There is a change in the air in the world of Formula One. Last season was a bit of a strange one. At one point we didn’t know if it was going to go ahead at all. But thankfully it did and Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes were dominant once again. So with the 2021 season underway, it is shaping up to be a very good one with Max Verstappen challenging Lewis for the championship. The F1 2021 season is going to be one to remember, that’s for sure. Why am I telling you all this? Because this real-life season is entirely relevant to the game as you will find out later.
“How you can crash into a wall without it being there in the first place is beyond me!” – Murray Walker
F1 for me is what FIFA is to every Dave in the country. I must have the new game every year and I am never disappointed. As usual, Codemasters are at the developing helm, but they are no longer publishing. Since the last game, EA has acquired Codemasters. This will be the first F1 game published by EA since 2003. Now this acquisition may have been met with scepticism and cynicism from die-hard F1 fans because Codemasters have done it right for so long, but I implore you to approach F1 2021 with an open mind.
F1 2021 releases on June 16th, 2021 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC
We have been reviewing these F1 games since 2017, and every year it has achieved our coveted Platinum Award. So how can you improve on perfection so consistently? With a whole host of new features, does it hit the mark this year? Read on to find out. Also, feel free to check out our F1 2020 review here for comparisons.
First of all, you want to know what’s new right? Arguably, the two biggest new inclusions are Breaking Point and the two-player career.
Breaking Point is an all-new story experience where you play as rookie driver Aiden Jackson. You will start off by picking one of five teams to race against real-life drivers and try to establish yourself as a contender for a top team. You will experience the highs and lows of racing with drama on and off the track thanks to our favourite douchebag, Devon Butler. Yes, he is back and stirring the pot.
As Aiden, you will take part in races or race scenarios. For example, you may start the scenario in the middle of a race where you have a puncture and are required to enter the pits. It will be your objective to finish in the points or finish ahead of a certain driver from this unfortunate circumstance. In between races you will take part in interviews, as well as have a chance to check your emails and social media, take phone calls and check weather updates for the race ahead. It was a nice little touch to see your followers increase on your social media as you progressed and even some real-world people posting their thoughts on performances in your feed.
I had a lot of fun playing Breaking Point to completion and a big part of me would like to see Aiden’s story develop, perhaps in DLC or in the next game. Also, that was a nice touch with the end credits Codemasters. If you want to know what I am talking about, you are going to have to play it.
If you’re not a fan of playing on your own, then this might be for you. Another welcome new feature is the return of the two-player career. Here you will buddy up with a friend online and take part in a championship racing as teammates or rivals. This will bring you the experience of the single-player career and really spice things up with a friend. Remember, your teammate is also your biggest rival. Play it how you will. This has been a feature in previous F1 titles so I can tell you from experience, this can get very heated!
If not on multiplayer, then you will likely spend the majority of your time in Career or My Team mode. The Career can span across 10 seasons but the real meat of the game is in My Team. My Team was first introduced last year and it was an absolute game-changer. As the owner/driver of your team, you control literally everything.
Start off by creating a driver, choosing an engine supplier and sponsors, hiring a teammate and you are good to go. You will be filling your calendar with events, watching over your staff’s morale, and upgrading your facilities. Basically keeping your team as happy as possible to get the best out of them. The R&D has had a welcome revamp as well. The UI has been streamlined a bit when compared to the slightly intimidating R&D tree from the previous game. It just makes it a little bit easier to see where you are investing money into research. Remember when I mentioned the real-life season? This is where it comes into play. During your season, driver stats will be regularly be updated based on their current real-world performance.
Your race weekends are customisable as well in terms of length. You can choose to take part in various practice programs before you hit the track for qualifying and the race. These sessions will net you more XP. The more you drive, the more XP you gain which will unlock customisation items such as gloves, racing suits, emotes, and liveries.
Again, just like in Breaking Point, you will be taking part in interviews. How you answer will impact your reputation. Additionally, certain things you say will either lower or raise the morale of a particular department so be careful how you handle the press. Remember, it’s a team effort, it’s not all about you.
A whole host of the usual features return. I’ve already mentioned the 10 season length career, but you can also create your own single-player Grand Prix. You can still take part in a full F2 season, time trials, and two-player split-screen races. All of these are fully customisable as well in terms of length. One thing that might irk players a little is that there are no more classic cars. This is a bit of a shame because I loved the classic content for creating your own championships. However, if you purchase the digital deluxe edition, you will have classic drivers such as Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, David Coulthard, or Felipe Massa to add to My Team.
Obviously the multiplayer is back and is generally the same as it has been for most other games except for the addition of being able to Quick Join. There are social and ranked races, leagues and weekly races to take part in. Also, keep an eye on the e-sports hub for qualification events when it opens.
So, how do the cars handle? I can put my hand on my heart and say that F1 2021 is THE MOST accessible iteration to date. A lot more care and attention has gone into how they handle making it easier for new players to get into it. When I think back to F1 2010 I remember how hard it was to master and the amount of time I put in to get to level 50 in the multiplayer rankings. It was a labour of love for sure, but the cars in F1 2021 have the best handling model to date.
In F1 2019 it was so easy to light up the rears and spin out of control with traction control off. This was improved upon in last year’s game, but now it just feels perfect. Don’t get me wrong, applying too much throttle out of a corner and you will still feel your back end start to slide out, but it is a lot more controllable. The whole UI has been overhauled to cater to drivers of all experiences. You can now select from Casual, Standard, or Expert styles which will set your level of customisation across all game modes. All the details have been thought of, even down to mechanical failures and tyre blowouts. These things happen.
The driver AI is the best it ever has been where they tend to act more like real drivers. Often in previous games, if you were ahead of a driver they would not follow you in the slipstream. They seem to be a bit more tuned in now by doing so and often going for gaps if you leave the door open. The AI drivers seem to ‘think’ more now and have much more awareness instead of backing out every time or driving into you leaving you battered like a Mars bar in Scotland. This makes for great wheel-to-wheel racing and some close calls.
To get an idea of how the car drives in F1 2021, you can check out my gameplay and replay below captured on the PlayStation 4. I did clip my wing and you will see for the remainder of the race I did suffer from understeer from time to time, that’s not just me missing my breaking points. AI is set to expert to provide a bit of a challenge.
Graphics & Audio
We are in the cross-generation period now and I was playing this on the PlayStation 4. The graphics were amazing last year and yet they have still made some improvements. These are mainly on the character models and facial animations. The cars still look as detailed as ever, as well as the race tracks right down to the texture on the tarmac. As you can see from the pics below, there are subtle differences, again looking at the tarmac. This is definitely the best the PlayStation 4 has to offer, and I am excited for the future of F1 on the PlayStation 5. There were some minor texture issues on the crew’s shirt and pit wall where they hadn’t loaded, but that doesn’t affect the gameplay at all. At 220mph, the graphics are buttery smooth.
The sound of the V6 Turbo engines are about as close as you can get. The sound design is as awesome as ever. When playing through the headset, it’s good to have an audio cue to know on which side a driver is attempting to pass you on. Or even when your about to cross that white line, as well as feeling the rumble strips on your pad or wheel, having that audio indication just adds to the realism. Also, feel free to tell Jeff, your engineer to shut up. He is a presence on your radio giving you race updates but thankfully it isn’t overbearing at all, just talking to give you essential information.
F1 2021 has so much content that as with previous games, you will be playing until the next game comes out. Considering the working situations Codemasters have had with the pandemic, they have really pulled it out of the bag this year, managing to add even more content to an already huge game. With online racing, e-sports, or getting ahead in My Team, there is always something to do.
Codemasters, you’ve done it again! Sooner or later we are going to have to create something higher than a Platinum Award. Maybe a Diamond Award? The Breaking Point story is full of drama. The My team mode has seen some improvements on last year. The amount of content is massive and playing with friends is just damn good fun. I have no choice to award F1 2021 the Thumb Culture Platinum Award of the highest degree. If I could rank it higher, I would!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.