Despite my long-lasting love for a wide range of racing games, I have never played a F1 game; so, for the first time ever, I’ve taken a curious step into the wide world of Formula 1 racing with F1 2020. Throughout many hours of play, F1 2020 opened my eyes to how deep and complex the racing world can be: countless hours spent outside the track, testing, fine tuning, practising, managing, and even being interviewed so you maximise the potential on the track.
A new career mode has been introduced, called My Team, where you are both the owner and driver of the 11th team on the grid; where you not only test your limits on the track but also manage all of the intricacies that come with owning a team. From the start, you manage all parts of the company: from picking the sponsor, power-unit supplier, and second driver; to pouring finances into your R&D teams—researching upgrades and scheduling team building activities in between Grand Prix Weekends. Whilst a tad limited, you can also customise the suit, badge, and livery of your car—to give the company a more personal touch.
If building your own team seems too complex for you and you find that micromanagement isn’t your deal, but are still looking for a decent career mode, Driver Career may be the mode for you. It lets you focus on building a career as a driver (not an owner), giving you the option to start from a F2 career and work your way through to F1—or completely skip F2 altogether. Once you’ve reached F1, you pick your team and work with them to focus on being a career racer; not having to worry about juggling the finances, development of your teammate, or review of your sponsorship. Or…
If you’re looking to just head out on the track: Custom Grand Prix, Set Championships, and Time Trials are free options to get you out on the track without any fuss.
But how does the driving feel, you ask? Well that entirely depends on your skills, how complex or casual you want your drive to be, and how your gameplay settings are configured. Personally for me, it took a few hours of racing and tweaking to find my personal sweet spot between simulation and arcade. With the assists too low and difficulty to high, I often found myself not even being able to get past the first lap without crashing into someone—or something—due to not breaking at the right time or having myself over/under steer. I also had more to think about with all of the assists turned off: finding the right time to turn the drag-reduction system on and off, relying on reflexes to maintain multiple gearshifts—all while travelling at 400km/ph. However, I also found the other end of the settings too easy—where it would assist in steering and breaking if I didn’t stick to the dotted line provided. While it did take me a while to find my happy medium, I feel that the fact that it gives such a wide variety of style and difficulty means that the game can be enjoyed by anyone.
Much to my surprise and enjoyment, my Thrustmaster TX Steering Wheel was picked up immediately on start-up and was automatically configured with no need to adjust settings to get the perfect immersive racing feeling. A feature I was hoping to see complete that immersive feeling is VR support, which unfortunately is not included… Maybe next year.
A part of racing that I wasn’t really ever fond of, except for within F1 2020 (particularly in the career modes), is the practise sessions that you do before qualifying rounds. Not just giving yourself a sense of familiarity with the track, practise modes are for you and your team to test out the car on the track and identify problem areas, manage tyres, fuel and energy recovery systems, as well as work on other objectives which will give you resource points and experience. This kind of experience adds to the feeling that you and the car are just a small part of the picture: your team is behind you, watching you race and watching the car stats to make sure everything is perfect for the track. This feeling is added to after races where you are interviewed, giving responses of humbleness, ego, or appreciation for a specific department of your team to boost their morale.
The crisp, clean look of the UI and graphics combined with true-to-form sounds of the F1 cars are a pleasure to look at and listen to as you drive. Initially, however, the large amount of information and options on the HUD during a race made it difficult for me to focus on the road. I felt like I was texting while driving—dangerous while going at such high speeds. I understand there are voice commands to make this easier, however I was unable to get them to work on my PC.
All in all, F1 2020 is jam-packed with so many options, customisability, details, and content that make the game feel like a near complete package: as wide as the sky and as deep as the ocean. While this is my first delve into the F1 series—and I found it initially to be a tad intimidating both on and out of the track—I have a new-found comfort and appreciation for the game and racing series. As I currently live in Melbourne, I may just start a new tradition of visiting the track during the next F1 races.