One of the best racing sims in recent memory.
With the severe impact of the global pandemic on the sports world, sports games have been the biggest safe haven for fans to experience their favorite events. While the Formula One season has just restarted, fans have been itching for another way to experience the races, and F1 2020 is another brilliant installment into the franchise that beautifully simulates the feeling of racing in the F1 world. With major successful new additions to gameplay, it creates a comprehensive experience for any level of F1 fan, making it one of the best racing sims on the market.
The core gameplay from last year’s entry is mostly intact in F1 2020. After creating and naming your character, you can race in one of the many modes returning from previous iterations, either online or offline. As you race around the 22 total tracks, which include new tracks Hanoi and Zandvoort, car handling is dynamic and depends on a lot of factors, from your speed to track conditions and tire types. Cars feel as real as they ever have, and you can tweak them to become as personalized as you’d like. There’s an expected learning curve, but once you start to get the feel for a car, driving becomes incredibly satisfying, especially when you start to take perfect turns or overtake your competitors, and it allows you to organically feel out how difficult you want your races and driving competition to be.
"With major successful new additions to gameplay, F1 2020 creates a comprehensive experience for any level of F1 fan, making it one of the best racing sims on the market."
Even while races can take nearly 30 minutes to complete with race length at just 25% of normal, it rarely feels monotonous because every turn or straightaway is a brand-new experience and another opportunity to show off your skills. Your crew also gives you consistent detailed updates on the race, including your position, your lead or deficit, tire conditions, and race strategy status, and there is a wealth of information about your car and competitors that you can access mid-race, making quick adjustments much more accessible. New this year is the ability to drive in Casual mode, which turns many more assists on and makes driving easier. While this won’t help series veterans who want to fine tune every aspect of their cars, it’s a great addition to welcome newcomers to the series.
The biggest new addition to F1 2020 is the brand new MyTeam mode, a platform for you to create and manage your own team in Formula One and try your hand at winning the Constructor’s Championship. This mode is wide-ranging and comprehensive for the whole experience, and it’s where the game shines the most. You take control of every aspect of your team from the beginning, giving it a name, color scheme, and logos. You can decide if you want the F1 season to last 10, 16, or the full 22 races, and you can choose which of the tracks are raced that season. When you get into team management, though, you have control of virtually every aspect of your team’s operations. While your created character is the one you control on race weekends, you’re in charge of signing and managing your team’s second driver, as well as negotiating with new drivers after each season. Race weekends are mostly untouched from last year’s game, with three opportunities to practice racing a track before qualifying and ultimately racing.
Off the track, though, is where the MyTeam experience comes into its own. Over the course of the season, you’re tasked with managing each facet of your team. Signing sponsorships, for example, is a primary way to increase revenue, and you can choose from dozens of sponsors who offer weekly payments and bonuses for achieving goals like reaching a podium spot or driving a certain number of laps. Sponsors with higher bonuses may pay lower weekly payouts, but if you’re willing to take the risk you may have higher total revenue. Your finances help you invest in each of your car’s departments, which create the parts for your car from the R&D division. R&D works similarly to last year, where you can spend your research points in creating new parts for your car, though you can now rush the development of any part, which works faster but increases failure chance. Increased investment in each department can lower chance of failure or increase the number of developments happening at once.
"MyTeam is wide-ranging and comprehensive for the whole experience, and it’s where the game shines the most."
In the weeks between grands prix, you have free days during which you can assign activities for your team or drivers, such as team building activities, PR events, or upgrading your vehicles, each of which provides some benefit, though you can rarely do every possible activity in the time allotted. Some weeks will also have events like invitationals and press briefings. Invitationals are fun side activities that give you another way to experience each track, while press briefings, along with pre- or post-race interviews are great ways to increase acclaim with your fans or improve morale among your internal departments. Every aspect of MyTeam creates a stunningly wide-ranging racing management operation that makes you feel like the mastermind behind your team. It’s surprisingly engaging to develop new parts and sign sponsors, and it somehow never gets boring. Even if you just want to race, it allows that, too, and will autofill activities or automatically recommend part upgrades, which give you freedom to decide how much you want to put into your team’s operations, as opposed to just competing in races.
Returning from past games is the Career mode, allowing you to join one of the existing ten teams and build yourself up to become the best. This mode feels a little barebones compared to the MyTeam mode, as MyTeam includes expanded versions of most of the Career’s features, like R&D and contract management. Your teammate is no longer a character, and it’s mostly focused on your growth to becoming the best Formula One has to offer over the course of ten years. Before you begin your journey, you can race in a full or shortened F2 season to improve your acclaim or jump straight to F1, though I didn’t find that the F2 season was particularly challenging. The Career mode is still a worthwhile experience if you’re looking to build a single driver and don’t care about external operations, but it can start to feel lacking compared to MyTeam. Other modes are returning and generally untouched from last year’s installment. While I was unable to test the online racing, modes like leagues, ranked races, and unranked races are back with similar layouts to previous installments, as well as time trials, individual invitationals, and new split-screen multiplayer, all of which are other ways to allow you to race wherever you want without the structure of longer modes.
Visually, F1 2020 still doesn’t compete with series like Forza or Gran Turismo, but it has made noticeable improvements from years past. While character models can still be wonky and textures a little flat, lighting effects are often beautiful at different points during the day, and weather, alongside making tangible differences in car handling, is impressively varied. Loading times can become a bit frustrating, especially when at least three are required during every race weekend, and an ability to simulate an entire Grand Prix weekend would have been a nice implementation for players who want to speed up their pace. Within races, though, opposing drivers’ AI is usually realistic in its balance between being conservative and aggressive, especially on higher difficulty levels, which makes beating other drivers consistently satisfying, and the dynamic ways that cars react depending on their specific features is impressive in its own right.
"F1 2020 still doesn’t compete with series like Forza or Gran Turismo, but it has made noticeable improvements from years past. While character models can still be wonky and textures a little flat, lighting effects are often beautiful at different points during the day, and weather, alongside making tangible differences in car handling, is impressively varied."
F1 2020 is both the best installment in the series and one of the best racing sims in recent memory. Its driving is as refined and personalized as ever, and every moment feels like its own experience in improving your ability to control your car and defeat your opponents. Its additions to gameplay, especially the new MyTeam mode, are comprehensive and engaging, making for a great balance of experiences on and off the track. If you just want to race, F1 2020 has a great way to do so, and if you’re after a more wide-ranging simulation, it has everything you could ask for.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Wonderful driving; Comprehensive additions; Great lighting and weather effects.
Occasional loading times; Neglected Career mode.
F1 2020 improves on virtually every aspect of the series, combining a satisfying and detailed on-track experience with a variety of old and new modes that allow for a comprehensive and engaging racing simulation.