F1 2019 Review: Brilliant game with one misstep

Codemasters promised the world with F1 2019, but does it all come together?


F1 2019 has had one of the best launch campaigns I can remember. It started with Codemasters announcing the game would hit 2 months early, then that F2 would be included as well as a dedicated Senna vs Prost mode, customisable multiplayer cars, and an actual story within career mode that starts in F2 and builds rivalries into F1. All these new features are thanks to the longest development cycle of any Codemasters game.

“The extra development time has enabled the team to both improve and add several new features,” said Lee Mather, F1® 2019 Game Director at Codemasters. “The addition of F2™, complete with their rules and unique race weekends will give racing fans a new experience and we are particularly proud of the visual uplift to key tracks including Monaco and Bahrain, complete with all-new night-lighting effects. The early release date will enable our fans to develop their own rivalries two months earlier than previous seasons and we can’t wait for them to get their hands on the final game.”

F1 2019 will hit the shelves on 28 June, 2019 with early access available on 25 June, 2019 with the Legends Edition. But does it deliver on all the hype Codemasters have generated? Is it the game we were promised? Yes, but with one flaw.

Gameplay

The bread and butter of every sports game is the actual experience of playing the game.

Jumping in a front-running F1 car for a time trial or a Grand Prix is a dream. The early version of the game had a big lack of front downforce based on the expected outcome of an off-season regulation change to the front wing. Since F1 teams were able to work around that and still generate a ridiculous amount of front-end grip Codemasters re-worked their model and it has made these cars all the more pleasurable to drive. Midfield and backmarker teams are still tricky to control and require a little more wing angle to carry speed through corners, but the Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull are absolute joys to drive.

The AI is punchier in F1 2019 than previously. They are better able to handle wheel-to-wheel racing without demanding the racing line on every corner entry and exit, however they do still struggle to close the door on a passing attempt or push the issue like a player would. They are going to pounce on a mistake rather than take the inside line if you leave the door open. This still means that track position is vital in races.

The classic cars are just as exceptional as previous versions, with each on presenting unique challenges and strengths. The F2 cars are a toned-down version of F1 cars, with less downforce and power they are more savage under acceleration and liable to bite you if you try and overdrive them.

The on-track experience is a step up from F1 2018 and yet more proof that Codemasters are the right people to be delivering these games.

Career Mode

This is the place Codemasters have made the biggest step forward and boy does it show. You can skip the F2 section of the career if you so wish, but I highly recommend you enjoy the full experience. Not only are the F2 cars an immensely enjoyable challenge to drive, but the story they have put in works really well.

You start with at the Spanish Grand Prix, where a turbo glitch drops you down the pack and you are given the option of either following team orders and moving aside for your teammate Lukas Weber or trying to race down your rival Devon Butler. What you choose to do impacts how the rivalry progresses from there. The second scenario sees you and Devon come to blows in Austria, forcing you into the pits for a new front wing and some fresh rubber. You take over as you exit the pits and have a handful of laps to get as far back up the field as you can. The final F2 part is a full race around Abu Dhabi. Finish ahead of Devon and in the points and you are F2 champion, if not then he will claim the title.

After that you progress into F1, getting an open choice of teams regardless of what Young Driver Academy you may have joined, though the contract terms are kinder if you follow a natural path. Your two rivals will follow you up into F1, continuing the fight there. I jumped into Toro Rosso alongside Alexander Albon and Butler took over from Carlos Sainz in McLaren while Lukas Weber joined Kimi Raikkonen in Alfa Romeo.

Otherwise career mode is largely unchanged. The layout of your command center consol is the same, and the “fog of war” remains on your R&D tree. Your practice programs are the same too, so if you do skip the F2 section you really miss out on most of the new features as Butler & Weber do not enter the game, leaving you with effectively a carbon copy of F1 2018. Except for one aspect…

Driver Transfers

At long last F1 games have joined other sports games by allowing AI drivers to move teams. They will occasionally move at contract renewal phases in-season, with the majority of moves coming at the end of a season and into a new one.

Codemasters have also promised that players can expect to see the dominance of the current mainstays of the sport challenged by a field of young, up-and-coming drivers. This is revolutionary, as drivers have been locked into performance levels before. The ability for older drivers to fall away as young ones rise up, together with the inclusion of your rivals Butler & Weber, should keep career mode fresh and playable season after season.

Senna vs Prost

This part of the game was much-hyped. The reveal trailer for their inclusion in the game talked about “Two Legends; One Epic Rivalry”.

The clips of their famous crashes mixed in with shots of them racing gave the air of jumping into race scenarios and battling with a well-matched opponent.

Instead what you get is brutally disappointing. All Codemasters have done here is create some invitational events with Prost or Senna running round very slowly while you try to complete the objective. There is no element of rivalry here, only checkpoint challenges or time attacks where even on the hard difficulty your “rival” is lapping 6 seconds slower than you.

What is worse is that you need only complete 3 of the 8 “challenges” to unlock the MP4/5B and F1-90 cars and there is no reward, not even an achievement/trophy, for completing all 8. It’s an entirely missable section of the game and not at all the right direction for future historic driver inclusion.

Customisation

This part of the game doesn’t let down. While there is an element of microtransactions here the majority of content is available without spending any extra money and adds a superb level of detail to career mode and uniqueness to multiplayer. The ability to race in something that doesn’t look like everyone elses car and to change up your race suits, gloves, and have more helmet choices should promote a sense of ownership and responsibility in online races, while the new Super Licence promises improvements to safety rating and penalty detection that should help keep lobbies clean.

Other new parts

The esports portal on the main menu is a great way of showing the competitive pinnacle of F1 gaming, while the whole menus are far more user friendly and accessible. The showroom is a nice touch to view the cars in all their glory and the Theatre mode will automatically save highlight reels of your races.

Events have received a facelift too, with weekly race events that use the multiplayer car and give you a chance to do practice programs in it, qualify, and then race. You can receive Competition Points that go towards unlocking more customisation options as well as trophies to display on your Super Licence.

Online leagues will help you race more competitively with your friends and others, with admins able to apply grid penalties and edit results while players get an attendance rating so you can see who the reliable league members are.

Verdict

The disappointment of the Senna/Prost aspect of this game cannot overshadow what is an excellent next step in Codemasters F1 franchise. F1 2019’s ability to see driver transfers, bring in antagonistic rivalries, and provide a superb driving experience makes this game an unquestionable hit. The fact that they haven’t made changes to the quality career mode of F1 2018 just for the sake of it is another plus.

We will have to wait and see just how successful the multiplayer changes are and how heavily used the esports tabs are, their warning that they will kick you out of the game into a browser is particularly disabling to console users, but they both suggest a serious effort to make all aspects of F1 gaming better this year.

Codemasters have been extremely proactive in improving everything this year. The game looks spectacular, with night races looking especially beautiful.

Even the rain and the feel of the bumps in track surface have been taken up a notch. This game has plenty of playability, especially with the promise of patching in the 2019 F2 championship which will return the Schumacher name to the F1 game series. If that doesn’t make up for the disappointment of Senna/Prost I don’t know what will.

RealSport Rating: 8.8/10



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Toby Durant

Deputy Editor at RealSport. A life-long gamer, I have been with RealSport since 2016 and spent time covering the world of Formula 1, NFL, and football for the site before expanding into esports.

 

I lead the site's coverage of motorsport titles with a particular focus on Formula 1. I also lead RealSport's Madden content while occasionally dipping my toe into Football Manager and esports coverage of Gfinity Series events.

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