F1 2020 Review – PS4
2020 has been a year that no-one will forget. We took a step back from the site and podcast while 2020 was doing it’s thing. But things are now starting to slowly get back to normality. And one of those things is the FIA F1 2020 season. Perfect timing then for Codemasters to drop their latest game in the F1 franchise.
Codemasters have packed a bunch of new features into F1 2020. The biggest of which is the option to now create your own team in career mode, adding two extra cars to the grid. It also avoids that awkward moment when you started a new career and had to pick which driver was getting the boot!
The My Team mode adds an extra layer of depth to career. You get to pick the main sponsor, team name, colour livery and so on. Then, working within a budget, signing yourself an engine supplier and a teammate from the roster of available F2 drivers.
Throughout the season you manage R&D like you would normally, but there is more to do in-between race weekends. You get to plan out what your team should focus on between races. Further R&D, team-bonding, publicity events. Each option uses up so many of your free days, but gives your various rewards for the team.
You can also look into improving your facilities. This unlocks further R&D options, or reduces the likeliness of part development failures. You can also buy perks for your driver, which include unlocking further interview options and increased R&D point generation. Of course to spend money, you must first make it! So you also need to handle sponsor contracts throughout the season.
The mode adds a lot of filler in-between races in career mode, and it’s a welcomed addition. Certainly an improvement over just having the random invitationals, though they are still in there also.
But when it comes to race weekend, not much has changed there over F1 2019. In fact, in terms of game play, very little has changed. The one welcomed addition is that ERS (Energy Recovery System) is now referred to in the same way as most of the teams call it, the “Overtake” button. You can still get into the MFD (Multi-function display, that thing you are supposed to open and fiddle with settings while driving at 200 MPH!), and change the ERS mode. But pressing L1 will switch it from whatever mode it’s on, to Overtake mode.
Codemasters have focused a fair bit on making F1 2020 more accessible for new players. The above feature is just a small convenience. But they’re also split the game settings into two clear parts, Casual and Standard. Toggling casual mode on will throw all the assists available at you to give the most approachable F1 experience yet. It even tones down the affect of going off the track, and an auto reset to track should you wander too far.
But perhaps the focus has been too much on this. The F1 franchise is, after all, a simulation of a real world sport. F1 2020 has had a bum hand dealt to it, I’ll give it that. But Codemasters have not responded in game to the real world effects on the sport. Don’t get me wrong, being able to play through the F1 2020 calendar that should have been is great. The game gives us what was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic caught the whole season by surprise. Teams, drivers and fans had turned up in Melbourne in March ready to get the season under way. Though some teams had already decided not to attend, the race was all ready to go ahead up until Free Practise was due to start on the Friday.
We were meant to have a season that included two new tracks, Hanoi (Vietnam) and Zandvoort (Netherlands). These two tracks are in F1 2020. Personally I loved the Zandvoort track. Hanoi not so much, but I don’t get on well with street circuits. But these events are no longer on the calendar. However, the FIA announced there will be a race at another new track this season, Mugello in Tuscany. And this track isn’t in the game.
As I said, as much as I like that we can run what was meant to be the full season in F1 2020, I would have liked to see Codemasters respond to what was happening in the sport. I want the simulation experience. An option toggle when starting a new career or season, that has the effects that COVID-19 has had on the season with a shortened calendar and empty grandstands.
But that is not likely. There’s a calendar in the game that keeps you up to date with events both online in the game, and usually in the real world season. It’s still got placeholders from where the original races were scheduled, with a notice about race postponements due to the pandemic, and that a “revised calendar will be published in due course.” As I type this, qualifying for the third race of the season is about to start.
I didn’t want to jump the gun on this review. I wanted to see Codemasters respond to events going on around the sport. The pandemic is not the only event that 2020 will be remembered for. There has also been intense protest around issues like police brutality and the way society perceives and treats black people. F1 as a sport has not escaped these protests. Lewis Hamilton is the only black driver to have ever started a F1 Grand Prix. And he will likely be the most successful driver the sport has had by the time he retires. Understandably, both he and the Mercedes team are using their position to help bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement. This included changing the livery of the Mercedes car ahead of the season start. A move that Codemasters noted, but have yet to respond to.
Codemasters have recently said they are working on updating the livery. But the game has been out for a while now. And along with the other issues, they just seem to be a bit slow on the uptake. The whole F1 brand this year is working under the #WeRaceAsOne banner, and that’s been missed as well. And then there are the actual technical issues with F1 2020.
Some of the assets visible in the game as just really poor. OK, you may not notice them as you’re flying around at 200 MPH, but during all the camera cuts in the garage, or during replays, you see them. The post race interview questions don’t seem to have been updated in that last 2 years. Then there’s the terrible load times, even on a PS4 Pro. Driver images don’t even load in time for you to see them on the pre-race grid presentation, or the post race Driver of the Day award.
And finally, some pretty game breaking bugs. I simulated the Monaco race (see earlier point about street circuits). The game froze up, the simulation presumably started, and I got a black screen. I left the game for a good half hour in this state, before forcing it to quit. When I loaded it back up, it seemed that the sim had completed as it moved on to Azerbaijan. But, when I went to looked at the season results screen, there were no results. No points awarded for anyone. Just blank entries in the Monaco column of the season.
And don’t get me started on the Podium Pass. A level up unlocking system for cosmetics; Car liveries, race suits and team emblems. That’s fair enough. But, there is a paid “premium” version that unlocks more content. And you don’t unlock something with every level on the free tier. That thing is fair enough on your Free To Play games like Warzone or Apex. But it doesn’t belong in a full price game like F1 2020.
The F1 2020 game reminds me a lot of the Williams team in 2019. They spent so much time and effort developing the car for the new season that they ended up missing preseason testing. And when that car finally hit the track, it turned out to be a bit of a damp squid.
It’s incredibly frustrating. On the track, F1 2020 is a great game. The handling of the cars, the My Team mode, the return of split screen, and the accessibility for new players are all great! But all this potential is let down by an overall lack of polish in the game.
A 6 place grid penalty out of 10.