Formula One is one of the most popular sports in the world and arguably the most popular motorsport by a huge margin. It is a huge global brand that in some ways has expanded well beyond just being a sport. One of these expansions is the video game franchise, which has been handled by racing sim veterans Codemasters for the last 10 years. It is a series that has generally always had decent reception amongst critics and is always a top seller in the charts upon release. F1 games always do well in the charts because it is a game franchise that appeals to both fans of the actual Formula One product and fans of racing sims but who perhaps do not watch F1. F1 2019 is a game that suffers a bit from the same yearly release issues other sports titles do, but it is still a lot of fun to play and is worthy of ditching last year’s entry.
Upon starting F1 2019, you are asked to create your racing character to use in career mode and in multiplayer. It is a simple process and will take a minute or two, and once that is out of the way, you fly into the slick menu where everything looks clean with no clutter at all. The first pit stop for most will be career mode. Sports games’ career modes have been a passionate subject for many years now. Many are left untouched for years, which is always baffling because it still remains a huge number of people’s go-to mode of choice. Codemasters have tried to address this with some decent changes to F1 2019’s career mode, but one of the best changes, really, is only part of the “tutorial”, and once it’s gone, it does leave a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth.
Booting up F1 2019’s career mode, rather than jumping into the F1 team of your choice, you instead choose your F2 team of choice. Formula 2 is a bit like the lower leagues of F1, and the major difference is all the cars are exactly the same. After choosing your F2 team of choice, you are “thrown” into an F2 season. The F2 “season” is actually three short races with a couple of different scenarios aimed at testing your ability as a driver. It acts as a sort of tutorial that will introduce you to one of the better features of F1 2019’s career mode. If you wish though, you can play a full championship of F2 out of career mode. After each race, you will be treated with a cutscene where you’ll interact with the two drivers created for the career mode: German Lukas Webber and Brit Devon Butler. What happens in the race determines what content is in the cutscene, pretty cool, huh?! Webber is your teammate and the stereotypical decent sportsman, while Butler is a cocksure, pompous dick. After your three scenarios and cutscenes, it is business as usual. Regardless whether you finish the F2 season as a champ or chump, you’ll still be promoted to F1 and have to pick a team of choice. Like previous entries, each manufacturer will have different expectations and goals. With that in mind, it really isn’t wise to pick Mercedes if you’re new to F1 games. Once you start your season, you’ll notice there is a lack of moments with Weber and Butler. After the F2 bit is done, so are the cutscenes. Instead, you’ll just receive their transcribed interviews to read through. It is such a shame that Codemasters couldn’t have kept the interactions all through the career mode (at least the first year of it).
On the track is, of course, where F1 2019 shines because, you know, racing and all that. Once those lights turn green, it is a fantastic experience, both in terms of gameplay and graphics. Thankfully, F1 2019 will let you choose how you want to play, either a full racing sim with everything manual and all aids turned off for the pros or a more arcadey approach with automatic systems and guides. New players will want to stick with the default arcade options for a while at least. This really is what makes the F1 series such a welcoming and popular racing sim as it will cater to various skill sets. The only trouble you may have if you are new to the series or not familiar with the actual F1 product is in choosing which R&D (Research and Development) options to go for with your accumulated skill points. Also, with F1 cars being as complicated as a space rocket to drive, there are options mid-game to change systems within the car to try and squeeze those extra precious seconds in qualifying or to give you a slight edge over a rival.
And you will need those extra seconds/edge over a rival as the AI drivers are incredibly sophisticated. While racing, the other drivers won’t just try and overtake you at every chance, no, much like their real-life counterparts, they will wait for the perfect opportunity to leave you looking at their rear spoiler. It is truly an exhilarating experience to take part in a race in F1 2019. The AI’s sophistication will force you to also race tactfully and wait for your chance to overtake the opposition. If you choose to race like a maniac and just speed around, cutting corners, bashing cars out of the way, then not only will you be pulled up for these indiscretions, you’ll also likely not finish the race due to you completely totaling the car.
Graphically, F1 2019 might be the most realistic and stunning sports game I have ever played. All the cars look fantastic, no matter which camera angle you choose while racing. To fully experience F1 2019 as it should be, using either the complete driver’s view or the view just above the driver’s head is recommended. Honestly, my heart has not beat as quickly as it did when I was gunning it down a straight in Silverstone at 200mph in the pouring rain for a long, long time. Out of playing a horror game like Outlast, I have not actually been that, well, scared while playing a game for years. Racing in the rain in F1 2019 might go down as my top gaming moment of 2019; it was seriously that fun.
Speaking of fun, or not so fun: the multiplayer. If you think that your fellow real-life counterparts would act like the tactfully controlled AI drivers you find in the main game, you’d be wrong, I’m afraid. Think more along the lines of Destruction Derby and you will get a better idea what it is like online. It is fun to customise your car though and sort of create your own F1 team/brand.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 28th June 2019