I love racing games, I really do. But, when I’m given the choice between something like DriveClub, Forza Horizon, and any number of the officially licensed F1 games, you can bet your last breath that the F1 games are left out in the cold.
But something has changed this year. F1 2020 has got me by the short and curlies, and I’ve found myself sitting up into the early hours of the morning, bemoaning my bad luck and my idiot teammate driver. I’m hooked, and I think you could be too.
The problem with F1 games, or at least the way I see it, is that they’re typically simulators and catered towards the hardcore F1 fans – the kind who happily travel away to race weekends to catch a glimpse of Lewis Hamilton for 2.4 seconds as he blitzes past in his souped-up machine. For casual players like myself, this has always been a massive turn off. There are rules and regulations and you’re constantly getting gip in your ear for doing the wrong thing. You’re a driver for a company, and if they don’t like the way you’re racing, they’re happy to let you know it.
This time around, you don’t have to take any of it. You get to give it, instead. F1 2020’s MyTeam mode is a fantastic blend of FIFA’s dramatic The Journey Mode, a little bit Football Manager, and a little bit of business simulation. And it works. It puts you not only in the driver’s seat but also the throne of the racing brand you now own.
You start by creating your own avatar, then choosing your team’s name, picking sponsors, and eventually choosing which manufacturer you will entrust to build you an engine worthy of the racing gods. You also get to pick a teammate to take to the track with you, but you’ve also got a budget to manage, so spending big on a decent engine might mean having to settle for a less than ideal co-driver. It’s not ideal, but starting out in business never is – and I can tell you that from personal experience.
The idea is that you probably won’t win the championship in your first season, maybe not even the second or third, but over time you’ll grow your business, stockpile funds and improve your capabilities along the way. It might be a game of fast, arse-to-the-wall racing, but the long game is a marathon, not a sprint.
Having control over my own team gave me a real reason to give a damn. I’m normally quite aggressive in racing games; I’ll hit the corners hard and fast, skidding like last nights curry in your knickers. I’ll give other racers a nudge if they’re in my way, and if I can get them to crash, all the better. This is why I’m basically on a permanent time-out in Gran Turismo Sport…
F1 2020 doesn’t allow it, and even if I did it anyway in F1 2019, these machines are mine, and the cost of repairs falls on me. So yeah, I took to the tracks with all the caution of a spotty 17-year old kid doing their driving test. I lost, badly, but at least I only had myself to blame, and I only had myself to give me a bollocking. I let myself off because I have a natural bias towards… me.
The point is, there’s a lot more reason to take the game seriously when you’re invested, and I was really invested, so much so that I’ve missed out on sleep and meals because I was sure I could hit a top-five finish at the end of the season. That didn’t come until my third season and my fourth night of getting nagged into bed at 1 AM.
The gameplay, then, is it any good? Yes! If you’re a hardcore F1 fan, there’s everything you could wish for and more. As a complete and utter amateur, I can’t begin to tell you what all the fancy dials and charts mean during a race – though I do now know about tyre temps – and I’m always amused to see the steering wheel looking like a console gamepad on crack. I’m a casual player, though, so did this harm my enjoyment? No!
F1 2020 has a setting called ‘Casual’ and it’s what I used. This tweaks all the settings to make the game less sim, more sim-cade. You’ll still have to drive carefully, but the game will kick in the brakes if you’re hitting a corner too fast, and it’ll help steer you on course if you’re heading into a wall. This might sound a little off-putting, but honestly, I barely noticed for the first day I played, and it was only when I was interrupted and let go of the controller that I noticed my machine start to slow down into a corner without any input from me.
After this, I did tweak the setting a touch to lower some of the assists and give me more control over my inputs and make me feel less like a baby playing Mario Kart 8 with all the kiddy assists on, and it helps a bit in chasing them oh-so-precious milliseconds.
Even with the assists, I struggled to win, and once I’d lowered them, I struggled even more. But I learned quickly and eventually got to enjoy being dead last. If you can’t be the best, be the worst. At least you’ll be remembered in some fashion.
The racing itself is pure Formula 1, through and through. The gameplay hasn’t changed much since last year’s release, but I’d argue that it doesn’t need to. It’s the same battles for pole position, tactical overtaking, defensive manoeuvres, and a lot of luck, in my experience.
The fact that the game is now opened up to casual racers like myself, and people who would have perhaps only have dipped into F1 racing via Codemaster’s fantastic multi-discipline racer GRID, is a fantastic achievement. Throwing in the management side, complete with interviews, hiring, and the other intricacies of running an F1 team is a cherry on the top of a fantastic looking bit of game cake. Of course, you don’t have to go through the MyTeam mode if you don’t want to. The traditional single-player is still there if you want to get yapped at for smashing into Vettel’s vessel.
F1 2020 PS4 Review
- Overall - Must Buy - 9/109/10
F1 2020 has opened its doors to the weekend veterans as well as the casual but curious observers. The addition of MyTeam is a literal game-changer and, in my case, a behavioural adjustment tool. Aggressive racing isn't so fun when you're the one footing the bill for a smashed car.
There's a deep campaign mode whichever way you play, and the online offerings are as good, if not better than last year, if that's your thing.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.