Formula 1 fans will likely never forget the day Codemasters received the license to create the official Formula 1 series that was in limbo at the time. That was a decade ago and they’ve since created a series that is regarded as one of the best in this genre and F1 2019 is about to push those limits even further. This is not to say it’s perfect. Like Lewis Hamilton, this series is in its own class, but there is always room for improvement.
An F2 in F1 clothing
Codemasters are trying their best to put you in the shoes of a racing driver in F1 2019 and to create the sense of realism they’ve included, for the first time, the Formula 2 series. This is evident from the very moment you start your own career. As before you’ll create your own driver and sign up with one of the 10 official teams. You’ll also get to choose which academy to sign up with, which includes Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault and McLaren that will later aid your move over to the big boys in F1. As exciting as this might sound to you, it’s not quite as grand as you might have hoped.
You’re introduced to Lukas Weber and Devon Butler, a fictional teammate and rival. After each race, some drama unfolds in a scripted story between the characters and, though it’s really impressive, the F2 season lasts a whopping three races that aren’t even all full races. You’re taking part in scripted scenarios where you or your teammate must gain ground and might have a limited number of laps left to do so after some troubles in a race, prior to you taking over. The scenario set-up of it all is very welcome, but it cuts down the entire F2 season you might have been excited to have completed leading up to F1. You can race an entire F2 Championship alongside names you might now know of in Formula 1 such as George Russell, Alexander Albon and Lando Norris, it’s just that your career in the 2018 F2 season is very short-lived. When you do finish the short F2 2018 season and sign up your new F1 bosses there are some hits and misses too.
Fail to upgrade durability, powertrain, aerodynamics and chassis and the other teams on the grid will leave you behind in their dirty air.
As before you’ll get to decide who you would like to sign up with in the pinnacle of the sport, F1. Join someone like McLaren and it will be much more lenient than Mercedes, where you are expected to win races. You’ll find that both Weber and Butler would have signed up to other teams too… but the dramatic cinematics that you experienced in the F2 series leading up to F1 is now missing. It’s a shame as it brought some mid-race entertainment with it. As before things do get real serious in the F1 career. You’ll be spending a lot of your time at your workstation. Here you’ll check your messages, manage your contract where you can now move to a new team mid-season, check up on your rivals to build reputation, manage your power unit and gearbox and again take care of the very important research and development (R&D) tree.
Fail to upgrade durability, powertrain, aerodynamics and chassis and the other teams on the grid will leave you behind in their dirty air. Upgrading these parts will again cost you in-game points you have earned based on your race weekend, but it’s also really important that you look after the morale of the R&D departments. Yes, the media, represented by Claire, is back to lob questions your way after each race where your R&D crew will take note of your answers. It’ll either boost development or drop it and, as before, they might botch an upgrade when morale is low. Your answers to her can also increase your reputation as a whole or shape you into sportsmanship or showmanship.
Spending time at your workstation is fun, but the race weekends are even better. Your practice sessions will again provide your engineers with the data they require by taking part in tyre and fuel programs that ultimately leads through to your qualification and race days. In terms of handling the cars feel very similar to the 2018 cars. The F1 cars tend to grip better around corners than before, but other than that and a livery upgrade it feels and plays much the same, which isn’t a bad thing. You should, however, know that it’s a whole different story with the F2 vehicles. These cars will remind you of the V10 era where the vehicles were out-of-control beasts. The cars are nowhere near as fast as the F1 cars, but plant your front wheels into the entry of a corner incorrectly and you’ll find your back-end sliding out on the exit. Expect to have lots of fun trying to tame these vehicles.
The much pre-hyped Senna and Prost challenges are very underwhelming.
Once you’re done with the career you’ll find much more single-player goodness to enjoy. Jumping into a quick Grand Prix or Time Trial is perfect for a quick game if you’re in a rush, but there is lots to sink your teeth into in the championships mode. You can race the entire F1 or F2 2019 season as your favourite driver or take part in a classic series that grants you the opportunity to race in some classic events. There are many more events to take part in, though some must be unlocked before doing so. Expect hours and hours of enjoyment. The much pre-hyped Senna and Prost challenges are very underwhelming. There are eight events in total that tasks you to race against either Senna or Prost (you play as the other legendary driver) in an overtake, checkpoint, pursuit or time attack challenge. They really could have done so much more than simply including their liveries and likeliness in races that play exactly the same as the invitational events that take place between race weekends in career mode.
In a league of its own
If you plan to race against friends online then you’ll have the weekly events returning, as well as ranked and unranked races. In a clever move the game will now search for online multiplayer games in the background while doing whatever else while waiting. Once it finds a race you are notified and can jump right in or decline it. I had no trouble finding races and had a blast playing online. Unfortunately, there is still no split-screen option for some offline racing and with the success of the F1 esports scene, I don’t think it’ll be happening any time soon. The big new addition this year is leagues. It’s the perfect setup for a group of people who plan to race on a scheduled basis. It can recur every one to four weeks, based on your setup. It would have been nice if they tied it in with the official F1 race weekends too, but that’s perhaps something they can work on for 2020. Once you’ve joined a league you’ll be reminded about it in your calendar on the F1 2019 home screen. You’ll also, for the first time, be able to customise your own regulation 2019 F1 car to use in multiplayer, though the options are very limited.
If you’re wondering what else they might have worked on in the last 12 months then your eyes will tell you what that might be as soon as you enter your first race. F1 2019 is beautiful and quite the graphical upgrade. It looks nowhere near as good as the footage you might have seen on PC, but the Xbox One X does a wonderful job of keeping everything at a crisp 60fps and showing off what your HDR telly is capable of. It’s absolutely stunning and is a definite improvement on what you would have seen in F1 2018 (Unfortunately the attached images don’t do it justice without HDR). All tracks have night races available. Switch the weather to rain and watch your jaw hit the ground. You see each and every light reflection perfectly off the bodywork of your car. Loading times have also been improved quite drastically and you won’t be waiting that long for the racing to get going. I would say the loading time is nearly cut in half.
Have you been needing a reason to one day shell out your hard-earned money for that steering wheel you’ve always been wanting? F1 2019 is that game. It’s as if the Thrustmaster Ferrari 458 Italia has been made for this particular game. The steering is precise and at no point will you feel that you’re out of control of the vehicle and when you are it’s because you’ve made a mistake, and not the wheel. Older tracks such as Suzuka will have the wheel proving so much feedback that it becomes obvious why drivers avoid certain bumps in the road in the real world. It’s by far the most pleasure I’ve ever had using a wheel in a racing game. All the major wheels, including Fanatec and Logitech are also officially supported, so I expect just about any steering wheel to be a match made in heaven for F1 2019.
Please note: The below mini review is only a score for the steering wheel compatibility and not the overall review score.
Players will also find a showroom to get a closer look at the cars and some interesting trivia on each vehicle, including the classics. The biggest surprise comes in the form of the theatre. You can finally save your best race highlights, but unfortunately there is still no way of publishing it to YouTube as was possible in previous Codemasters games. Unless you have streaming equipment, you’ll have to do with the 30-second videos that save to your community page. Still, it’s fantastic that you can finally save your favourite race highlights and hold onto them forever.
F1 2019 is another solid racer. There are enough new additions to make it a worthy purchase once again, but the fact that there are no new tracks in 2019 means that you aren’t going to race on exciting new tracks. For hardcore F1 fans, this purchase is a no-brainer and if you’re considering this as your first entry into the world of F1 games then this is definitely the contract you should sign, racer.