F1 2019 from Codemasters Studios‘ is the earliest Formula 1 game ever to be released during an F1 season on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC – but does that mean it is the best of the franchise?
With new features and improvements from last year’s title, F1 2019 has certainly set the series to new heights with the addition of the FIA Formula 2 series, more classic cars, Ayrton Senna vs Alain Prost feature and an expansion with the multiplayer, as well as a groundbreaking new feature that has never been seen in an Codemasters F1 game.
Features that were present in last year’s game such as Career mode, multiplayer and scenario modes have been expanded, including new additions to the game modes. This has made F1 2019 one of the most packed F1 games ever seen, and improvements to the gameplay, graphics and driving mechanics of the game, could cause debate whether this could be the best F1 game in recent years.
What’s New In F1 2019?
Several new features are included in this year’s F1 game as Codemasters spend the last two years building F1 2019, starting a brand new development cycle within the franchise they’ve possessed since 2009.
The most obvious one is the inclusion of the FIA Formula 2 championship for the first time. The inclusion of the series allows players to play as last year’s drivers and teams, fitted with all the rules, regulations, tyres, bonus points for pole and fastest lap. An update for this year’s F2 line-up will be available in the near future. Players can also race the cars and drivers around all 21 official F1 circuits, not just the 12 F2 race around and can be used in Multiplayer and Time Trial. F2 also plays a role within the Career mode, setting the stage before you make the step to F1.
More classic cars have been added to the existing roster from F1 2017 and F1 2018. Four new cars enter with the Anniversary and the Legends Edition of the game. The Anniversary sees the 2010 McLaren and Ferrari join alongside the Red Bull RB6, who all three raced against each other for the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship. The Legends editions includes Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s McLaren and Ferrari machinery from the 1990 F1 Season. The two also include both Senna and Prost, as well as eight different scenario challenges.
Multiplayer has given a shake-up with a heavy focus on competitive racing, such as the F1 Esports Series. Both Multiplayer and F1 Esports have their own tabs on the new main menu, where players can unlock rewards for completing weekly events and F1 Esports related scenarios. This year’s game introduces leagues where players can join or form leagues of their own. Traditional modes such as sprint and custom lobbies return as well.
Gameplay & Graphics
F1 2019 features official graphics, font and details from FOM as you see on TV, giving a more ‘official’ F1 game feel compare to past generations. This also includes more lines from Sky Sports F1 commentators David Croft and Anthony Davidson, who once again are behind the microphone before and after a session. The graphics once again have made a step forward from the previous title with an uplift, presenting more authentic and realistic feel to the game. But further steps have been made with the lighting on track, colour palette and visuals with night time tracks such as Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Singapore.
The improvement in the night presents further details in-game such as dust within the air, haze and reflections within the lighting makes the game similar to its real-life counterparts. But this is only seen well within the night and in day time tracks and times, this isn’t well seen. The details on day tracks is noticeable, such as the lighting and reflections, but very rarely spotted and can sometimes look similar to last year – which graphically was very impressive. Wet conditions underwent a change with puddles more detailed and challenging to drive on in the game.
The handling model of the game remains similar to F1 2018, with a few minor tweaks made to the directional input and turning of the wheel in conjunction to the aero tweaks on this year’s cars. This was noticeable with the pad on Xbox One and felt that whilst it kept the feel of F1 2018’s handling, it felt challenging in some corners where you lift off a bit to take the racing line. ERS modes return and this time have made sure players had to recover energy over the course of a race, instead of switching modes for a couple of corners. Players who use high energy modes for too long will find their battery pack will drain quickly compare to last year, especially at a start of a race. The AI in F1 2019 are more competitive and more fearless at attacking for positions and will risk it for a gap at the start or during a battle in the race. They will also defend well at corners, often defending the inside of the turn and forcing players to think tactically about their attacks.
One noticeable issue I have found playing the game was the lack of consistency with the frame rate. Some race it will run perfectly on 60FPS, but other times it will stick to 30FPS, or sometimes less on occasions. Whilst it might not be a distraction as often, the inconsistency does affect the flow of gameplay and make the game feel tricky to play with.
This year’s career mode has seen a total shake-up with the player starting their career with Formula 2 in three event scenarios: Barcelona, where you suffer a turbo failure and have to decide whether to let your team-mate pass or not. Austria, where you are down the field and have to chase down a rival driver in the final stages of the race. And lastly Abu Dhabi, the last sprint race of the season and you are tied on points for the F2 title. These scenarios and how the player performs in these affect your relationship with the teams and your two rivals: Devon Butler and Lukas Weber. The two will be with the player throughout their career mode and your relationships with them on track and through press clippings can trigger moments over the career mode. The two will also follow you up from F2 into F1 and acts as your main rivals in the game. This becomes the main story line of the game, but over time the two may eventually drop out of F1 and can be replaced by real-life drivers.
At the beginning of your career, you’ll pick an F2 team to race with – doesn’t matter which team as performance is equal in F2. Then you’ll select which academy you’ll join. This can range from Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and Renault. Picking one will favour which teams will approach you when you join F1. Alternatively, you can skip this and can select any team you wish to start your F1 career with.
One of the biggest changes to career mode this year is the introduction of Driver Transfers. Driver Transfers allows the player and the official F1 drivers to join any other teams during the career mode. This is determined how the drivers perform during the season and where they finish in the championship. So in some scenarios you could see the likes of Sebastian Vettel move to Mercedes AMG Motorsport, whilst a strong year by Alexander Albon could put him at Red Bull Racing. This change is one of the most requested, and most likely the most complicated feature to bring into an F1 game due to the licencing and with the drivers signed on to their respected teams. The allowance of drivers moving teams in a career mode has put F1 in level playing field with the likes of Madden NFL, FIFA and NHL, where players can sign players from different teams without issue.
The main features of career mode in F1 remain the same from last year. The player builds up resource points by doing practice programmes to spend on R&D part, which will improve your cars performance via engine, chassis, durability and aerodynamics. You also have to manage your power-unit parts and your gearbox over the course of the season to avoid taking grid penalties for overusing allocated parts. Press clippings are back and once again, your comments can effect your relationship with your team, drivers and fellow teams in the F1 paddock. Most of this is similar to what we saw last year, but have made sure that what you say to the press, will be remembered by the teams in the future.
Overall, the career mode in this year’s title has made jumps from last year with the addition of F2 and the ability of drivers changing teams over the season. With regulations changes still being a part in the game over the span of the ten year career mode, players can see certain teams and drivers make a step up over a number of seasons. This is certainly something players should be playing for the long-term.
The online side of the game has undergone a face lift with the focus now on Esports and competitive racing. With the F1 Esports Series growing every season, Codemasters have turned its attention of getting players to compete one another through leagues and championships, thus introducing Leagues on F1 2019. Leagues work similar to Online Championships first introduced in F1 2016, but Codemasters have made steps into creating a hub specifically for your league and help finding players leagues for them to compete in via their attendance record, safety grade and what days they can do.
Players can set up their own leagues or join one via quick search, advance settings – which provides specific settings to the players need, or via a league code given a league admin. There are two types of leagues: Public and Private. Public allows it to be visible and players can join or submit an request to the admits. Public leagues however, use the 2019 spec-car, created by Ross Brawn and his team of engineers at FOM. Private leagues are leagues set up by organisers who like to keep their leagues non-searchable. Players can only join if they’re given a code by the admins outside of the game. These are often leagues who already have their own forums, chat channels, schedules etc.
As part of the league, you can also view a calendar of what the races are and key events e.g. F1 Grands Prix, F1 Esports events. These are not final and nailed on as any time, an admin can vote if they want to change a scheduled race for another date, sending a vote to the drivers in the league. This is the same with rules and assists, all decided by a voting system. Alternatively, if you’ve set up a league that is rather relaxed and play with friends, you can set and play races on the fly, appealing to both casuals and competitive racers.
Weekly events is a new feature on F1 2019 where players can win new gear and competitive points to spend on new customisable items. Over a week period, three sessions will become available. Practice allows you to set times and gather competitive points by doing practice programmes, like you would do in career mode. Qualifying is when you set a time to determine your grid position for the race, that will take place online against fellow competitors at a set time. The players who finish within a certain percentage in the leaderboards wins competitive points and additional gear.
If league racing isn’t something for you, the classic sprint races and custom Grands Prix are still available for players to race on against one another online. These modes will all affect your safety rating, as well as any stats that are recorded onto your Superlicence.
FIA Formula 2
Formula 2 has been a popular request to bring into the F1 games as a feeder series for the main career mode. Now, gamers can enjoy F1 and F2 for the first time with all 2018 FIA Formula 2 drivers and teams available, as well as all the rules and regulations of the series. An update for the 2019 F2 series will be available via a downloadable update. F2 lays a role in career mode, but only three races rather than a full season. This may sound disappointing, but this feature allows the player to get a taste of F2 and learn the ropes of F1 and its new rivalry with the two characters you face. Alternatively, you can do a full F2 season if you wish via Championships or even make your own F2 series on Grand Prix using all 21 F1 tracks. Commentary for the F2 races in the game include the official commentators Alex Jacques and Davide Valsecchi.
The difference between driving an F1 car to an F2 car is noticeable straight away. In an F2 car, there is less power, less aerodynamics and all cars are equal, meaning it is all down to the driver. At first getting use to braking earlier into corners and carrying less speed was something challenging to get use to at first, but overtime you begin to find confidence and a rhythm. The car will aggressively lose the rear end if you apply the power too early at the exit of corners, so be careful when applying the loud pedal at corners. Cockpit cam in the F2 cars feature the halo, but the bean centered in the cockpit can be removed, just like on the F1 cars in the game.
The 2018 season allows players to play against the likes of George Russell, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon before they make their step into F1. But fans too can play as drivers such as fan favourite Artem Markelov, Nyck de Vries and Nicholas Latifi in a quick race, custom weekend or in a championship. Adding F2 gives players something fresh and new to try out outside of F1, as well as getting to compete in an exciting, competitive racing support series. Playing the F2 cars have been enjoyable but also a challenge to get to grips with, something that would make players put more time in to master.
Senna Vs Prost
Another new addition to F1 2019 is the inclusion Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, fully licenced and playable in the game. The inclusion of the two legends – who staged one of the most exciting rivalries in F1 history, make up the Legends edition of the game and inclusion of two more classic cars from McLaren and Ferrari from the 1990 F1 season.
Players who purchased the Legends edition will also get both Senna and Prost’s helmet and face to use in-game, as well as special liveries to use in Multiplayer. The two drivers are the centre piece of eight special invitational events. However, the events are similar to events you’ll get in the career mode and from the last two games, only being you pick to play as Prost or Senna, with the latter being the last driver to pass or catch.
This is somewhat felt disappointing to play with as it didn’t feel like players will be getting a full-on Senna vs Prost rivalry, instead they’ll get overtaking slowers cars or passing checkpoints and briefly duel with either driver at the end of the challenge. It would be more iconic and thrilling if there were races where you’ll have to fight with each other – just like in the old days of their duel in F1. It is great to have them in the game and have extra content for players past and present to have, but the challenges and the hype value wasn’t worth it.
Customisation, Highlights & Micro-transactions
Player customisation has been enhanced from previous titles with more items players can choose for their character. More avatar faces are now available as well as helmet designs, but also different coloured race suits and gloves to represent your player on track and in cutscenes online and with classic cars. Your race helmet colours and design carry over into the career mode as well as Multiplayer, Time Trial, Invitational events and challenges.
As well as customising your driver, you can create your own livery to use in Multiplayer with the 2019 spec-car. Three designs are unlocked already, with more liveries available by spending competitive points. There are additional liveries, helmets, gloves and race suits you can only buy via real money, often labelled under ‘premium’. This is the micro-transaction section of the game that was brought up prior to launch, although it is unclear how much each item will cost on the PlayStaton, Xbox and Steam store.
A requested feature that has finally made it into F1 is the ability to save race footage you’ve done – however, this can only be possible through a highlights package, but the overall result is positive as the playback recorded by the game showcases your personal highlights from the race you completed, including overtakes, errors, crashes, slow motions and the start of the race. These clips can be saved in the game for future playbacks.
F1 2019 is a massive step from its predecessor and Codemasters have made strong changes to the series with the inclusion of new features, game modes and content for F1 fans and novices to play on. It has pushed a new boundary of F1 content and where the future of the games could be heading.
The gameplay and driving is polished and continues on from F1 2018, with improvements to the lighting, handing and graphics to make the game the best it can be with the current console technology. The career mode with the inclusion of F2 and Driver Transfers has made it one of the most authentic and well-packaged F1 single-player experiences yet.
Multiplayer side of the game has undergone work as well to influence gamers into the competitive racing scene and also allow causal gamers to have a couple of races online too. The creative side of the game allows players to paint an identity of themselves on the cars, helmet and character alike. A boost in customisation was needed after repetitive mechanics in previous titles.
The addition of F2 is a welcome feature layers will enjoy the challenge of driving with, but the Senna vs Prost feature is something that could have been better if they allowed more creativity and exploration into their fierce rivalry. Something hopefully in the future they can change if they were to repeat this with other legendary drivers.
F1 2019 is a well-packaged, expansion and a step up in the Codemasters F1 franchise. The series has come a long way since its debut title back in 2009 and the British developers have potentially created the best F1 game to come to consoles. This is now the baseline for future F1 titles and with its early release compare to previous games and other sporting titles, F1 and Codemasters can feel proud of their final product.