F1 2020 Review — More Than Just a Finish Line

Codemasters brings one of the best and most accessible racing games this generation with F1 2020.

Formula 1 is one of the more exciting motorsports to watch (if you’re into watching cars race around a track). Seeing the open-wheeled vehicles zoom through winding tracks at speeds up to 200 miles-per-hour is pretty wild to witness, even if your not an F1 enthusiast. I can only imagine what it would be like to be behind such a powerful vehicle. Well, I can maybe do a little more than imagining as I’ve recently played a lot of F1 2020, and even that simulation is pretty exhilarating.

Obviously, Codemasters racing sim isn’t the real deal. It’s not like I can jump in an F1 car and start racing on Nürburgring. But it does give some interesting insight into the motorsport’s racing procedure. Other than one lacking characteristic in its gameplay, F1 2020 is a great racing game for both racing game newcomers, genre veterans, and Formula 1 enthusiasts.

The game’s main feature that really stands out is all of the different assists you can enable and disable in F1 2020. It is pretty incredible. For myself, I really don’t like to worry about shifting gears, and I like having a guiding arrow to show when I’m coming up on the next turn. I also enjoy engaging in some of F1’s unique racing features like manually activating both ERS and DRS while simultaneously being somewhat challenged, but not enough for me to not get a podium finish.

All of that may sound picky, but it comes with years of playing the Forza Motorsport and Dirt series. There is a sweet spot between challenging and fun in a racing game for me. With a game like F1 2020, you would think it would stray from the “fun” and dig deep into the simulation aspect of the motorsport. However, these assist and difficulty options let me do exactly as I listed above, and more. If you want to experience exactly what an F1 racer has to do to drive, that is possible; if you want a very streamlined experience, where you don’t have to worry about anything except for making it to the finish line, you can do that too.

Having an experience that can cater to a wider audience is always important, but in order for a racing game to be “good,” the driving mechanics are key. As many Codemasters games, the actual driving in F1 2020 feels great.

In my review of F1 2019, I said, “Despite some features that deviate it from the competition, F1 2019 doesn’t really feel all that unique.” I feel like that critique mostly came from the unintuitive dropdown menus you have to navigate while you race if you want to check the status of your vehicle, switch fuel mixes, or a number of other factors if you are engaging in the unique systems of Formula 1. Additionally, the lack of a sense of speed.

F1 2020

I think those two criticisms are still present here in F1 2020. While my experience with this iteration has been much more positive, the sense of speed still really isn’t there. Yes, the speedometer says I’m going super fast, but it sure doesn’t feel like I am. Also, navigating through those menus is still a bit frustrating. I really don’t know a better way to cycle through that information, especially with a gamepad, so I understand why it is done this way. It’s just a lot of information to take in and read while you are racing.

A reason I did like the option to have a guiding arrow indicating where to go is due to the visibility of some of the courses during the day time. Since everything was so bright, it was hard to make out where the track in front of me was, and when my next turn would be. Granted, I was playing in the cockpit view, and probably could have solved the problem by switching to a wider camera view, but I like the sense of immersion that F1 2020, or really any racing game, gives when you’re in the driver’s seat.

A good way to really get into the swing of F1 2020‘s gameplay loop is its solo campaign modes. Yes, there are two career modes. The first is similar to last year, where you begin in F2 and then move up to F1. I do like it more than F1 2019‘s iteration of the mode as it takes out that very odd rivalry storyline at the beginning of your F2 career. I did appreciate how F1 2020 also gives the option to either play through a full season of F2 or just a couple of races.

The second campaign mode is one that is new to the series. Rather than just living life as a racer, you can create and manage your own team. The customization options aren’t quite vast, but there is enough to set yourself apart from the rest of the teams.

F1 2020

As a racer/owner of a team, you will still partake in the regular pre-race preparations, which lets you and your team get acclimated to any given track. I really love the three-day practices. It really feels like you and your team are progressing towards a victory, as you’re gaining development points for your vehicles and coming up with a racing strategy to garner a victory. You will also partake in the qualifying round and the actual race, which will earn your team cash to use to develop certain divisions of your team. Upgrading these divisions will give you certain perks within its division.

Both career modes are great ways to get started in F1 2020. I would say the normal career mode is a bit better for newcomers, as you are only focusing on racing. However, if you are into the idea of managing your own team, the new team-focused campaign mode is really fantastic, and the one that made me more invested in that world.

It is wild that I have turned a complete 180 on this series. Last year, something about F1 2019 just did not strike with me. It wasn’t bad, but it just did not stand out as something wholly unique. With the introduction of the team-focused campaign and incredible accessibility features, F1 2020 is one of the best racing games of the generation. It does still lack that sense of speed and seems a bit complicated if you want to dive deep into Formula 1’s unique systems, but the loop of practicing and then taking everything you learned and implementing it into the main event is so satisfying. I cannot recommend F1 2020 enough.

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