spend, investments in R&D and of course, your race performance. Overtime, you’ll be able to expand your assets with further facilities and increased marketing spend will also lead to new potential sponsors as you grow to become one of the sport’s most unstoppable teams, but that’ll come down to both your performance on the track as well as your business choices.
What I love the most about My Team is how it thrusts all kinds of responsibilities onto you. From setting expectations to managing your car and investing into new facilities, upgrades and sponsors, there’s never a moment to catch a break – just like in the real sport, the investments, decisions and testing, as well as research and development are an ongoing process at every Formula 1 team. Only this time, you make the calendar and participate in the marketing beats that you feel best suit your team. How you structure your efforts across each Formula 1 season will either take your team to the top of the grid or leave them struggling for relevance, and it all comes down purely to you.
If you’d fancy a break from managing your own team, then the classic ten-year Career Mode is back with more customizability than ever before, allowing you to race for your favourite F1 team and take them to the top of the ladder. New circuits built with next-generation craftsmanship, the Circuit Zandvoort in The Netherlands and Vietnam’s challenging Hanoi Street Circuit also prominently feature having never been in an officially licensed Formula 1 game before. Both are spectacular to race on and they spice up both Career Mode and My Team with a new flavour. It’s also worth noting at this point that F1 2020 looks spectacular, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
Invitational Events feature throughout both modes too, challenging you to get behind-the-wheel of a classic F1 race machine from 1988-2010. This also includes four legendary Michael Schumacher cars for Deluxe Edition owners, including the Benetton B194 and B195, the Jordan 191, and the Ferrari F1-2000, as well as an updated Ferrari F2004. In addition to classic cars, Formula 2 is also back in F1 2020 and can finally be raced in either half of full season options using either the 2019 cars, or shortly after launch, the new 2020 cars. These will be added in a future update, but regardless, it’s great to see a more fleshed-out Formula 2 experience now front and centre in F1 2020 – but I also hope Codemasters push it even further in future entries, integrating F2 directly into My Team and allowing drivers to seamlessly advance from F2 to F1 during Career Mode. Despite this, performing well in F2 does influence how you are viewed in your Formula 1 career.
Other prominent features have also made their way into this year’s installment, including two-player split-screen racing which has been missing since F1 2014, whilst the new casual accessibility handling mode should provide a much better experience for newcomers. Since I enjoy tweaking the assists and gameplay to my liking, I found it a little too simplified. Using it disables manual gear shifting for instance but enforces heavy steering and braking assists. Nonetheless, I appreciate how it allows anyone to pick up the controller and play F1 2020 – even if they’ve never played a racing game before, and that’s only a good thing. Also new is the “ERS Overtake” button to assist drivers in on-track battles, as well as a new virtual rear view mirror to more easily see cars on your tail – both of which are welcomed additions to the series. In addition, the on-screen display can finally be customized by players to their liking.
Multiplayer features from F1 2019 return in this year’s game and remain intact based on first impression. Ranked and Unranked races can be enjoyed, whilst organized League races have their own designated space. Codemasters will also setup weekly events for this year’s title, whilst customizable liveries can be applied to the spec car that was similarly added in last year’s installment. After many updates to the online experience in F1 2019, it’s no surprise that Codemasters wanted to up the ante across its single-player offerings for its latest title, which should be appreciated by both series newcomers and hardcore enthusiasts alike.
One way the developer does plan on keeping fans engaged post-released is through its new Podium Pass, which is an F1-style “battle pass” that challenges players with daily objectives. Beating them to earn XP unlocks new rewards, including car liveries, driver suits, gloves, helmets and emotes. Like all battle passes, there will be a free tier and premium tier – the latter requiring a separate purchase. Codemasters does say that those who’ve pre-ordered F1 2020 will have enough credit to unlock the “Season One VIP,” with each season offering enough currency to purchase the following VIP Podium Pass. It’s worth noting that Premium Pass was inactive during the pre-release review period.
Another aspect of F1 2020 that I value greatly is its high-quality presentation. Between its slick menu interface that integrates all aspects of the game, such as the F1 Esports Series, as well as the ability to view the car models up close and learn more about their history. Browsing through each of them even decorates the showroom based on the associated team. Codemasters has even made historic videos for the new Schumacher cars, which is a neat touch. All in all, this feels like your own Formula 1 museum – an archive of why the sport is so fantastic, both today and decades ago.
It’s the attention to detail that illustrates how passionate the development team at Codemasters are for Formula 1. Usually, each installment is more authentic and technically impressive than the one before, but with F1 2020’s highly-personalized and surprising My Team mode, Codemasters proves their finesse as one of the most accomplished racing game developers in the industry. Now if you excuse me, the marketing department require my presence for a video shoot – we’ve got some new sponsors coming onboard ahead of our next race and you know what they say, first impressions are everything. It’s best not to let them down, both on and off the track!
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.