Publisher: EA Games
Genre(s): Racing, Simulation
Platform: Xbox Series X|S (also available on: PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 16/7/21
A code was provided for review purposes
The F1 2021 season was meant to signal a significant change within the sport. With new regulations being introduced to streamline races, and a wealth of modifications to the titular Formula 1 racing car too. However global events put a dampner on these changes and as such the F1 2020 season was largely modified.
The same can be said when it comes to the F1 2021 video game. The sport’s new changes would have impacted how the game played. But much like the current Formula 1 season – both the game and the sport remain largely in 2020’s shadow.
While the general gameplay of F1 2021 remains largely unchanged, there have been some slight changes beneath the hood and behind the scenes. The biggest of these is that over the last year Codemasters was acquired by EA. Thankfully the developers still have a sense of ownership over this year’s outing, and we’ve not yet seen EA slap their signature flare on to Formula 1. Whether this will change the way future installments play is yet to be seen. But for now F1 2021 remains an incredibly accessible racing title that continues to build on the team’s successes over the last few years.
In terms of general gameplay, this remains largely unchanged from last year’s outing. One greatly improved feature that’s carried over is the way the cars handle. Handling is now a silky smooth experience which allows you to really put these high-performance vehicles through their paces. Each Constructor also has their own strengths and weaknesses which have also been vastly improved over last year’s already decent overhaul.
Take Mercedes for example. While the team boasts some pretty impressive stats, they’re well down the field in terms of the reliability of their engine. This means during the season you’ll have to carefully manage engine wear, whilst attempting to improve the stat with R&D upgrades. However to counteract this, the car is incredibly light which allows for some pretty tight cornering and some decent top speed. And this all reflects back in how the car controls. There have been updates to some of the game modes too (more on that below). However, the single biggest change this year is the inclusion of ‘Breaking Point‘!
Similar to Fifa’s ‘The Journey’ which charted the rise of young footballer Alex Hunter, F1 2021‘s ‘Breaking Point’ places us into the boots of Formula 2 starlet, Aiden Jackson. Fresh from winning the F2 championship in Abu Dahbi, Jackson is whisked off to F1. Which team is decided by you and comes from one of five pre-selected middle-ranged teams. I went for Racing Point, as come the end of the season they would be re-branded as Aston Martin. Sadly apart from an email this change doesn’t affect the story. Anyway, regardless of the chosen team Jackson is paired up with veteran driver Casper Akkerman, who’s also integral in the story’s second part.
The story plays out through a condensed 2020/2021 season as you compete in various scenarios. These range from achieving a certain position to beating your team-mate. Throughout the story you’ll also take part in trackside politics as tensions start to build between Akkerman and Jackson. This is also fueled by arch rival – and F1 2019 villain – Devon Butler. Aside from this there are also interactions between both Jackson and his mum, and Akkerman with his wife and daughter. Whilst these don’t impact how the story plays, they give some much needed context to both characters.
The inclusion of a story mode is a welcome change from the normal championship and career modes. While it’ll only take six-seven hours to see through, it’s a great way of fleshing out the drama that surrounds the sport. Jackson, Akkerman and Butler are all well-written and it’s very easy to like all three – yes, even Butler!
F1 2021 has a whole host of game modes to cater for every type of player. There’s the standard Time Attack which sees you racing against the clock for the fastest time. A fully customisable Grand Prix mode which allows you to tailor a full race weekend however you see fit. Then finally there’s the ten-year Career mode which will see you proving your mettle within the world of Formula 1. You’re able to play through the career as either a solo driver – My Driver – which sees you concentrate on your own career, or for a more in-depth game, you’re able to fully immerse yourself into My Team. This sees you taking on the reigns of the day-to-day running of your own team.
My Team is a great way to play F1 2021. It’s a fully customisable mode which sees you creating your own team from scratch in which you have to create your brand and car livery while signing sponsors and a second driver. There’s quite an intricate management sim built into this mode as you’ll be managing money to upgrade your facilities and R&D points to remain competitive on the track.
Aside from My Team, the My Driver career mode plays out in much the same way. You’ll be fully in control of what upgrades to apply to your own car, as well as negotiating contracts between teams. Regardless of how you play, the ten-year cycle is interesting to see pan out. A highlight for me is seeing the ridiculous team changes which can see high ranked drivers sign for low ranked teams and vice-versa. The My Driver career can also be played as a 2-player co-op, which you can either play as team mates or rivals, and revel in all the glory/drama that comes with it.
Aside from the glitz and glamour, F1 2021 is a racing game and on the track it’s incredibly accessible. The racing throws you right into the atmosphere with plenty of camera angles and driving assists. Each of these assists can be freely activated or deactivated at any time, as you gain more experience with the game. The game’s AI can also be customised to a level of difficulty from 1 to 100. This ultimately controls how easy race sessions will be. In testing I found between 40-60 to be the ‘sweet spot’. This makes the game not overly difficult, but not a complete pushover. Weather also plays a big part too, with sessions starting off bathed in sunshine to end with a downpour. It’s great to see the sudden shift in weather as it then affects how you and the AI approach the race.
Race weekends can also be tailored to individual needs. These range from giving the AI control over what goals to work for during practice, to even simulating entire races. Codemasters have really perfected what it means to have a positive and immersive experience with F1 2021. There are so many variables that a player of any skill level can pick the title up and have a good time playing.
No racing game would be complete without an adversarial multiplayer option. If this is your thing then Codemasters have you covered. Aside from featuring a split-screen mode, F1 2021 has a few online modes too. Social Play is the more relaxed online experience which sees you join with players of the same skill level. There are various options to these races which can allow for collisions to be turned off, as well as shorter races and qualifying sessions. Veteran drivers are also catered for with options to host/join longer races with less assists.
If you want the full race weekend experience then this is also included. These more hardcore events see the full practice, qualifying, and race sessions played out over various times over a single weekend – much like in real life. If these aren’t enough, there’s also an option to play in league races, and a ranked mode too.
Drivers, teams, and circuits are all officially licenced by the FIA. Each Constructor, their respective drivers, and cars all look gorgeous on the Xbox Series X. The weather looks amazing too. With rain drops dripping down obscuring your vison, to spray coming out behind the car in front, Codemasters have captured all the excitement and hazards of racing in wet weather. The same can be said about racing in the sun too. There’s plenty of glare that shines off the cars that gives off a real sense of how much detail has gone into each aspect. Everything, from sponsor placement to drivers’ helmets, has been intricately recreated. There are plenty of small details too such as the crowded team garage, and the feverish action within the pit lanes, which all builds that ever important immersion.
Much like everything else, the audio also builds the atmosphere. Each session features an intro and outro overview with real world commentary by David Croft, Ant Davidson, Davide Valsecchi and Alex Jaques. Each provides a brief introduction to the upcoming track as well as looking back over the session’s events. It’s not particularly in depth, and there isn’t any play-by-play commentary, but it achieves what it sets out to do. Will Buxton is also back in the game with the veteran journalist providing insight into track side politics. Vehicles also sound impressive with each tire screech, engine rev, and gear change accounted for.
F1 2021 continues to raise the bar for future Formula 1 titles. While a lot of the gameplay has remained the same as last year’s outing. What has changed, has done so significantly. Aside from updated tracks and team rosters. There’s now the inclusion of an interesting – albeit brief – story mode, and that signature My Team/My Driver career modes. Throw in an expanded and fully customisable suit of assists and F1 2021 is the definitive Formula 1 experience.
Rapid Reviews Rating
5 out of 5
F1 2021 is available now and can be purchased from the Microsoft Store by clicking here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.