F1 2019 – Xbox One Review
Codemasters have had the F1 licence for a few years, producing a yearly title that by and large improves on the last. F1 2019 seems to be no exception. An earlier release date this year should do them well, introducing the game near the start of the F1 season, rather than once it is over halfway though as in previous years, thus losing a bit of momentum with the all important hype. The fans expect a better game than the previous year as standard, but is this years offering a significant enough leap forward to make it worthwhile shelling out your hard earned money on it again? Just tweaking the graphics and updating the rosters and liveries just doesn’t cut it these days, so developers of yearly sports titles really do have to work harder to keep a franchise fresh.
Luckily Codemasters have made some real strides on improving the whole experience of this racing game, the first of which you’re likely to notice is that addition of the Formula 2 series. Perhaps acknowledging the success of story modes in EA sports title recently, the starting point to an F1 career, must begin in the tier below, F2, where all the cars are equal and everything rests on the skill of the driver. You create your driver and pick your team and driver academy. Although the performance of the cars is equal, there is some importance attached to your choice as your decision will effect what contracts are available to you once you make the step up to F1.
Rather than play the whole f2 series you’re thrown into a set of scenarios over the course of the season. The first puts you mid race with your car suffering mechanical problems, and your team boss comes over the radio to instruct you to let your team mate past. Do you bow to team instructions or ignore them? Its your decision and the consequences play out in scripted cut scenes after the race. Here you first encounter your team mate Lukas Weber, an affable German, and your main rival Devon Butler, an arrogant Englishman that has a win at all costs attitude. Your second scenario sees Butler deliberately (or was it?) make contact with your car in a Schumacher/Mansell situation, and you have to fight your way back through the field after pitting for a new nose cone.
To complete your season, you get to do a complete race for the season finale, and hampered by a poor grid position, you have to finaish ahead of Butler to take the F2 title. After the relevant cut scene, you move up to mix it with the big boys of F1, along with your rival and team mate. Depending on how well you’ve done in F2, different contracts will be on offer. Go for a small team and work your way up, or if theres an offer on the table, sign for one of the big boys, but be prepared to meet the expectation of winning races from day one.
Once you get into the F1 season, you’re into the more familiar territory of previous games, with no real story plot, which is a shame but maybe something that will be expanded on in future titles. The intense rivalry between drivers than can build up with a story mode is wasted if you only get to interact with them during races. The post race interviews add a nice dynamic, as your asked questions by a reporter, and depending on your quickly chosen answers, will see your sportsmanship and showmanship scores affected, as well as your reputation with the different teams. All important features when signing new contracts in the future.
In the gameplay of the actual driving, there aren’t massive differences to last years game, which in one way means for a smooth transition when playing the new title. The cars perform that bit more smoothly but are also more responsive when it comes to the top cars, so any twitch on the thumbstick can cause oversteer issues so concentration and practise will produce good results. The addition of the F2 cars as well as the classic cars add a real variety in the performance depending on which car you drive. The basics are the same, but to be able to get top times, you need to be able to spot the subtle differences in performance and master the changes in handling between the different cars. There have been improvements in the AI drivers as well this year, and they appear to drive much more intelligently. It means theres less change of being crashed into with an irrational move but its just as difficult to get past them as they drive much more realistically, taking racing lines and not letting have too much space. They are also a bit more sportsmanlike, pulling over to let you past when instructed by stewards when giving back a place or being lapped.
There have been some nice changes to the multiplayer mode on F1 2019. Instead of picking a team car to race with, there are a number of different race liveries you can pick for your online racing. Some are locked until you achieve certain landmarks in the game, and there is nowhere near to artistic possibilities that you’d get in a Forza game, but with the ability to changes the colours, theres plenty of scope to come up with a unique livery to get you noticed on the grid. The same is true with your racing helmet to give you plenty of options for personalising your online persona.
Online Leagues make a return this year, which gives you a good chance to find your level and race competitively with drivers of similar ability. Race clean and get a good safety score, and you’ll be matched up with other safe drivers. Play dirty and you’ve only got yourself to blame! There are also weekly challenges to take part in this year, which are timed events that put you into a full race weekend of practice, qualifying and race. Online lobbies seemed to work well, with no inconsistency of previous years in my experience, there were no drop outs and lag was very minimal when it rarely cropped up, which will likely be more to do with players individual connections that server issues. When racing online the penalty system seems to have become more strict this year, particularly when it comes to going slightly off the track. It doesn’t take much of a steering error to find out your cut a corner enough to incur a penalty, that can ruin your qualifying lap and put you at the back of the grid.
There are a couple of additions that add to the presentation of the game. Theatre mode will automatically record the most exciting moments of your race, allowing you to watch a highlights package afterwards. Very handy if you want to record clips of your favourite pieces of racing action, without having to record the whole race. The Showroom, does what it suggests, and shows off each car in the game, letting you look around it, and soak in all the facts and figures associated with it. You’re given an insight into why certain classic cars have been selected for the game and learn what makes them so iconic Anything that can help deepen your understanding of a sport through a game is always a big plus from my point of view.
Graphically, F1 2019 has made a significant jump up in quality. The tracks are much more detailed than in previous years giving you a sharp yet smooth landscape for your car to speed though. The lighting has been improved, showing the imperfections in the track surface and highlighting the curbs and rumble strips nicely as you approach them. The detail of the tracks and surroundings aren’t quite up to the photo realism of Forza Motorsport, but this is easily the closest an F1 has got to that. The menus have been given an overhaul as well, making everything much clearer and easier to navigate than previously.
On the one hand, F1 2019 can be picked up and played with good results straight away thanks to the vast amount of assists that can be turned on or off, but to get good and start hitting the best lap times, you really have to invest time and effort into the game. Thanks to the online leagues anyone can find their level and have fun racing competitively online so it’s a great game for racers of all abilities. Just like the real F1, mistakes are punished, and unlike more arcade style racers like Forza, you can’t just brush off walls of have collisions without their being a good chance of ending your race. Even slight damage on a nose cone can effect your ability to get round a tight corner at speed, so getting round a lap cleanly gives a nice sense of achievement as you concentrate on shaving fractions of a second off your lap time.
Those that purchase the Legends Edition get a little more bonus content, based on the rivalry between Ayton Senna and Alain Prost, as well as being able to drive their cars and wear their gear online, you can also take part in some fun challenges based on the teo legends of the sport. Challenges such as reaching checkpoints in time to extend a race or overtaking so many rivals in a certain time limit are all things that have been done before in various games, but are fun distractions none the less. This deluxe edition is certainly something for die hard F1 fans as I don’t think the content on offer really justifies the extra price.
Fans of the Codemasters series and hard core F1 fans will have no doubts about buying F1 2019 but for casual racers, I cant say this is a must buy, especially if you have last years edition of the game. The addition of the F2 competition probably sways it for me, and is enough new stuff here to make it a slightly different game. Yes, it does have more to offer, but because Codemasters have been getting the simulation style of racing right for a couple of years now, there isn’t a vast amount they needed to improve on, other than cosmetically, but what has been improved is just about noticable.
Price: £54.99 – £64.99
Huge Thanks to Koch Media for supplying the review copy.