It seems like sitting at your console is the only way to add some excitement in Formula 1. Mercedes are being dominant with Hamilton looking to cement another driver’s title. For a slight bit of escapism, Codemasters’ yearly series has hit shelves. Finally somebody the chance to overtake with Robert Kubica.
The racing remains as great as ever. The AI seems to be marginally smarter and less likely to take daft risks. It’s subtle but an improvement nonetheless. The same can be said for the handling. The driving model presents the same solid characteristics. The cars are all about torque and you can really feel that when putting your foot down. The racing can be tight and strategy can provide an edge, providing you make the right call. There’s a reliable consistency to Codemasters’ driving physics and it does provide a fun, competitive time.
2018’s Formula 2 season finds its way into the package this year. These cars are smaller in power but do provide a good set of training wheels for your Formula 1 season. The single-chassis series delivers a much tighter field and it can be fun to thrash around against some of the bright young things of the sport.
Unfortunately, the way this series has been integrated into the career mode has been bungled. You can access the whole season from the main menu but an abridged version exists for career mode. You will race three times during that season. Each race is preceded by some rather laughable drama segments featuring fictional drivers. These attempt to act as rivals throughout your career but it feels forced and neither of these new drivers feel compelling. You have the boring German teammate and the dastardly British title rival who do neither to really establish themselves as worth your time.
Your performances in these races hold no consequence. You can retire from all three of them and still find your way to the 2019 Formula 1 grid. It’s a sure- fire way to make the inclusion of a feeder series feel incredibly superfluous. The cars are great to drive and giving us a full season to earn our stripes should have been the way to go. Once in the big time, your new rivals take a backseat and are relegated from cutscenes to text interviews that you can easily ignore. On paper, the new additions could’ve added life to a mode that’s starting to run out of steam. Sadly, it’s all been mishandled.
You’re still engaging in post-session interviews to build up sportsmanship, reputation and to boost your various development departments. These are unchanged, leading you to still have no way to blame yourself over collisions or poor performances. It all follows the same pattern as last season and the only thing that’s changed is your PA has a new haircut. On the plus side, drivers can now move between teams which helps shake the grid up. Hamilton might decide to give Mercedes the boot whilst Max Verstappen might dethrone Vettel as Ferrari’s lead driver.
There’s some big missed opportunities with the career mode. Imagine what Codemasters could’ve done with driver transfers and a full Formula 2 season. Seeing the youngsters come up from the junior ranks and watching top drivers compete for seats could’ve given the mode a more dynamic feel. What could’ve felt like a journey still feels like a minor diversion.
The remaining modes return unchanged from previous titles. Time Attack gives you infinite track time around a particular track whilst the multiplayer options allow you to compete against other racers across the globe. The eSport’s vent is still very present with the highlights of the championship events sitting nicely in the main menu begging you to check it out. Otherwise, it’s familiar if a little unspectacular.
Sound and looks, much like the handling, has seen minor improvements. There’s a distant haze present when racing out in the desert and there’s clearly been tweaks to the lighting. It’s very prominent when racing under floodlights in Bahrain or Singapore. Reflections look more realistic and the engine note sounds fuller. Sometimes it’s hard to notice but replays do help accentuate the changes they’ve made.
Presentation comes closer to a TV broadcast than before, although David Croft’s race introductions are still very limited. Codemasters don’t tend to record a lot of these and you’ll find the same post-race reactions are repeated often. Formula 2 comes with it’s own set of commentators who are given the same stuff to work with. A Theatre mode allows you to revisit some of your past races through highlights and replays which helps document your history behind the wheel. It can help showcase the noticeable improvements to the graphics.
As down as I’ve been on F1 2019, the bread and butter racing remains strong and the game looks very polished. It’s a shame the feeder series is so under-cooked in career mode. The added drama feels contrived and, whilst Codemasters have added to a stagnant mode, the additions ultimately disappoint.
+ Improved lighting makes some of the night races appear more lively.
+ Driver transfers help make the grid feel more dynamic.
+ Formula 2, even if your best experience will be in its own championship mode.
- Your new, fictitious career rivals have no charisma.
- Press interactions still remain stiff and, sometimes useless.