F1 2020 game: first look

E-sports
F1 2020 70th Anniversary car

Codemasters

F1 2020 will be the sixth Formula 1 title released by Codemasters on the current console generation, and Motor Sport has got its hands on an early build of the game ahead of its launch later this year.

While the full game will release on July 10, the preview build has offered an insight into what you can expect from the latest F1 title.

The newly-added My Team game mode is the main attraction added to the title this year, allowing players to take control of their own F1 team and build it from the ground up.

Players can choose from new pieces to create their team’s logo, choose the car livery and fire suit colours and designs as well as who will drive the second car.

Players will also get to choose from a driver pool that includes talents from outside of the F1 2020 grid. F2 drivers can be called up, active F1 drivers can retire and each driver in the game will have a value attached to them when negotiating contracts.

It means the strange market moves from 2019 like Sebastian Vettel opting to jump to an uncompetitive Haas is no longer likely to occur unless the team has proved competitive to his standards.

Though the mode was not included in the pre-release version of the game, the mode will have significant changes from the usual career mode from recent instalments.

Development of the car will also be a factor players contend with. After choosing the power unit from the four providers currently on the grid, you will be tasked with developing both your factory facilities, upgrading staff and taking on a development path, all of which is impacted by your on-track showings and answers to the media.

Weirdly, although the coronavirus pandemic has admittedly affected the team at Codemasters in terms of their development of the game, the timing might have improved the experience players get.

The sky-rocketing popularity of esports and online racing has led current F1 drivers including Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, George Russell and Alex Albon to try the 2019 version of the game in the absence of real-life racing, and an opportunity for Codemasters to gain direct feedback from them.

That input may only have a limited impact on this year’s version of the game, but even in the early build version released to trial, it’s easy to feel just how it has evolved from F1 2019.

Deployment of power has undergone a change, with an overtake button now responsible for boosting the performance of your engine. Short of having phrases called in by your race engineer such as: “use overtake to defend”, or “you have overtake available to you”, the whole system is a much more realistic format, based on input from active drivers.

The inertia and physics tweaks Codemasters has been able to implement have made for much improved car handling and responsiveness, and has put the game on a promising path.

Neither of the new circuits on the F1 calendar could hold their races as planned this season, but both Hanoi and Zandvoort feature in the game, and both will have unique tests in store for players.

Work has gone into both using data given to developers by F1. The Zandvoort circuit is the first in the Codemasters F1 series to be laser-scanned.

Current circuits have also received some love between games too. Sector 3 at the Circuit de Catalunya has been redone from 2019’s iteration, and that bump coming to the line at Suzuka is no more according to Codemasters.

An updated user interface refreshes the feel of the game but remains familiar for returning players. The ability to now customise the placement of each element of the UI is a welcome addition to 2020, and gives players freedom in every facet of their HUD layout and appearance.

Sound has received some attention also. There is now a more distinctive noise from each of the four power units in the game, and effects are much more in tune with real life. The engine fire-up sequence in the garages for example sounds far more satisfying in particular.

Making a grand return this year is local split screen. Missing from each of the current console generation games, the return to local multiplayer will be a popular inclusion to the new game and Codemasters hopes it will open the game up to those who have interest but never got stuck in.

In the preview build of the game, F1 2020 looks to have learned its lessons from last year’s iteration from a purely gameplay-based perspective, and when the full package comes around in July, players should have a more in-depth and realistic game to play, with unprecedented customisation and freedom in an F1 title.

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