I didn’t think that Codemasters’ F1 franchise could get any better, but F1 2019 proves me wrong. In fact, I believe that the game is now in a position where it deserves to gain eSports traction provided that there is enough of a community into the sport. Considering the developers have been owners of this series for almost a decade and also have a rich pedigree for racing games since I started playing games, I’m not entirely surprised that they have managed to exceed expectations with F1 2019.
What’s best about F1 2019 is that it really doesn’t change much. Whilst this may seem like a strange comment, it takes an extremely confident set of developers to realize when they have already perfected a formula and therefore don’t need to keep considering how to reinvent the wheel every year, especially since that’s all the time they get. That doesn’t mean that F1 2019 is entirely the same. In fact, this is the year where the developers focused on spit-shining the racer to look as polished as it can possibly be under current-gen hardware.
However, what’s more important is that Codemasters have used F1 2019 as an opportunity to really celebrate the sport and its history. They have done this by adding two F1 legends: Alain Prost and Senna. These superstars are such legends in F1 that even a non-hardcore fan would have at least heard of these names. The rivalry between these two legends helped the mainstream public start appreciating the sport and therefore it’s only fitting that a game as great as F1 2019 is used to celebrate them.
For those who have never played F1 before, this is a racing simulator. This is not designed to be an arcade game, however if you’re looking for a challenging single-player experience (no matter what your skill level is), F1 2019 will definitely have a difficulty option for you. You may slightly struggle when competing online. Most of the players I matched up against online were clearly experienced F1 gamers. Although I never won a race, I did come second twice and it required an insane amount of composure to even place at that level.
If you’ve played other racing simulators like Project CARS or even Forza, you’ll be glad to know that F1 2019 is right up there amongst the best. It wouldn’t be appropriate to fully compare F1 2019 to any of them. Whilst other racing games celebrate the art of driving and cars in general, F1 2019 is an officially licensed game that is meant to simulate the most prestigious racing sport in the whole world. It is essentially the FIFA of racing. This fact makes F1 2019 stand out from the rest of the crowd. Instead of developing a racing sim that just allows you to appreciate the intensity of an actual race, F1 2019 also gives you a great insight into everything else that happens off the track. The politics between different teams or even sometimes within the same team, the rise of younger superstars who are now taking the front seat, sponsorship deals and extortionate salaries; these are just some examples of what you get to experience when playing the story mode. There is a lot to know and a lot you learn from F1 2019’s story, however it also means that a gamer who just wants to race might find it difficult to absorb all of the other components.
Although the game is branded as F1, it contains all of the lower leagues too. As part of the career mode, you’ll get to enjoy playing through F2 as well. In fact, your career begins here. However, to ensure that the gamer can swiftly move onto F1, your career mode begins in the middle of some F2 races. If anything, this is a great way for you to become accustomed to the control scheme and how a baby version of the F1 car handles. The races are still very challenging and if you don’t get the right results, you may not even be offered a place in the F1 league.
For the most authentic experience, you ideally need to play F1 2019 with a racing wheel. Although this is not mandatory (and probably 90% of gamers will not have a wheel), there is a huge difference in car handling between a controller and wheel. Mastering how to use the wheel is actually tougher due to the added sensitivity of your movements, however once you get the hang of driving with a wheel, it also allows you to corner significantly better than a controller. Once you have a wheel, it is almost impossible to go back to a controller without feeling that you’re at a disadvantage. Keep in mind that this only applies to gamers who really want to get into racing games in general. If you’re a casual gamer who either loves F1 or is testing the waters with racers, it doesn’t make sense to pick up a wheel right away. It helps that F1 2019 comes with a tutorial mode to help you learn certain racing styles.
The sport of F1 is unlike any other racing sport in that teamwork is equally as crucial as the car or the racer controlling it. The constant feedback between the car, the racer and the crew are what decides whether you win or not. At the top level, most racers are of a similar ability. What differentiates the winners from the losers is the teamwork, as well as the rapid implementation of unexpected issues. Also, each team has two racers who are driving near-identical cars. In most cases, the team doesn’t care who wins, as long as both racers finish as high as possible. However, in reality there can often be tension between the drivers if one is instructed to let the other one through if it helps on the overall leaderboards. Athletes at this level are extremely competitive and being asked to allow a teammate to overtake often results in tension. In F1 2019, Codemasters has done an excellent job in trying to recreate this tension. After major races, you’re interviewed by reporters who ask you about the race. Even if you end up totalling your car and don’t finish the race, the interview will then be tailored to that situation. The way you answer has a direct effect on the relationship between your fans and your teammates. You’ll often be in a predicament where you cannot please everyone including yourself. If you end up alienating your team, you will most likely be replaced by another driver. If you have a reputation for spinning out in a race, the pressure to complete the subsequent races becomes much larger since you know that your job could be at stake. These RPG elements in F1 2019 are what make the game a simulator of the entire sport.
Although the game celebrates the Senna and Prost rivalry, it doesn’t do it in a way that allows the gamer to truly appreciate the extent of the rivalry. Instead, you get to participate in small races that have objectives. My favourite aspect of this mode was that Codemasters introduced cars that were driven in that era. There are a lot of classic F1 cars in the game. Since they lack the technology of modern cars, they handle very differently. There are also tracks from the Senna/Prost era. Clearly safety wasn’t a primary concern back then since a lot of the tracks seem like they were designed by psychopaths! What I really wanted was a separate campaign mode. It didn’t need to be as extensive as the main one, however a campaign where you get to play through the career of Senna or Prost would have been exceptional. Imagine being able to play as Senna, experience the key moments of his life (through actual storytelling) and take part in the major races that made him an icon. F1 2019 just falls short of providing this. I don’t believe that a gamer who isn’t an F1 enthusiast would end up appreciating these two legends as much as they should just from playing the game. Instead, it seems that the inclusion of Senna and Prost is mainly to appeal to the hardcore F1 fans.
As far as choices go, F1 2019 gives you an insane amount of them. Whatever F1 car, track or famous racer you want to play with; they are all available to you. In addition, the simulation is the most real out of any other racing game I have played. Most gamers believe that a racing simulator is one where the car drives realistically. Whilst this was true many years ago, F1 2019 takes it many steps further. Since F1 races are long, the conditions always change during the same race. Whether these conditions are external (weather, track wear-and-tear) or internal (tyres overheating), all of this information is captured in a telemetry system and defines how you approach the next lap of the same race. As an example, you might have expected a single pit stop in a race, but a consequential change may result in you having to go for a second. If you don’t listen to your team, it could have negative consequences or even positive ones if you’re willing to take the risk. I would like Codemasters to start working on ways that we can communicate with our pit crew using gaming headsets. If they can come up with a way for us to use voice recognition to communicate with the pit crew, that would elevate the racing experience to a whole new level.
The online multiplayer has gone through some key changes. In particular, there is a brand new league system. It is this league system that paves the way for eSports compatibility. Before, gamers had to run unofficial leagues and had to use their own tools to form entry requirements, scheduling etc. The days of organizing events on forums are long gone, and F1 2019 has finally caught up. Now, you can create or join leagues directly from the game menus. Organizers can set the race times so that everyone knows when they should be online and ready to compete. Since the starting of the race is entirely automated, latecomers will just not be able to enter. Such tools are extremely important for online leagues to succeed. In addition, the leagues can be privatized, which helps eSports platforms such as EGL to organize prized-events. If the event is based on invite-only, there are even tools to ensure that anyone who wants to join a league, must send a request and then the organizer can approve or reject them. This is all done directly through the game’s interface! If you’re running lots of events, you can assign roles to various people so that it doesn’t require just a single person carrying out all of the administration. As an example, you can have a league owner and then many admins who help run it.
At the point of writing this review, I have not had enough experience with this mode only because the game is not officially released, and it requires more people to fully test the functionality. However, there is no doubt that the tools available to event organizers are with eSports in mind.
F1 2019 is the best racing simulator that currently exists on any platform. Previous versions lacked eSports compatibility, however this looks to have been addressed in F1 2019 with custom leagues. Whilst there aren’t major changes to the gameplay, I have no issue with this only because every year I keep mentioning that the gameplay is already spot on. This has given the developers the freedom to create a game that celebrates two iconic legends of the sport, and although they didn’t fully nail the implementation of the mode that encompasses Senna/Prost, they still recreated classic cars and tracks superbly. They gave us what we needed to turn F1 into an eSports monster: it has fair and balanced gameplay, along with tools to run events/leagues. It is now down to the community to show its support and help make F1 2019 the eSports behemoth that it deserves to be.