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F1 2020 game review: a significant upgrade

Published: 28 July 2020

 F1 2020 reviewed
 All the cars and tracks intended for 2020
 Played on PC, but also out on Xbox One and PS4

The law of diminishing returns is a concept well known to F1 fans. It states that as a something gets closer to perfection, the amount of gains to be had will reduce with the same amount of work. It’s why F1 cars make leaps and bounds in performance just after the introduction of new technical regulations, and why those gains plateau as the rules reach maturity. 

Generally, this is how F1 works, but every so often the rules just don’t seem to apply. Take the Mercedes-AMG W11. Instead of the new, all-black Mercedes being a modest upgrade over last year’s car, it seems the engineers at Brixworth and Brackley have somehow found another chunk of performance. Not only is it better in every area, but it also has DAS, an all-new gadget no one was expecting. And why are we talking about this? Because F1 2020 is Codemasters effectively doing a Mercedes. 

Black Mercedes livery is here

Just like Mercedes, the game has already had a few updates – and the latest has finally brought the striking all-black to the PC version of the game. Created as part of a sweeping set of initiatives to promote equality and diversity within the sport – the livery was revealed too late to make it into the launch version of the game, but it's now in the PC code. Console users will have to wait a bit longer, however. 

Best racing games on PS4, Xbox One snd PC

 

Instead of adding a few modest upgrades here and there, Codemasters has given every aspect of the last game a solid boost – and thrown in some all-new modes. 

Is this the best F1 game you can buy? Yes, because it’s the newest. And is it worth buying? Keep reading our review to find out. 

F1 2020 review

The cars in F1 2019 were tricky to tame. Although they had downforce-induced grip in high speed corners, on the slower stuff they felt skittish and unstable. Get on the power a little early and you’d find yourself pointing the other way and mumbling, ‘sorry guys.’ Not so for F1 2020.

These cars still feel powerful and complex, but the initial phase of acceleration suggests a little more grip. Importantly, these changes to car behaviour – especially the grip levels when braking – have come from improved physics, rather than a need to make the game more accessible. 

Best racing wheels

Casual players may benefit from a mode that features steering assistance and an automatic track reset, but a short trip to the settings menu can make this game suitably challenging for more seasoned racers. 

How does it handle? 

With all assists off, F1 2020 still won’t feel like a sim, but it successfully captures the precision, technicality and speed of modern F1. Try adjusting your ERS mode and differential settings at 200mph, while looking for your braking point. Then try touching the apex and applying just enough throttle on exit, while nailing every gearchange and smashing open your DRS at the right time. Without spinning. Every corner is a test.

The feel of the cars is good, and after that everything slots into place. The game features the original 2020 calendar, and all the tracks are reimagined in pristine detail – especially on PC. Like previous games you also get the full Sky F1 racing experience if you choose, but it’s the new modes that draw on this improved gameplay that make F1 2020 impressive.

My Team

A My Team mode puts you in the cockpit, boardroom and pit wall of your own F1 team, and it’s a big step for the Codemasters series. It pushes you into the politics of F1, making you chase sponsorship, answer journalists, hunt down engine contracts and even sign a teammate. 

It’s a mode for the F1 fans that enjoy the industry news as much as the racing, and if anything, it makes the racing even better. When you’re aware of what your sponsors demand, and you’re the person responsible for the development of the car, getting that last championship point or podium position has renewed meaning.

Will the 11th team on the grid be like Jacques Villeneuve’s BAR, or more of a Mercedes-AMG? It’s up to you.

What else?

A split screen mode is a refreshing, old-school addition to F1 2020. While the world moves to – incredibly entertaining, to be fair – Esports and online play, Codemasters has remembered there’s few things better than sitting next to the person you’re racing. 

Set up a split-screen race with classic 1998 or 1996 cars, though, and it’s like winding back the console generations, only now you have bills to pay and it’s all in 4K.

The classic cars themselves are still good, too. The '90s cars especially feel nimble and light. Couple that nervousness with a classic high-revving V10 and although there’s fewer parameters to tinker with, they’re still a handful.

The fact Codemasters left the original calendar intact is a smart move, too. While it’s possible to recreate the double-header mayhem schedule we’ve got in the real-world, it’s nice that we get to visit Zandvoort and Vietnam this year, albeit virtually. 

Verdict

You would have forgiven F1 game director Lee Mather and Codemasters for taking a gap year in 2020, putting together some Lego models or playing Scalextric. Or simply buffing last year’s game a little.

Instead, here’s F1 2020, an act of clockwork defiance in these weird times. Unyielding to current world events, it’s a solid step forward with polish in some parts and totally new content in others. 

My Team is an intriguing mode that captures the flavour of F1 both on the track and in the paddock, but the addition of split-screen gaming and better physics shows Codemasters has catered for all. Just like the Mercedes-AMG W11 already seems to be, F1 2020 is the most complete package we’ve seen in a long time.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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