F1 2019 was released back in June with rave reviews from both the fans and critics alike.
Longevity and re-playability are two key aspects that the Formula 1 games have been lacking for a long time now, as the yearly video game usually becomes stale and repetitive after a few months.
It's now been 3 months since its released and this is a good point to reflect on what was promised by Codies pre-release and review the most prominent new features in the game with the benefit of hindsight.
In mid-June, I wrote an article listing the reasons why you should by F1 2019, citing the features that I believed would make the £50 investment in the new game worth it. With a quarter of a year gone, let's take a look and see what I got right and where I miss the mark completely!
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Arguably the biggest improvement between F1 2018 and '19 was the introduction of Formula 1's official feeder series. Formula 2 has been requested since at least F1 2012 and Codemasters had secured the full F2 licencing ahead of this year's release. This includes all of the cars and drivers from the 2018 season, there's no sign of Gert Waldmuller and co. here.
In addition, Alex Jacques and Davide Valsecchi are in the comm box, as well as the official graphics for the Formula 2 TV coverage, something that’s mirrored on the F1 side of the game. From last month too, you can now race as part of the 2019 F2 field.
How does it hold up? Driving the F2 cars is as fun now as when it was first introduced into the game in the Summer. The feeder series' cars don't have the downforce levels or grip of the F1 racers, but this makes them more exciting and arguably more of a challenge to drive. F2 now forms the beginning of Career Mode too, and while it wasn't fully optimised in terms of a full season, it's a welcome change to the series.
New lighting model & graphics
Given that the PS4 and Xbox One have been out for almost 6 years now, the leap in graphics between F1 2018 and 2019 was astounding. The new lighting model for '19 was first showcased in a trailer back in May and the graphics looked so good, it was hard to believe that this was legitimate gameplay footage, but it was.
The graphics at night are so easy on the eye, and they're great in all times of the day, 2019's jump in graphics is probably the biggest since the convergence to the eighth generation for F1 2015. Of course, the gameplay is more important than how the game looks, but it's always easier to sit down and rattle off Grands Prix when you're looking at something so drop-dead gorgeous.
Senna v Prost
Even though F1 2019 is a great game, no video-game is without its flaws and this was the biggest disappointment it had to offer. The Senna v Prost mode wasn't challenging, not was it anything like we expected it to be. I realise the 1990 McLaren and Ferrari are the only cars in F1 2019 from the season in which the challenge is set, but having you race against 1970s Lotus cars just seems wrong. Codemasters could up the challenge by introducing more of Senna’s and Prost’s cars into this game mode.
The rivalry spanned from the mid-80s to early 90s and encompassed some legendary battles. Wouldn’t you like to try to overtake Prost’s McLaren in your inferior Toleman at a soaking Monaco in 1984 or complete a comeback after a poor start in the 1988 Japanese GP to win your first title as Senna? I think fans would universally answer “yes”.
There was so much wasted potential here, but I don't feel like it detracts much from the game. There's more than enough in F1 2019 to keep you busy while avoiding this game mode, Career Mode is fantastic and multi-player is as good as it's ever been in the series' history.
This was something we've been clamouring for and although its introduction was welcome, Codies went a little overboard with it all. There are four points throughout the season in Career Mode where you can renegotiate your contract and two occasions (the beginning and the middle) where drivers can move teams.
Codemasters never mentioned that AI drivers could change teams before the game was released, which was arguably a missed opportunity, but everybody in the F1 gaming community is glad it's a part of F1 2019.
This small addition is a giant stride in the right direction for Codemasters, as it keeps the game fresher for longer. Even though the amount of transfers is frankly ridiculous at times, it means that the field is different every season and we can see scenarios we probably won't in the real sport.
In future games, the frequency of moves should be toned down slightly. It'd also be good to see the older F1 drivers retire after a few seasons and be replaced by the F2 drivers, it's very strange to see Kimi Raikkonen racing at 50-years-old in the tenth season.
So how does the game hold up?
F1 2019 still holds a lot of playability even if you have been racing since day 1. The feel of each F1 team is different, and along with the unique R&D trees and drive transfers, it means there is a lot you can do by starting a fresh career mode with a new team.
The F2 cars and their ability to follow closer have made them a wild success in online races, and while that mode is still filled with the dangers of other drivers taking you out, the ranked lobbies are often very clean and provide a good challenge if you want that safety rating achievement.
Speaking of those F2 cars, they provide the biggest test for any driver given their lack of aerodynamic grip and tendency to swap ends on you immediately. They are a pure racing experience as you can't mess around with fuel mixes or ERS deployment, allowing you to focus on the track ahead of you.
This game is one that will still be in a lot of racers rotation, even if you aren't a wheel user. It's a triumph from Codemasters and really sets the bar high for 2020...