When it comes to racing games, it's not too hard to find something that fits in any specific niche, whether it is an accessible casual arcade racer like Mario Kart or Forza Horizon or something more hardcore that caters to the person who enjoys dyno stats and shaving one second off that lap time. While I'll be the first to say that realistic racing sims are great (even more so if you're rich) every racing title seems to always be missing something, be it the presentation, driving physics, or just gameplay modes beyond the standard cup chase and time trials. I’ve rarely played a racing game that kept its hooks in me long after the first dozen or so hours like F1 2020 has.
Driving in F1 2020 is tight, intuitive, and really fun. There’s a level of accessibility here that I wish more racing games had such as a turn and brake assist, track visualizers, and even a Field of View slider (all racing games need this, no exceptions). This amount of accessibility options is great because it opens the genre to gamers who don’t want to feel discouraged or “bad” at racing games when they're still learning the basics, or just don’t want to deal with the hassle of hitting a tight corner perfectly with a controller. If you want to turn these off you easily can and all accessibility options are disabled in online multiplayer
F1 2020 has a spotter menu that while not new to the genre, is extremely intuitive and easy to use in the middle of a race. By simply pressing R1 you will be able to not only check all diagnostics of your car (tire health, fuel, etc) you will also have the ability to communicate with your spotter with a quick and easy command window. This seemed gimmicky in the earlier races, but as I progressed I found myself communicating with him often so I could keep my eyes on the road and not have to look at the HUD as much. It also plays radio chatter out of the PS4 controller speaker, which is always a welcome addition for a feature most people forgot existed.
The sense of speed in F1 2020 is without a doubt some of the best I've experienced this console generation. Often times in racing games cars feel either too fast and floaty or a bit too heavy and slow, in F1 2020 you really feel the difference between 65mph and 200mph and I never felt disengaged with the game because the cars were moving too slow. F1 2020 is also one of the few racing sims that feels great on a standard PS4 controller, but if you have access to a wheel or a “pro” controller like the Astro C40 or the Xbox Elite then I would strongly suggest that as the additional buttons and joystick definitely help with the overall driving experience here.
My only real gripes are the AI and the lack of any meaningful damage. While I understand that damage in racing games is more about car manufacturers wanting to see their automobiles beat up or not, the lack of cosmetic damage in any way always takes me out of the immersion a bit, which is a shame since F1 2020 is all about immersing yourself in your Formula 1 career. Regardless it would have been nice to see some realistic damage on my car as I roll across the finish line, but that's more of a personal gripe than anything.
The AI on the other hand can go from smart and tactful, to just plain dumb. I found myself just ramming opponent's cars off the track at times in tight corners because it was easier to do that than actually pass them, and I never felt like they were as aggressive to me in return. The opponent's AI is very by the book, which is fine and all, but it would have been nice to have an option to let the other teams drive a bit more aggressively on the track. I’m not suggesting the game should have turned into Burnout in the second turn, but as a wise man once said, “Rubbing is racing”.
My Team: A Campaign Worth Playing
Traditionally, campaigns in racing games are about as bare-bones as you can get. Whether it be a simple point chase to a seasonal cup, or the occasional story mode that's more “fast” than furious. Racing games have never really tried to do much with their campaigns outside of the safest options. F1 2020 goes in a bold direction with its My Team campaign by giving you the experience of life on and off the track.
When you start the campaign you’re racing in the F2 leagues, which is essentially the minor leagues of Formula 1. From there you learn the basics of driving and how to use F1 2020’s surprisingly intuitive radio and HUD commands. After winning these races you’re thrown into the big leagues and things begin to change dramatically.
You’re immediately given the chance to talk to the press and the dialogue options you select here can affect everything from your team's morale, your car stat points, and even public opinion on you. Dialogue options are something I never thought I would see in a racing sim, but now I can't imagine playing one without them. Throughout F1 2020 you have a METER NAME and you will need to raise that in order to join teams, research better parts, and unlock skills. In F1 2020 you’re not only playing as the racer, but you’re also the team manager.
Everything here is new for the genre. You’ll receive team emails before and after races, have chances to talk to the press (and really make yourself seem like an asshole if you want), decide if it’s worth budgeting an upgrade before race day, deal with suppliers and sponsorships, fire and hire teammates, and even favor specific departments of your team. The amount of control over every aspect of your career is pretty groundbreaking for the genre.
Before every seasonal race, you will have the chance to participate in various events such as track time, qualifying, and practice laps. This is important for a few reasons such as placement on race day, the chance to give meaningful car configuration tests, and the opportunity to earn more driver acclaim.
The credit system in F1 2020 isn’t too groundbreaking since its the same as money in other racers like Gran Turismo and Drift21. But unlike those games, you can’t just automatically slap in a better engine and head to the track. While upgrading your car you are given the chance to upgrade it quickly or slowly. A quick upgrade can take a few days but also has the chance to fail while a slower upgrade has a greater chance of success at the cost of an extended R&D period. This creates some interesting scenarios where I was annoyed during a race because my team couldn’t get me an upgrade in time. Which in turn made F1 2020’s RPG like campaign just that much more immersive.
That being said this is not a short campaign. While no racing game is short since you can race forever, the campaign is pretty long and races can stretch from 15 minutes to hours. You’ll have to spend time adjusting your car carefully and by taking advantage of the additional opportunities to drive and qualify before race day, you will be rewarded with a much better race, just don’t expect to do all this in 30 a minute session.
That's something here that really can't be understated. The team at Codemasters really went all out with creating a campaign here that is not only fun to play, but also interesting enough to keep players engaged for hours on end without even racing. I never found myself getting bored with the game after a few days because the season was set up to always have something new and unexpected happen on and off the track.
Race the World
Multiplayer here is what you would expect out of a AAA racing game. You can play online and there is a heavy emphasis on eSports. While I’m not part of that community, the F1 games definitely have a thriving online scene and this years entry includes everything from qualification events, news, and the ability to watch pro race series.
Most surprising is the return of local split-screen multiplayer, after being absent from the series since 2014. For those unaware, split-screen has become something of a rarity this generation and it works really well here. In the few times I was able to do a split-screen race I never noticed any major hiccups or discrepancies (other than my PS4 Pro revving up like a jet engine) and it was pretty fun to be able to play a racing game with someone in the same room as me. It’s one of those features that I never realized how much I missed until it was gone, so having it here only made F1 2020 that much more of a complete package.
F1 2020 Review | Final Thoughts
From the hefty My Team campaign mode to the inclusion of split-screen multiplayer, legendary tracks and cars, the vast amount of encyclopedia entries on everything F1 (with narration), fun and accessible gameplay, and its thriving eSports community. It’s hard to pass on F1 2020. This is the complete package and massive value for anyone interested in racing games, Formula 1 fan or not.
TechRaptor reviewed F1 2020 on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC and Xbox One.
- My Team Campaign Is Full Of Features
- Split Screen Multiplayer
- Tons of Content
- Excellent Presentation
- No Visual Damage
- Races Can Drag On