With the growing interest of the Netflix show 'Drive to Survive' which gives us a look behind the scenes of the Formula One circus, the sport is more popular than ever. The video game series has always been popular by itself, but even more so now just because of the growing interest in the sport. This year is also the first year that EA had a say in the Codemasters produced game. This has scared some of the fans beforehand, but I can comfort these fans now: The game is in many ways the same good one we already know.
When I say it's the same game we know and love, I'm mostly talking about the driving physics and how the car handles on the track. There hasn't been a lot of changes in this area, and personally I don't see a reason to do too much with a product that has been doing well over a long period of time. It's easy to choose between pretty much full sim racing with no assists at all, or you can do more of an arcade approach which makes it easier for beginners to handle the monster cars around tracks like Silverstone and Spa.
Visually there have been a few upgrades to the game, but it's mostly noticeable with ray tracing turned on, or in wet conditions. Where there would be larger areas of wet surface in F1 2020, we now see puddles here and there on the track that impact the grip significantly. The lighting has also received an upgrade following the implementation of ray tracing.
Sounds from the cars in F1 2021 are more realistic than with its predecessor. The change isn't remarkable, but it's better and clearly heading in the right direction. In general, the sound of the game is identical to the real life F1 circus, and the feeling when I hear the well known jingle as I cross the finish line in first place gives me goosebumps. It gives the game a more authentic feel all over.
The newest and possibly most anticipated addition to the franchise for some, is the new story mode named Braking Point. This mode lets you choose one of five mid-tier teams for a shot at stardom in Formula One. Through the eyes of young Aiden Jackson, friendships and rivalries form over three challenging seasons with on and off-track moments telling an engrossing tale. Compete against the current Formula One driver line-up and make a name for yourself. Well, that's at least what the official marketing tells us. Braking Point is rather underwhelming, and except for a bit of a surprising turn in season two, most of the story is pretty predictable. I won't go into more detail to prevent spoiling anything from the story. It is not great, but it is worth a look at, and should be done in about 6 hours.
Another new addition is the chance to play a two-player career. Either as teammates or as rivals for two different teams. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to test this particular mode too much in the review period, but from the little I did get to see from it, it is basically a normal career mode with all you have come to expect with it, but now also available with a friend online.
The new career mode, or My Team mode is back in its full glory from last year, and with some additional customisation, a revamped R&D system and updated driver stats based on real-world performance, the mode is even better now than before. Can you join in as the eleventh team in the show, and work your way up to becoming a world champion? Well, then you're better than me at least. You got ten seasons to get there...
The online multiplayer part of the Formula One games has grown in popularity in the later years, and Codemasters realise this more than most developers. Weekly events, quick join format, Leagues, social and ranked games and customisable liveries together with esports content make it available for anyone. You can choose to participate in events for beginners where collisions are turned off and the sessions are shorter, or you can go full on try hard-mode to compete with the best of the best.
In addition, the game also has local multiplayer available through split screen.
I mainly played the game with my Logitech G923 wheel that has full support for PC, PlayStation and Xbox and it felt absolutely fantastic. I can just imagine how it will feel for those with a higher end wheel. That being said, I had to test the game with a controller too, and thankfully you don't have to have a wheel to enjoy this game. It's more than playable with a controller, and that will make for a lot bigger user base. I even gave it a shot with my keyboard, but that is not recommended unless you're used to it from other games.
F1 2021 is an upgrade from F1 2020, of that there is no doubt. With a lot of new content and minor improvements in gameplay and presentation, it is well worth the upgrade from last year's version of the game. It is basically way more than a "roster update" which we often see in sports games. And if you are a big Formula One fan the deluxe version, that gives you 18000 Pit Coins (in-game currency), three days early access (July 13th instead of July 16th), some content for Braking Point and the likeness of legends like Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Jensen Button, Nico Rosberg, Alain Prost, David Coulthard and Felipe Massa to add to your My Team, would be a well worth buy.