Codemasters have been churning out great Formula One games for years now. The biggest endorsement of their work game late last year when the studio was acquired by EA Sports. Yes, the gaming giant behind the FIFA franchise wanted to get their hands on some motorsports games, specifically F1. F1 2021 is EA Sports’ first F1 game since 2003, but how does it fare?
The Highlights Of F1 2021
F1 2021 is difficult to review. I’m a massive F1 fan so I’m probably somewhat biased already. I’ve been playing F1 games from the dawn of time, but still, being totally honest, F1 2021 has made some big strides. Graphically the game is beautiful. Some of the cutscenes are just wildly realistic and they may as well be real-life actors.
The mechanics of the game is a technical wonder. And how you interact with the game based on your knowledge or experience is so customisable that F1 2021 is the Formula One game with something for everyone. And that’s what we need right now given the sport has seen an influx of very welcome fans, with Drive to Survive being a massive catalyst on that front.
As with many of these perrenial updated games, F1 2021 is more about the sum of all parts than any massive or major overhauls. The biggest improvement of all, in my eyes, is load times. Now, this might be reserved for PS5 gamers, but I’ve had a few moments where I sit back on the couch to check Twitter during a load only to realise the game was ready to rock in a matter of seconds. A welcome upgrade from last year’s game.
So if it is more about the sum of all parts instead of the big changes, what is new?
New Game Mode: Braking Point
While I said it’s the little things that matter, Braking point is actually a massive addition. If you’re in the cross-section of motorsport and field sport gaming fans, you’ll recognise that Braking Point is an exciting addition that comes directly from EA Sports. This is modelled on FIFA’s “The Journey” where you live the life of a young footballer. In “Braking Point”, you are a rookie F1 driver by the name of Aiden Jackson, racing for a junior team. In this game mode, the story is the most important feature but it’s a really nice introduction for the less experienced F1 fans out there.
You’re up against both your veteran teammate and fellow rookie rival driving for another team as you race bits and pieces of gameplay in between cut screens and storyline progression. At times the experience leans too far towards story. For example, I won one race but because that kind of went against the rookie storyline, not much of a big deal was made about it.
You drive partial races at the start, intertwined with cutscenes and simply incredible graphics. The cutscenes may as well be real-life actors.
After this, I thought it would be a good idea to ramp up the difficulty. You can choose from three and as I was racing on the medium, I cranked it up to hardest where it became almost impossible to progress. Sitting in a Williams car, I’d been told to get onto the podium to progress the story.
So, while immensely entertaining and a fantastic when to learn the controls, Braking Point does feel like it has been scripted by someone who has just a fleeting knowledge of F1. To be honest, it doesn’t detract from the experience too much and if you’re a new age “Drive to Survive” generation of F1 fans, it’ll make little difference.
My Team Returns
Once I completed Braking Point, I moved onto My Team. Unlike Braking Point, My Team is a returning feature from F1 2020. Here, you start out with the bare bones of a Formula One team. Your job is to drive and manage the team, taking points and money for glory and development.
I’ve not gotten as deep into this just yet, but having built my Jordan F1 team and plagarising as much of the Irish F1 team as I could, I’ve been enjoying this mode. Like Braking Point, the real fun comes from when you find your sweet spot in the difficulity settings. This is all about finding a balance between the racing assists, like braking and steering while also tweaking the AI you’re up against to be beatable but only when you’re hitting the apex, getting your braking and acceleration points just right.
One element of the F1 games that I personally really enjoy is Time Trial mode. In the build up to race weekend, I’ll fire up the game and do 20 odd laps of the track F1 is visiting that week. I just find it interesting to get a better feel for the track but also to pit my own ability against other online gamers.
A Departure From Reality
The pandemic has made developing the F1 franchise’s official game a living nightmare for Codemasters. Last year, there were constantly last minute decisions as races were cancelled, while Mercedes’ fantastic gesture of changing to an all-black livery caused further game headaches.
F1 2021 offers a 2021 Championship mode, where you can play alongside the season as it happens. The problem is that it’s already completely different looking to the real schedule.
Austria appears just once. There’s no Portuguese or Italian Romagne Gran Prix. Perhaps the most unfortunate ommission, while also being the most understandable is Sprint Qualifying. This is a new qualification format being trialled this weekend in Silverstone. It might never seen light of day again, so the developers can be forgiven. Indeed, they can be forgiven for everything given the circumstances they’re releasing this game in.
Just like you don’t pick your race winner during Free Practice 1 on a Friday, it’s tough to give F1 2021 a full review this early. The game takes some time to get through for a start. I’ve finished Braking Point and found it entertaining if not a little cheesy and wildly unrealistic in parts. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, online is a massive part of the fun with these games. While I didn’t enjoy F1 2020 all that much online on Xbox, the experience on PS5 was totally different so I’ll update this review once the servers get populated.
But, with the game launching on July 16th, and if you need a quick opinion now, here it is. This is a worthy entry to mark Codemasters and EA Sports teaming up for the first time. Sure, some elements have hardly been reinvented from F1 2020 and the ongoing pandemic means not everything aligns perfectly. But the load times alone is enough to get excited about. On top of that, it’s nice to have the updated teams. Sure enough, if you’ve played F1 2020 to death, the upgrade might not be overwhelming but it’s an upgrade nonetheless.
F1 2021 is fun.
Like the FIFA series, it’s difficult to resist the perennial upgrade and now, with Braking Point and hopefully further online developments, you’ll be getting your money’s worth.