F1 2020 Review: An Effort Worthy of a Podium Spot

Codemasters has a track record of releasing impressive simulation racing games that accurately [...]

Codemasters has a track record of releasing impressive simulation racing games that accurately portray different disciplines. Dirt is the go-to for rally racing while F1 follows the sport of Formula One. With the season in full swing, Codemasters created F1 2020 to provide the full experience of a 22-race season. The races and new team owner mode are thoroughly enjoyable, but there are some occasional crashes that can disrupt a promising race.

F1 2020 relies on two main offline modes, the all-new split-screen, and online multiplayer to provide what Codemasters describes as the "most comprehensive" experience. However, there are special time trials and five-race championships available for quick sessions. These provide the opportunity to race in classic cars from years past, as well as extra practice to prepare for the meat and potatoes of F1 2020, which are the career modes.

The returning driver mode puts players in the seat of an F1 car while facing off against Lewis Hamilton and the other top drivers in either a full 22-race season or one shortened to 10 or 16 events. This is the quickest way to build up prestige in countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, Italy, and Britain, among others, en route to the World Constructors' Championship.

If simply driving is not enough, Codemasters added even more depth through the all-new team creator mode. This puts players in the role of an owner-driver and allows for full control of operations. Those that go this route control team contracts, design the cars, sign sponsors, and run the Research and Development Department. Incorporating the F2 tracks and cars adds in a way to further expand the available events.

(Photo: Codemasters)

The 10-year team-building mode, which is overwhelming at first due to the sheer number of systems in play, is the most enjoyable aspect of F1 2020. Making difficult decisions about specific sponsors adds even more strategy to the series, as does running R&D. If you don't focus on proper upkeep for the engine, gearbox, chassis, or other parts of the vehicle, they could fail midrace.

The game has traditionally developed a reputation as a simulation experience, which can be overwhelming for new players. There are specific racing lines that players must follow in order to find success and straying outside can lead to penalties. Additionally, some information is not initially clear unless you read multiple tutorials. Examples of this are the Drag Reduction System (DRS), fuel system, and Energy Recovery System (ERS).

Fortunately, Codemasters added in driver assists that make the game more welcoming to new players. Those not wanting to manage the DRS or ERS can have the computer take care of switching them on or off. The same goes for the fuel system and pit stops. Turning on the assists means that the only focus during the race is blistering-fast lap times and fighting for the best position in the field of 22 drivers.

One of the best assists available is the flashback system. This functions in the same manner as Forza: Horizon's rewind button. If you make a mistake, you can open the instant replay menu and simply rewind time. This becomes very useful during the tracks with several tight corners.

If driving remains too difficult even with the assists turned on, there is an option to skip the driving portion of the season. Doing so only requires taking part in the qualifying lap. The three practice sessions and the actual race can be skipped. However, doing so does not necessarily result in a win or a spot on the podium. I secured the pole position for three different races and then skipped the actual event. Each time, the driver finished 15th or 16th.

The primary issue with F1 2020 is that the penalty system does not account for the AI drivers. They will occasionally slam into the back of your car while following the pre-programmed routes around the tracks. When this happens, the officials provide two warnings before assigning a two-second penalty. Certain penalties are easy to avoid, such as those for cutting corners, but the collisions can happen even while following the recommended driving lines.

Another issue is that the game frequently crashes at inopportune times. This happened five separate times during a 22-race season, once with one lap remaining in an 18-lap race. When partnered with excruciatingly long load times between sessions, the crashes become frustrating.

Apart from the minor technical issues, F1 2020's campaign modes provide entertainment for racing fans. The same can be said about the multiplayer options. Codemasters set up ranked and unranked matches, as well as sanctioned events that have defined start times. Of course, competitive friends and family can also take part in split-screen racing for an old-school feel.

F1 2020's career mode provides an impressive level of depth while the new driver assists make the game more accessible for new or inexperienced players. The simulation-style may be overwhelming at first, but extended playtime leads to an enjoyable experience. However, the AI and inconsistent penalties cause frustration, as do the occasional crashes. Ultimately, Codemasters created a platform for F1 fans to revisit history or create a legendary career.

Rating: 4 out of 5

F1 2020 is currently available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and PC. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a base model PS4.