Formula 1 is arguably one of the most prestigious sports in the world. It is the pinnacle of motorsport and has a very long history. Formula 1 has produced many legendary drivers over the years with backings of the most prestigious car manufacturers in the world. Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and many others use Formula 1 as a way to work on their future engine and car technologies. Some of the tech from F1 trickles down over the years into our normal road cars thus, the sport plays a much bigger part in our lives than we actually think. While the popularity and the opinion of the sport has somewhat gone down recently due to a string of relatively boring years dominated by Mercedes, the sport is still massive and there is no other thing like it.
We’ve had many F1 games over the years, hearkening back to the classics like F1 2002 to the newer, much more fleshed out games developed by Codemasters. After the horrendous nightmare of F1 2014, Codemasters has managed to make a string of amazing F1 games with each new addition bringing some much-requested and meaningful new features and game mechanics. If we look at last year’s game, F1 2018, it brought a whole new interview system, better R&D trees and an extremely well-balanced gameplay and AI difficulty that was suited for both beginners and experts of the game.
What happens off the track is a major part of the charm of Formula 1 and while we’ve had TV series like F1 drive to survive highlighting that part of the sport, the games have somewhat fallen short of recreating that experience, until now. While still being an incremental update, F1 2019 brings some much-needed changes to the table that may not completely change the game but they are, without a doubt, a step in the right direction. I’ve been playing the game for almost a week now and here are my thoughts on it.
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1. Career Mode
Probably the most played game mode of an F1 game is the career mode. In previous entries, you start off as a rookie in a back-marker or midfield team (you can select a top team but what’s the fun in that) and compete against other drivers on the grid for many seasons and make your way up to the top and eventually compete for the championship. There are added rivalries throughout the season to keep things spiced up. However, in F1 2019, the starting point of the career has changed. Instead of going straight into a Formula 1 seat, you start off in F2. You choose the F2 team you wish to race for and the driver academy which would eventually lead you into an F1 team. However, the F2 part of the career mode is very different from F1.
The start to the career mode in F2 is not very long. It doesn’t have full races or race weekends. Instead, it has a bunch of scenario based rounds. For example, in one of those, your car loses power and your teammate is behind you. You can either fight him or let him pass to make up places ahead for the team. This decision affects the outcome and attitude of your team towards you and is followed by a unique cutscene. As you go through races, the story progresses and so does your rivalry during that story. However, I don’t think your choices or performance in F2 matters at all since you’d land a seat in F1 anyway no matter how well you do. So, the whole point of having a story and objectives at the start in F2 kind of fades away.
Once you step into F1, it’s the same old career mode that we’re very familiar with from the previous games and feels like a copy-paste job. However, there is one redeeming factor for it which makes it less repetitive, driver transfers. The addition of driver transfer means that drivers can change teams every now and then and mix up the grid. The drivers remain the same throughout the whole career mode though and there are no newer entries on the grid. So, you can expect a 50-year-old Kimi Raikonnen (still faster than a Williams) racing you for the Championship in a Racing Point at some point. Overall, the career mode is pretty much the same as 2018 apart from a single new addition of a few scenarios in F2. It is a step in the right direction though and more of it in the next game would be nice.
Gameplay is arguably the most important part of any game, let alone a racing simulator game with no story elements. Other things are all on the side line in F1 and gameplay is at the forefront since most of your time in F1 2019 will be spent racing. Nailing the gameplay for a racing game is extremely hard especially if it is a simulation game. Thankfully, Codemasters is an expert in that department and F1 2019 feels just as good, if not better, than F1 2018. The cars feel extremely responsive while also having an element of risk and difficulty to them. You can try to push them to the absolute limit but every single detail about the way you drive is going to impact your lap times.
The intricacy of the gameplay in F1 2019 cannot be overlooked and I feel like it is the best representation of the sport in terms of driving ever. The F2 cars added to the game this season also feel very different but still familiar somehow. The learning curve and the balancing has been nailed to perfection here as well. The barriers to entry are low if you turn on the assists and mastering the game is hard when you play without any training wheels, just the way it should be. Driving at breakneck speeds through some of the most intense circuits like Monaco or Spa feels extremely satisfying.
Every time I went out on the track and completed a lap, I felt like I wanted to do more and Improve my lap times. It is an addictive feeling like no other. The AI has also massively improved which makes the races much more competitive and fun.
There are many Classic cars in F1 2019 as well just like the previous games. They’re also baked into the career mode just like they were in the previous games in the form of invitational events. While nothing has changed in terms of their playability, it is still nice to sit back, relax and just do some laps around Singapore at night in a shrieking Ferrari F2004. In terms of online, I didn’t get to play much of it as there aren’t actually many people around playing it. However, I have played some of it and it is more of the same. Chaos with added elements of fun would be an appropriate way to put it.
One of the major problems with the game right now is the game-breaking glitches and bugs which can ruin your experience. The game just crashes way too often for me (your mileage may vary). However, it is still new and upcoming patches would probably these issues.
3. Visuals and Sound
One of the major changes in this year’s F1 2019 is the big jump in graphics. The difference between F1 2017 and F1 2018 in terms of visuals was minimal. However, F1 2019 looks absolutely gorgeous. The reflections and details on the car are mind-blowing and would definitely woo you if you see F1 2019 for the first time. The tracks are very highly detailed and the weather effects are also amazing. F1 games from Codemasters have always been really good looking and F1 2019 is no different. However, if you’re on console, you’d probably miss out on this graphical goodness. You need a pretty beefy PC to run the game at ultra-settings smoothly. Something like a GTX 1080Ti or above would do. There is no reason for it to be so demanding though and Codemasters should definitely work to improve the game’s optimization.
As far as the sound is concerned, there are absolutely no complaints here. The grunt of the newer hybrid-V6 cars sounds deep and accurate while the high-pitched eargasmic shrieks of the older F1 cars is music to my years in F1 2019.
Overall, F1 2019 feels like it does justice to the sport that we all love so much. The gameplay is solid, the career mode has some new tricks up its sleeves, and the game just looks absolutely stunning. However, there just aren’t enough changes as compared to last year’s game to warrant an upgrade. If you don’t own F1 2018, then getting the F1 2019 would be an absolute no-brainer. However, if you already own F1 2018, justifying the 60-dollar price tag just gets a little harder. The F2 addition doesn’t last long enough, the driver transfers aren’t anything revolutionary and the graphical changes won’t even be noticeable for most people. It is still a step in the right direction though and sets the stage up perfectly for F1 2020 to be something truly special.