Codemasters has been in the news recently as the company was purchased by EA earlier this year. Although many fans were displeased with this decision, the more I spoke with developers at Codemasters, the more I found they seemed very comfortable with the combination of these two behemoths and what the future now holds. It’s important to note this because F1 2021 is the first AAA release from Codemasters since the partnership, and both companies will now be under a community microscope. This also leads me to this F1 2021 review.
Before diving into that review, it’s obvious F1 fans come into things holding their breath, hoping this title continues the trend of being a leader in innovation, authenticity, and accessibility. But why does this partnership mean so much? According to the developers that I spoke with, it allows Codemasters to pursue and expedite its roadmap for the F1 series in a much timelier fashion, and the newly found resources allow the developers to create exactly what they had only imagined on paper.
With that said, let’s talk about what F1 2021 looks like with EA on the periphery adding support while promising to let Codemasters continue with its vision, both now and for the foreseeable future.
F1 2021 Review – What I Like
The F1 series has always provided a strong and realistic experience behind the wheel, or at least what I would imagine what it would feel like since I have never actually driven an F1 car before. So, when I fired up the newest offering from Codemasters, I expected it to feel very much like its predecessors — and that would have been fine.
My expectations were met with a strong smack that I felt vibrating through my controller. On the PS5, the cars now have a weight to them that I have never felt before in this series, and I have played them all. Not only did each car carry a substantial feeling of weight behind the wheel, but the developers have also tweaked the controller-based driving experience by adding a new level of substance that puts more control in the hands of the user.
The new sense of control and weight took me multiple laps to really get a feel for before it started to feel natural again. The change is welcomed and deepens the on-track experience in a way that felt more natural.
With the F1 series, I have been accustomed to rolling through tight corners and S-curves a specific way for many years, which was becoming somewhat stale for veterans of the series. With the more precise controls and weight of the vehicle, I now had to focus during those turns again or risk undercutting a corner or pushing it too hard over a curb.
While this may scare some of you who are familiar with this series, do not let it. You now have much more control to put your vehicle where it needs to be for a specific situation. This is very important at so many venues that are tight and offer very few legitimate passing zones.
It may take a bit to grow accustomed to the all-new feeling of driving one of these high-powered but fragile machines, but in the end, F1 2021 delivers a much better on-track feeling than its predecessors and is better for it.
Providing accessibility to players of all abilities and skills is not new to the F1 series, but it is something that was only really a focus starting last year. Codemasters made it a point to try and deliver a title that could be enjoyed by all players, regardless of their knowledge of the sport or ability, and that continues with F1 2021.
The developers allow people who want to feel the thrill and excitement of an authentic F1 season on a more casual level to experience it that way. This year the game also offers a new setting that, when clicked, will allow you to race with all assists and options available to be utilized or disabled independently of each other. In the preview session with Codemasters, the developers described the mode almost as a “developer mode” and the options that are available now to the community were previously only available to turn on or off singularly during the development of the title.
Two-Player Career Mode
In my preview, I spoke of this mode and how excited I was for it to come to a AAA title like F1 2021, and that excitement was organic and authentic. The idea of running an F1 career mode with a friend and seeing that career unfold in different ways sounded so intriguing and such a unique approach it almost felt like a “can’t lose” scenario for both Codemasters and fans.
The approach and start of this career mode gives you the option to go against one another, or join teams and wreak havoc on the world of F1. You also have the initial option of going true co-op or selecting contracts for each member involved.
If you choose the contracts co-op career mode, over the course of each of your careers the contract negotiations will allow each of you to move teams, and ultimately you find yourself becoming rivals for opposing teams. If choosing the true co-op mode, both of you will find yourself joined at the hip throughout your careers while permanently racing for the same team.
It’s wonderful that you can enjoy a career mode together either competitively sparring against one another or fighting for the goal of achieving greatness under the same contractual umbrella. Regardless of which option you and your friend choose, the co-op career mode offers all of the depth and excitement of the single-player career mode, which is like the best of both worlds.
This is the type of offering that extends the life of a game, and it’s something that can still feel fresh in six month when the two of you pick it up again to go a different route. If you do the career mode in a party chat system, it feels almost as if team communications are available during your career. This really adds a layer of authenticity, regardless of whether you have gone the route of true co-op or contracts.
Graphics And Presentation
Over the last couple years, Codemasters has been at the forefront in terms of understanding how to deliver timely and poignant graphics and presentation while executing them with general aplomb. F1 2021 continues that trend.
The moment I fired up this version, it was apparent that the developers at Codemasters have a solid grasp of what the new hardware can do. Now, this is not surprising because F1 was already pretty on the last-generation consoles, so the advancement in technology just means F1 2021 now comes as close to mirroring what we see each weekend as it ever has.
From the deep and vibrant details of each race machine to the stellar reproduction of each racing venue and its surroundings, F1 2021 often delivers a visual experience so extraordinary that it often blurs the lines between the real and fake.
Whether I was zipping around one of the officially licensed tracks in the game, navigating the new UI menus, or participating in the well produced pre-race and post-race festivities, F1 2021 stayed consistent in terms of delivering a solid experience throughout my entire time on the track or in the menus (and the frame rate held up as well).
The single caveat to all the pageantry and authenticity that is offered up throughout the entirety of the title relates to the cutscenes before certain interviews in career mode. These came across as a bit choppy on both the PS5 and Xbox Series X, and this took place both before the day one patch and following the implementation of that patch.
Regardless, Codemasters continues to shine when it comes to graphics and presentation. F1 2021 delivers an experience that is authentic and vibrant.
F1 2021 Review – What I Don’t Like
Braking Point Story Mode
I’m not going to rip the new Braking Point story mode because I enjoy large swathes of the journey of F1 rookie Aiden Jackson. However, there are two big reasons the mode does not sit well with me.
When I sat down with the developers, they spoke a lot about the amount of time, effort, and resources that went into making Braking Point. The studio even hired a true production company to create the story and write the script. Is this impressive on some level? Sure, and you can see where the money and effort was spent.
But without giving away too much, I struggle to see any replay value with this mode, and to see the type of production and effort that was put towards creating it is therefore somewhat head-scratching.
Secondly, and again without giving away too much, much of the story mode is broken down into moments, and many of the moments are extremely important to the story. The issue is the developers have asked you to climb behind the wheel of a precision-based machine and execute on a track without having the time to become familiar with the track at which the event or “moment” is taking place.
This is not an easy task for veterans of the series who are extremely familiar with each venue, let alone fringe fans or newcomers. This will be a point of frustration for some, which seems an odd road block in a story mode that’s probably trying to reel in some of the cursory fans. In general, it all seems a bit counterintuitive.
If you love story-driven modes that act as a “choose your own adventure” sort of situation, there is a lot of fun and excitement to be had while playing Braking Point. Still, someone needs to explain how resources and this level of creative effort could not have gone somewhere else in the game to create an offering that would have the masses wanting to play it again six months from now.
No VR Support
This is most absolutely a fringe complaint that will bother very few people because, quite frankly, the PSVR just never became the hit that Sony was hoping for here.
That said, I adore VR, especially when it comes to racing games, which most of the time I experience on my PC because companies refuse to put the time and energy into a VR experience that very few are ever going to get the chance to partake in on consoles.
Trust me when I say I completely understand why Codemasters didn’t bother with implementing VR on console, but the fact is there is an amazing experience waiting to be had here. Those who have played iRacing or rFactor 2 in VR know exactly what I am talking about, and hopefully as this generation of hardware stabilizes (and people can actually buy the consoles when they want), we will start to see more titles utilize the hardware in different ways.
The true bottom line for F1 2021 is that, once again, it is going to be in the running for my sports game of the year, racing title of the year, and anything title that appreciates games like this. F1 2021 offers players from all backgrounds the chance to play the way they want to and adjust periodically when needed.
The amount of depth here is almost staggering when it comes to F1 2021. There are multiple single and multiplayer modes, and you can move on to the next mode when you tire of the current one. The co-op career mode especially stands out here.
It is one of the best looking titles to date on the next-gen hardware, and the stability is phenomenal when coupled with how good the game looks, both in-game and in the menus. It is amazing to me how year in and year out Codemasters finds ways to keep pushing this game further and further. Yet here I am again watching the launch of another incredible effort, and it’s one that I think will fit well into anyone’s rotation for months to come.
F1 2021 creates an experience that justifies my desire for a PS5 and Xbox Series X, and if titles are going to start hitting this level of graphical fidelity and depth, we need to buckle in because the ride is going to be an incredible one.