I’m a lapsed F1 fan. I used to watch every session, read up on the politics and idolise the drivers. Unfortunately, when Michael Schumacher had his skiing accident, I lost some of my interest in the sport. He was my favourite and with the constant regulation changes and dull races, his injury was the final straw. When Codemasters announced F1 2020 would have a Schumacher edition I decided it was time to rekindle my love of F1.
The best thing you can say about this game is how easy and mundane it makes travelling at 200+ mph. Like real F1 it makes you as capable as all the other drivers on the grid so success then comes down to the small margins. You can lift this game and go straight to a track and with minimal assists be competitive, to win however you need to use the DRS at the right point, you need to hit the perfect sector times and like real F1 you need to push it right to the limit to overtake. It isn’t like other games where you can make mistakes and still win with one good lap, F1 is about laser focus and hitting your braking points, not powerslides and scrappy racing.
Apart from all the trimmings of the Schumacher edition, F1 2020 features the best feature yet seen in a racing game. It dispenses with the unnecessary expense of a scripted story mode and just dumps you into ‘My Team’. Here you design the 11th team on the F1 grid from the ground up. Drivers, liveries, engine, sponsors and research and development are all under your control. It is the perfect mode for a game like this as you are left to make your own story with your own driver and team over a 10 season career. No big-name actors telling you to try harder, instead you get to make the same kind of memories you would in a season of Football manager or other sim games. It is fantastic and combined with the accessible racing, grips you from word go. In fact, it is so well done and so easy to manage all the aspects of your team it makes you wonder how it has taken so long to get to this stage.
On the track, the game has an amazing sensation of speed, especially if you have the camera just above the driver’s head. It removes the aesthetic of the guard device on modern cars and makes each race feel dynamic. The chase camera is fine but for an F1 game where speed is the selling point you want to be as close to the action as possible. Considering you are driving an upside-down aeroplane in an F1 car, the game takes the extreme difficulty out of the situation with a number of assists, you can tweak almost every setting on a percentage scale, from driver assists to AI difficulty. If you put it somewhere just above average, I find you get the best mix of challenge and capability. You want to be competent in getting the car around the track, leaving you to be the extra 5% that makes victory, exactly like it should be in F1 and any racing or successful sports simulation.
On a race weekend, you have the free practice and qualifying sessions. Usually, these are pointless and can be skipped but in the evolution of previous games, F1 2020 gives you a reason to play them. By completing challenges such as fuel conservation, tyre management, race pace and qualifying setups you earn R and D points to improve your fledgeling team over the course of the season. These short challenges help you get the extra points needed to get the latest aero package or gearbox upgrade you need to get a tenth of a second closer to the front of the grid. Incremental differences between winning and losing make this chore essential and enjoyable.
The races themselves are fast, tense and as brutal as you want them to be. On higher AI settings they will race you mercilessly and force you into a mistake without taking the cheap option of ramming you off the track. Scale it down a bit until you find the sweet spot and then put it up again if it becomes too easy for your created team. No option has been left untouched for the casual or hardcore fan. With 22 tracks to race on and multiple online championships and Codemasters’ racenet to keep track of your progress, everything is there for an F1 fan.
So the game is exceptional, graphically and full of features like classic races and F2, but the real reason to purchase this is how it makes you feel. It is a supreme sports sim that enters you at a level where you are immediately competitive and it is up to you to make the difference to be the best. If you have become bored with the product this game may help reignite your love for it.