F1 2020 is here, all the thrills, all the speed with none of the danger. Really, F1 is incredibly perilous. Since its inception 52 F1 drivers have been killed. The very first fatality was Cameron Earl in 1952, since then an average of 2 drivers a year have died. Sure cars are safer now but F1 drivers are a different breed of human. They don’t have the “what if” muscle. Racing up to a corner, centimetres from the car in front, braking as late as possible and then accelerating away as fast as they can takes balls of steel.
Think about the pressure they’re under too, tens of thousands of man-hours dedicated to making the fastest car possible, millions of pounds spent just to shave a few hundredths of a second off a lap, then they let MinkiSan behind the wheel and I take out 7 cars at the first bend while simultaneously pulling my steering wheel from the desk and spilling my coffee all over my desk and floor.
I ruined my Razer Black Widow Chroma and Death adder Mouse. To be fair it was the perfect excuse to buy the Apex Steel series but it took 48 hours to arrive and that was 48 hours that I had to spend talking with my wife instead of gaming. It turns out she’s alright and likes the same sort of things as me.
Minor damages aside Codemasters’ F1 series has always been one of the deeper racing sims. Offering more than just a quick blast around a track.
To do well at the higher difficulty levels often meant spending a lot of time getting your setups right (thanks Google) and the career mode was always pretty decent. However, running your own F1 team ties you into the career mode in a far deeper way than I thought possible.
Crashing a car now does cause you real consternation. Decisions have to be made and to do well you need to pick the right teammate, answer well during a press interview as well as investing money on the right department just to make sure the whole team feels valued.
You are responsible for every good and bad decision as well as just whizzing around a track causing as little mayhem as possible. So, I may not be the fastest but I am pretty consistent and getting those consistent lap times was my best way of gauging how well I was doing at each track. If I was within a second each lap I knew I was on the right track but if I was more than that something would be off and I would need to adjust my setup.
Google is a great help but it cannot contend with your driving style so it would be wise to find your own way of working out whats best for you.
Changing a set up is pretty simple but I did find that I would get distracted and end up spending a lot of each play session playing and adjusting the car. In one two hour stint I completed one race. I felt like I had been playing for about 10 minutes so it wasn’t time wasted but it does give you an idea of how deep you can get into the car/team management.
All this time getting things right and managing your team has a knock-on effect too, in that you can become pretty invested, emotionally. When I was rear-ended by the AI, (Gasly) I was genuinely annoyed but what I didn’t realise at the time was that my annoyance carried into the real world.
As I shouted “yes” when Gasly had to retire from the Austrian Grand Prix, I knew what I had done but it took a moment to appreciate the shame I had brought on myself wishing a human ill fate but come on, I had that car set up perfectly and there was no need for him to try and pass on the inside.
It was a bit like realising late in the afternoon that you’re angry at your wife for what she did in your dream the night before.
The racing in F1 2020 is still the star of the show and whilst it probably isn’t 100% accurate the cars handle just like I imagine an F1 car would but there is one disconnect and its something that no F1 game can ever truly get over. Most of us will never drive an F1 car.
Games like Project Cars, Assetto Corsa and the rest might choose to have high-end cars that most of us will never drive but we could. I have personally driven several of the cars available in each of those games yet I know I will never drive an F1 car at full speed.
Not only because I am a fat old man and am in no way capable of driving a car that well but its because I do have the “what if” muscle. What if my wheel comes off as I go round that corner, what if a rabbit runs out or a bear attacks me from the boot. Most of us have the “what if” muscle and it will prohibit us from driving as fast as possible.
However, playing in the career mode in F1 2020, carefully trying to get my beloved Faux-Mercedes around the track I felt my “what if” muscle twitch a few times. Its never happened in a game before but there was a sense that I needed to look after my car, I had to manage my tires and not damage the gearbox. I wanted to make sure I didn’t cause myself too many issues off the track.
F1 2020, particularly the career mode, is therefore one of the most immersive gaming experiences I have ever had.
There are the casual modes and you could spend a good deal of time in them but the career mode will draw you in like a siren. I found myself coasting into corners to save fuel, I was trying to nurse my car around the track, often avoiding the fastest line through a corner to protect it from the curb that could damage or just wear a component too quickly. I was driving like I owned it.
Graphically the game is fabulous. Its not perfect but there is certainly enough detail to pull you in. My system is an i7 4790K, 16gb of RAM and an RTX 2070 Super OC and I didn’t see any lag and my frame rate was well above 130FPS on ultra-settings.
There is a popular multiplayer scene however, in my experience there was always one or two over aggressive people that seemed to have it out for me, blocking and driving like fools so the experience was sullied as I failed to finish one race before raging out.
The racing I have done online has been lag-free and enjoyable for the most part. I would imagine if I played with friends or at a different time of day, I would have a better experience.
The AI drivers are good competition however, so set their abilities high and you will have a good battle with some of them. As with most racing games, the AI can be a bit over-aggressive at times particularly when they are defending and there seems to be an issue with the fairness of pit times but overall, I really like the single-player side of the game.
There is a rewind option that I chose to personally never use, if you make an error you can rewind the game but even when an incident was not my fault (Gasly is not the only driver to cause me an issue) I felt that I should just accept it and deal with the issues like a real team would have to.
I don’t think F1 2020 is a perfect game and its not even a perfect racing game but it is a truly fabulous title that will have you hooked for many hours. It may not be a game for everyone but if you like F1 even a little the career mode should be a draw enough.