F1 201928th June, 2019
PlatformPC, PS4, Xbox One
It's always strange to me when an annualised series comes out earlier than normal. You expect them at the same time, roughly, every year. It's even stranger when they come with more features than normal and looking like the best the series has ever been. The announcement of an earlier release date, combined with the inclusion of F2 would lead anybody to wonder about the time allotted to actually develop the game. My impressions of F1 2019 were of the positive when I previewed it around two months ago.
Now I've had a hands-on with the end product, has the earlier release date had an impact or is F1 2019 up to the usual Codemasters standard? Let's find out.
I've found playing this a strange experience more than anything. I've been playing the F1 games for a fairly long number of years now and I've been able to spot the incremental changes each time. Incremental has been the name of the game from 2016 to 2018 after 2016 made a huge leap from 2015. With the inclusion of F2 here in F1 2019, I was expecting it to be the next major leap, only this time in the form of gameplay rather than a push in visuals or elsewhere.
Only, and it may seem a little too critical due to the new inclusion and how it interacts to another new feature within the game, the inclusion of F2 seems a little shallow. That or at least it could have been done with a bit more detail. The F2 season you take part in essentially introduces the new rivalry system. In the case of my playthrough, you had the ruggedly handsome Chris Wray in a rivalry against some git called Devon Butler who epitomises bad sportsmanship.
The F2 season is short, very short. If memory serves, you are placed in a few scenarios which essentially decides the sort of driver you are. First, your car has a fault - do you let your team-mate past you? Second, Devon causes an accident and wrecks your car. You have to come back, catch up and make sure you beat him. Finally, you want to beat him in the very last race to claim your rightful place as the F2 champion. This, alongside the cutscenes and interviews that manage to bring you into the rivalry, set up something that the game sadly doesn't utilise after.
Rivalries are sadly limited to graphs, more than anything else. Your rival at the beginning of your F1 career is your team-mate, who you're playing second fiddle to. Build yourself up, dominate your team-mate and as you're racing, competing against other riders in F1 you'll eventually be asked to pick who you see as your rival. It's just a shame that the feeling of a rivalry isn't as strong as it was in your opening gambit. I tend to think that Codemasters set the bar a little too high, even in just three races.
One major feature in F1 2019, something that was left a secret until just before release is that drivers can actually transfer within the career. This applies to you and the AI, meaning you may not just see Hamilton sat at Mercedes permanently. It adds that little bit of realism to a career that could be all-too-rigid in the past, likely due to licensing restrictions. Speaking of licensing, opening this up has also had Codemasters bring in Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, also highlighting their focus on rivalries, and while this mode is interesting - taking place over a few challenges - it could be better.
At least one thing can be said about F2, it lets you see what level you're really on. All of the cars are completely identical so you can't complain about Mercedes or Ferrari having better machinery. When I made the jump to F1 I didn't actually join one of the top teams. I know my limitations, I'm no Joel Schumacher, to expect better than abysmally poor would highlight that the team manager has never actually seen me in a car or on a motorbike before. Did you watch Austria yesterday? That's me on a regular basis. Though I have to admit, my lack of ability is at least made up for by turning the difficulty down and turning on a few assists. I still have some problems with the assists though, trying to find a balance that will let me race and take turns at the speed I want to, rather than the assists stopping me from racing.
Another thing you'll notice when on the track is that the AI has stepped up its game. Naturally, this depends on the settings you choose. Still, I have noticed even on "babies' first car" setting the AI-controlled opposition is more aggressive and will pressure you. The only problem with this is something I've been complaining about in previous F1 titles and racing games for a long time now - you get crashed into and you get penalised. Even now I'm still having it happen to me, with one particularly memorable incident having somebody ram into the back of my car and me get penalised for crashing into them. I was in front! I'm starting to think Codemasters have it in for me.
Still, with your career being a little more fluid, the inclusion of the rivalry system - as much as it could be improved - is mixed with added elements like the interactions with the media and your relationships with the departments of your team, other teams, drivers and more. Also, the research system has been slightly tweaked from previous iterations and there are, as before, other racing events during your season. All of this creates a more complete career experience than any other F1 title before it.
Much of this applies out out the career too, with the multiplayer mode now having a number of additions. In the actual racing, you have leagues included to let you and friends compete against each other in a longer-form, rather than just over one race. With the rules made available, such as scheduling, you can essentially set your own Grand Prix season up and prove to everybody that you are the
best worst in the world! Also, following the recent success, F1 eSports has come back and while it's not on yet, you'll have the professional eSports league making a return, with you being able to watch and relive the events all through the game itself.
As great as that it, I do fully it doesn't appeal to me. I'm not huge on eSports, even in games that I believe I'm pretty good at. What does appeal to me, though, is how much effort Codemasters have put into getting F1 2019 looking and sounding right. This is particularly true of the sound for older F1 cars, which the game captures perfectly. I've said it before and I'll say it again, F1 cars are just lacking something now because they just don't sound like the powerful machines that they are. Everything just sounds great here though, with the audio alone making even the smallest of changes identifiable.
Much like the audio, there's a lot to be said for the aesthetic qualities of F1 2019 too. Codemasters have made it clear a few times during the year that they were going for a more realistic, authentic experience and they were pushing the visuals to match this. You can see and feel the tracks changing over time, with weather effects also having a huge impact on both the look and feel. The modelling of the cars is fantastic and in general, the game looks fantastic thanks to the enhanced shadow and lighting found within the game.
The game is as one could expect it to be, thanks to Codemasters track record. It is the true F1 experience that you can have at home, only now it's enhanced. The inclusion of F2 lets you truly test your racing abilities, where the racing and the look & feel of the cars and tracks have been brought up to the next level. There are a few downsides, such as the lack of depth in the Senna/Prost challenges and the relegation of rivalries to an afterthought, but they are new features and should have the time to grow.
All in all, F1 2019 is yet another excellent racer developed by Codemasters. With a wealth of positives, such as the improved feel of the racing, as well as how great the game looks and a number of new gameplay features, the game was bound to shine. The minor negatives, such as new modes like the Senna/Prost challenges feeling shallow, are minor blips in what is an otherwise outstanding game.
Copy provided by the publisher. Played on an ultrawide monitor running at 2560×1080 resolution from a PC with an Intel i7-6700 3.4GHz x4 CPU, an Asus Radeon RX480 GPU and 32GB of DDR4 2400MHz RAM. On max settings, the game averaged at around 36FPS.
F1 2019 is yet another excellent racer developed by Codemasters. With a wealth of positives, such as the improved feel of the racing, as well as how great the game looks and a number of new gameplay features, the game was bound to shine. The minor negatives, such as new modes like the Senna/Prost challenges feeling shallow, are minor blips in what is an otherwise outstanding game.
- The racing is better than ever, with the feel of the track and cars being improved
- Driver transfers during the career gives the feel of the game finally reflecting changes as time goes on
- Improvements to online options have enhanced it and made it much easier to race with friends and others
- Looks and sounds outstanding
- Rivalries system in career mode is a great new feature, or at least it is the start of a great new feature
- A wealth of assists that can be fine-tuned for useless racers like me!
- Rivalries need extending to more than being a focus at the very beginning of your F2 career, being relegated to graphs later on
- Senna/Prost mode is way too shallow
- You still get punished for the AI crashing into you