F1 2020 is the latest installment of Codemasters’ famous Formula 1 series of games. Building upon the strengths of the past games, and adding in some excellent new features, it is worth taking a look at everything this game has to offer.
F1 2020 does a brilliant job of combining the best of the past F1 games, while also adding in some excellent new features such as full F2 seasons and the ability to build your own team in My Team. The gameplay is smooth and realistic, offering a lot to fans of the fastest motorsport in the world.
This review will take a look at F1 2020 primarily as a standalone game, with a few references to past titles. I will also cover the key aspects of the game from a beginner’s point of view, but also consider the key things to pay attention to if you have experience with the F1 series so far.
Overview Of F1 2020
F1 2020 was released in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, just a day after the first race of the shortened, 17-race calendar got underway. The game was set to emulate the calendar that was supposed to be used, and thus various changes, with the omittance and inclusion of various tracks, meant the game was not going to be a fair reflection of the actual 2020 F1 season.
Plenty Of Content
However, with that technicality aside, the game still delivers an absolute powerhouse of content and playability. When compared to its predecessors, in particular F1 2019, there are a ton of new features and improvements that make it the best F1 game Codemasters have released to date.
Massive game modes like the updated Career and the brand new My Team modes bring a whole new sense of depth and realism to the game, while the option to race in full or shortened F2 seasons, with cars from both 2019 and 2020, means that players have so much more choice with this game than ever before.
The overall look and feel of the game are great. From the menus to the actual racing and the cars, everything feels great. There are no absurdly long loading times (although there is the occasional wait when you restart a race at some circuits), and the menus are fairly intuitive. This makes the game ideal for those that just want to pick it up and get racing.
However, for those that want to get the full, realistic experience of driving an F1 car, or indeed managing an F1 team, there is so much to play with in F1 2020. While the range of options, settings and controls can be a little overwhelming for new players, fans of the series and sim racing in general will feel right at home with all of the customizability when it comes to the setup.
When the game was first released, there were no F2 cars from the 2020 season, but an update soon sorted that out. Another update made sure the liveries and sponsors of the current F1 cars all matched up. These small but essential updates are just another example of what Codemasters did well, considering the unprecedented circumstances under which the game was released.
This review will go into detail about the game modes to play, the cars and tracks on offer, and the overall experience from the point of view of a beginner, or someone who has never played an F1 game before. However, I will also talk about things from a more experienced standpoint, to really illustrate where the good things – and the not so good things – lie with F1 2020.
One of the big changes to the F1 series came with its career mode. Gone are the story-mode aspects like the rivals from F1 2019. Instead, the career mode in F1 2020 just takes the form of a bog-standard career mode, with what feels like all of the good bits of past career modes put together.
Sure, there are some basic, repetitive interviews to go through after the races, but these at least have an impact on your car’s performance over time. There are a few other niggles, which mainly revolve around the alteration of settings when you are in the game.
For example, if you start up your career mode, you can only change things like the AI difficulty from certain screens, with one other way to do it being to rapidly press the start/options button on the loading screen. This setting requires a lot of tinkering when you first start the game to get it to a suitable level for your ability, so it is a pain to have to quit out in order to change it.
Aside from that, there are no other real issues with the career mode, and for me it has only been enjoyable. You can start your career directly in F1, or you can choose to start in a shortened F2 season, with 3 or 6 races. If you want the full experience, you can even play a full F2 season, with your performance having an impact on your team prospects when you enter F1.
The Choice Is Yours
I messed around with the F2 cars for a bit, but then decided to just jump into F1 to see what it was like. When you first get started you are presented with the choice of which team you want to race with and who you want your teammate to be. Depending on which team you pick you will have different expectations placed upon you, which will impact how you are rewarded at the end of each season.
For example, if you choose Mercedes, you will be expected to win a lot of races and take home the Constructors’ Championship. If you choose Williams, like I did, then they are just looking for consistency over the course of the season. Keeping up appearances is thus key for your career progression, so it is worth considering which team is right for you at the start.
Great For Everyone
This is an ideal feature for beginners, as they don’t have to choose one of the high-pressure teams right away, and more advanced players can also benefit from the challenge of going straight into a top team. Once you pick your team and set things up, you are ready to take on your first race in a season of a length of your choice.
As you might expect, you can play around with the setup of the Grand Prix, from the length of practice sessions to the format of qualifying. The practice sessions are super useful for first timers, as they come with their own sets of challenges to help you learn a bit more about the track and about the car.
For example, you can do a track acclimatization run, which requires you to pass through gates on the track at the right speed and position to earn points. This is a useful way to learn the tracks and earn some resource points, which is the currency used to upgrade your R&D departments and thus improve the car.
Other options are things like tire management, ERS and fuel optimization runs, which test your ability to set competitive lap times while also managing your car’s tires, power, and fuel. There are then qualifying simulators and race strategy tests, which are designed to help your team build a strategy for the race, and to estimate where you will qualify.
Like I said, these practice sessions are good for getting to grips with the track, but for tracks you already know, or perhaps after three seasons, you might get a bit sick of doing them. Unfortunately, you can’t turn them off completely, but they will change in length depending on how long you set the races to be. However, you can skip through them at each race weekend if you prefer.
Finding The Right Difficulty Level
The ability to set the qualifying and practice sessions to be like the real thing is a nice touch, but really expected of a modern F1 game. Regardless, I still take joy in participating in Q1, Q2 and Q3 before a GP and finding out where I rank against the AI. However, it is worth noting something as a beginner here which makes this a bit difficult at the start.
I have experience with sim racing, but not with the F1 games. I mostly play GT Sport, and so I am familiar with a few of the F1 tracks, but not the physics of the cars and how they need to be driven in order to get the best lap times. This also presents a new way of looking at the tracks, with different racing lines and braking zones being the toughest things to learn.
Constantly Changing It
For this reason, I started out with a fairly easy difficulty level, as I wanted to break myself in gently. This worked for the practice sessions, where I was making my way round the track (eventually) not too far within the expected qualifying pace. But then, when I got to qualifying, I realized I had to change the difficulty level, as I got into Q3 with ease in my Williams.
This was not down to my insane driving abilities, but instead down to the way the difficulty system works in F1 2020. While it appeared like I was at the right level in practice, in qualifying I really pushed, and this meant my lap times went down accordingly. So, I ended up going backwards when it got to the race, as I had outqualified myself, and struggled with the race pace of the Williams.
So, I then dialed it back in the second race, with the difficulty level going up from around 30 to 50 by the start of the Bahrain GP. I did this for the next few races, working my way up to around 75, where I find things suit my abilities and the ability to still have fun, rather than doing 22 races 50 seconds off the leader, as that is just no fun for anyone, no matter how realistic it might feel!
A Handy Tip
I read somewhere online that changing the difficulty by one point adds or subtracts about a tenth of a second off of your expected qualifying pace. So, if you are doing the practice sessions, and find yourself 2 seconds ahead of your expected time, you can probably safely bump up the difficulty by about 20 points, so you don’t end up taking pole every race in a black marker car.
The reverse is true as well, as you shouldn’t be starting from the back in a Red Bull (even those with limited ability should change the difficulty to reflect that), and this applies to other game modes outside of career mode. Whether or not this is exactly how it works I’m not sure, but it was a good guide for me. It’s hard to pick a difficulty at the beginning, especially if you are new to the F1 genre.
You might start improving over the course of the weekend and put in a solid qualifying lap that is seconds ahead of your best practice time, yielding you an unexpectedly high qualifying position. This is just one of the tests you will need to face as you go through the game and improve, as there is no adaptive difficulty setting.
Get Some Practice In
For this reason, I would suggest getting some practice in at the tracks before you take on career mode, so you don’t need to do quite as much fiddling about with the settings. I just didn’t like how inconsistent my first season looked, as I had a handful of 12ths, a number of 20ths and even a few podiums, which is not exactly what Williams were looking for in terms of consistency!
Being able to allocate resource points, earned from the race weekends, to specific departments is a nice feature of the game. I especially make use of the recommended upgrades, as this saves me a lot of time trawling through which upgrades I can afford at which time and where I am standing against my rivals. However, it is often handy to put my focus on specific departments at times as well.
The fact that rule changes can appear at the end of a season is also quite interesting, with video cut scenes introducing the possibility of changes to the technical regulations. This does mean you need to be quite cautious when it comes to spending your resource points at the end of the season, as you don’t want to invest in a department that needs to start afresh next season!
I also enjoy that you don’t need to worry about the finances of the team and can instead focus on your own stats and acclaim. This is the kind of stuff that appears in the My Team game mode, which I will talk about in the next section, but it is great to be able to focus more on the driving career rather than the team career if you want to do so.
The contract negotiation phases are fairly standard, with advantages and disadvantages to the various deals and offerings, and I like that you can spend any extra money above your current contract on driver perks. These can be useful for cutting down your impact on engine wear and to unlock more interview answers, which come into play as the season progresses.
There are invitational events that you come across in between some races, and these will stick you in an assortment of classic F1 cars at various circuits, with various goals to meet. An example is a race against time at Zandvoort in an RB6, with the goal being to travel a certain distance before the timer runs out.
A Nice Addition
These are a good way to add something a little different to the career mode, with the reward being a boost in acclaim for your driver. The actual racing in the different game modes doesn’t really vary, so I will discuss that in a later section, specifically on the racing and how it feels. For now, it’s time to talk about My Team.
My Team is the newest game mode to arrive on the F1 scene, and it puts you in the unique position of being a driver and team owner. This means you take on all of the racing alongside a team mate of your choice, and you handle the finances too. Being able to choose engine suppliers and team sponsors is just downright cool, and you really feel like you are running an F1 team!
The customization aspect of this is also pretty cool. While there aren’t exactly a massive range of designs to choose from, you can select any color scheme you like, and you can apply this to just about everything. From the car to the helmets, even the racing suits and the gloves can be customized!
I would’ve liked to see some more options for the emblems, and perhaps the livery editor, but it’s still not too bad as is. It’s cool to see your own design taking to the track for the first time! You also get all of the benefits of the driving experience from regular career mode, and the R&D upgrade system, but you also get more control over the finances.
This is definitely a more involved game mode, and perhaps a good choice once you are more familiar with the game mechanics, tracks and driving physics. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you get going, there is a lot of fun to be had as an F1 driver/team owner.
Other Game Modes
While there is no doubt that the My Team and career modes are the most talked about when reviewing F1 2020, it is still definitely worth taking a look at the other game modes on offer, even if they are fairly standard. The first of these is time trials, which is exactly what it sounds like, but there are a few things I want to point out about it.
One of the handiest features of this game’s time trial mode is something that many other racing games lack, and that is the ability to quickly change the car and track you are using. While you will still be faced with a loading screen as you do this, it is far easier and more convenient than having to go back to the main menu to select a new track and car.
You can also mess around with the ghosts that appear as you go round the track, and after you complete a new fastest lap you are told where you lie in the global leaderboards. This is nothing new, but it is still useful, and you can then race around with the ghost of your next rival to watch where they are gaining time on you, which is handy for practicing.
The Championships mode is next, and it is one that I haven’t messed around with too much, but this is mainly because the career and my team game modes are just so good! However, it is an interesting game mode, as it allows you to take on various seasons with various conditions, with the goal being to finish at the top as always.
There are 7 to choose from in the main list, with the invitational events being the same ones you experience in the career mode. These range across modern F1 cars, F2 cars and the classic cars in the game, and they are an interesting challenge versus the standard game modes. While there isn’t much room for customization, and you can’t use your own driver, they are still a nice addition.
The Grand Prix mode is perhaps the ideal place to go if you are looking to just do some racing. You can choose the settings you want, the cars you want, the tracks you want and various other settings to create the season of your choice. You can then pop in and out of this as you please, and you can start a new one at any time.
You can use this as a way to do one individual race, and I found this particularly useful for getting to grips with the race starts. This is useful for beginners that have no practice with standing starts in F1 games, and with the lack of a tutorial mode (more on that soon), it is almost essential so you can get a chance to prepare for the chaos of your first few race starts in career mode or My Team.
There is also split screen available, which is not that common in sim racing games. This is just one element of the game that makes it very accessible to younger players, as they can battle with family and friends. I haven’t found use for it myself, and I know there are some issues regarding the fact you both need to use the same settings, but I imagine it is a handy feature for many.
Finally, there are also league tournaments and general online multiplayer. These game modes are pretty standard, with the leagues being a good way to test your skills against others online. The general unranked multiplayer is good for racing with friends, but these races are usually a bit more chaotic than your standard modes, so I tend to stay away from them.
If you are new to the F1 franchise, the career mode is a good way to learn the tracks and enjoy the full F1 experience, with My Team being a bit more intensive. If you need a lot of practice, I recommend creating some Grand Prix events and getting to grips with things like race starts, and the time trials are a good way to get faster. The four multiplayer game modes can also be very fun.
Cars And Tracks
There is a very good range of cars on offer in F1 2020, with the choice of current F1 and F2 cars, 2019 F2 cars, and a wide selection of classic F1 cars from over the years. The F1 and F2 car selection is what you will probably use the most, with the classic cars being a nice extra feature. The full list of those is as follows:
- 1988 McLaren MP4/4
- 1990 Ferrari F1-90
- 1990 McLaren MP4/5B
- 1991 Jordan 191 (Schumacher Edition)
- 1991 McLaren MP4/6
- 1992 Williams FW14B
- 1994 Benetton B194 (Schumacher Edition)
- 1995 Benetton B195 (Schumacher Edition)
- 1996 Williams FW18
- 1998 McLaren MP4-13
- 2000 Ferrari F1-2000 (Schumacher Edition)
- 2003 Williams FW25
- 2004 Ferrari F2004
- 2006 Renault R26
- 2007 Ferrari F2007
- 2008 McLaren MP4-23
- 2009 Brawn GP BGP-001
- 2010 Ferrari F10
- 2010 McLaren MP4-25
- 2010 Red Bull Racing RB6
I won’t list the F1 and F2 cars, as they are just those from the teams present in the 2020 season and also the 2019 season of F2. I will say that there is definitely a noticeable difference, even for a beginner, between driving say the 2020 Mercedes and the 2020 Williams. This is obviously to be expected for a game like this, but it is worth mentioning anyway for those with their doubts.
You don’t need to be capable of top-of-the-leaderboard lap times to notice the power and handling differences between the front runners and the back markers, and this makes the game feel that bit more realistic from a beginner’s standpoint. There are plenty of games out there that don’t emulate the performance of cars realistically, and F1 2020 is not one of those games.
As for the tracks, they come in the form of the expected 2020 season. That is, the season before the pandemic shortened it from 22 to 17, removing a bunch of the usual contenders and adding in some that haven’t been raced on in years (or ever at the level of F1). So, while you won’t be able to take on the likes of Mugello and Portimao that appeared last year, there are still plenty to choose from.
There are a few tracks with shortened options, such as Silverstone and Bahrain (unfortunately not the outer loop featured at last year’s Sakhir GP), which give you the option to extend the Grand Prix mode season to 26 races if you really want to. Below is a full list of the tracks featured in F1 2020:
- Australia – Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit (Albert Park)
- Bahrain – Bahrain International Circuit + short version
- Vietnam – Hanoi Circuit
- China – Shanghai International Circuit
- Netherlands – Circuit Zandvoort
- Spain – Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya
- Monaco – Circuit de Monaco
- Azerbaijan – Baku City Circuit
- Canada – Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve
- France – Circuit Paul Ricard
- Austria – Spielberg (Red Bull Ring)
- Britain – Silverstone Circuit + short version
- Hungary – Hungaroring
- Belgium – Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
- Italy – Autodromo Nazionale Monza
- Singapore – Marina Bay Street Circuit
- Russia – Sochi Autodrom
- Japan – Suzuka International Racing Course + short version
- USA – Circuit of the Americas + short version
- Mexico – Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez
- Brazil – Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos)
- Abu Dhabi – Yas Marina Circuit
I have found the tracks to feel great, with a lot of bumps and subtle undulations doing a good job of emulating the real thing. I also enjoyed the actual look of the circuits and their surroundings, with the likes of Monaco and Azerbaijan offering some truly beautiful city surroundings, and the Red Bull Ring presenting a glorious surrounding landscape to look at while you race at 200mph.
Overall, I think the game does well to offer plenty of choice in the car and track departments, and even though it couldn’t emulate the tracks that appeared in the real 2020 season, this is hardly Codemasters’ fault!
Realism And Overall Feel
Now it’s time to talk about realism. This is a topic that will most likely cause debate among many sim racers, but from my perspective, F1 2020 does a good job of offering a lot of realism for an F1 fan. While the physics might not be quite at the same level as a simulator like iRacing, it is the best on the market for fans of open wheel racing specifically.
A Good Balance
I find that the driving feels about has hard as it should with the assists off, and leaving things like traction control and ABS on at low levels makes the game very playable without making it too easy. On a racing wheel it feels very good, but even on a controller you can still have fun. You can find out what I think of using one over the other by checking out this article here.
As for the force feedback, I play the game using the Thrustmaster T300RS, and I found it to be about what I would expect from an F1 game. Going through the practice sessions, qualifying and then the 15 or so lap races in one stint did seem to put a fair amount of pressure on the wheel, as the fans were on constantly and I did even notice some of the feedback trail off as it began to overheat.
I use the T-LCM pedals, and they work well with the game, while trying to time the race starts takes a bit of fiddling around with settings and dead zones etc. Braking sometimes felt a bit too easy, but this is just down to how my pedals and settings are configured, so you can change these kinds of things quite easily in the game itself.
I’ve already mentioned the quality of the tracks, but the way they change in the different weather conditions is also worth mentioning. Driving in the rain is an entirely different experience to the dry, and it really forces you to pay attention to tire temperatures and racing lines, and if not for the realism you will enjoy the challenge!
As for the realistic F1 experience, F1 2020 does a great job of making you feel like you really are in the car, and in the championship. No matter which game mode you are playing, you will enjoy the more general experience-enhancing aspects of the game. From David Croft doing the voiceovers at the start of the sessions to the AWS-style graphics, it feels like the real deal.
You also have control over the usual things like ERS and DRS, and the various modes you can use, alongside fuel mixes and similar in-race tweaks, giving you plenty of control over your actual racing experience. However, you can also just disregard these and stick on all the assists and still enjoy the realism!
While the AI can sometimes be a little bit unrealistic, sometimes braking insanely early, and sometimes going into the back of you at every turn, I have found them to be good to race against. The AI crashes and incidents happen often enough to feel realistic, without happening too much to make you get a bit sick of seeing the same names dropping out of the race.
You can opt to turn on things like safety cars to make these situations more realistic, which is a fun experience if nothing else, and you can also change settings like Parc Fermé rules to keep things how they would be in real life. These are nice options to have, and they really do add to the realism. Overall, the racing in F1 2020 feels great, balancing playability with realism.
Other Things About F1 2020
There are some other things to note with F1 2020, concerning more abstract aspects of the game. The first of these is the engineer and voice commands, and the ability to use these in races. If you don’t have a wheel setup with lots of buttons, you might struggle to manage everything happening with your car during a race.
From fuel mixes to brake biases, and of course the radio control button to find out how your opponents are doing, it can all get a little overwhelming and you can quickly run out of buttons to map to each function. However, I have found the voice command function for the radio to make things much easier.
I was very skeptical before I first used it, as I was sure it wouldn’t be able to pick up my voice well enough. Sure, there are some teething problems, but speaking loud and clear will allow you to forget about pressing buttons to find out your tire conditions, as you can just ask the engineer yourself! This is not a new feature, but it is a very useful (and cool!) one that’s for sure.
A Lot Of Settings
Another aspect of the game that should be considered is the number of settings. There are so many to change, as is a common feature of most sim racing games, and this might be a bit overwhelming for beginners. However, there is the option to turn on the casual settings mode, which is designed to allow you to just get on with the racing.
This adds a lot of assists, and while I found it to be too unrealistic for my liking, I can see the appeal for beginners. Changing settings is easy enough, and it’s quite simple to tailor them to your own specific abilities and playstyle. One setting that is nice (and new) is the ability to add a virtual rear-view mirror, which is great for those without widescreen or VR setups to see behind you.
Lack Of A Tutorial Mode
However, my main pain point with F1 2020 is that there is no tutorial mode. This means your first race starts as a newbie are going to be messy. You are going to crash a lot. You will struggle to learn braking zones and when to put the throttle down. Even as a more experienced sim racer, it can be tough to adapt to the F1 cars and the necessary driving style.
While there are some tutorial snippets available that describe different things like ERS and DRS, there are no tutorials that actually show you how to do things. You really do need to learn on your own, and while the practice sessions offer things like track acclimatization practice, this just shows you some gates to go through, and you have to find the right gears and speed yourself.
Practice Is Key
Now, I know there are the assists and the racing lines that you can put on, but a tutorial mode, such as the driving school in GT Sport, would, in my opinion, be a more productive way to do things. But with that said, the game is not impossible for beginners, as you just need to throw on some assists and keep practicing!
Overall, F1 2020 offers a truly unique gaming experience. It balances realism and playability extremely well, and while playing the game on console might differ to playing on PC, I believe that no matter what equipment and device you use you can have an excellent time with this game.
It works well as a solo game, and while it would do well with a dedicated tutorial mode, it is definitely still very playable for sim racers of all experience levels. As a multiplayer game there is plenty to offer too, so no matter what your playstyle is, you will be able to have fun with F1 2020.