It’s my first GP at the Zandvoort Circuit in F1 2020. While the practice and qualifying sessions were dry, it’s just started to rain and there’s no sign of the sun. Thankfully, I had set up my car with a heavy emphasis on downforce and invested quite a lot of starting capital into the Aero department. I opt for a two pit strategy starting with the intermediate tires for the first half and switch to the wets for the rest of the race. I finished P5 in qualifying and I’m right behind Max Verstappen, the young prodigy who feels very much at home on the track.
Five red lights, the race starts and right into the first corner at Tarzan, Albon hits Hamilton, who goes sideways and Bottas piles on. Unable to dodge the mess, Charles Leclerc veers off into the curbs and just like that, two of the top drivers of the grid are out of the race. Now my strategy is to push hard and go in for an early pit-stop. I change the fuel mix to rich and step on it. With 10 laps remaining, the sun starts to peek from the clouds. At this point, I’m in P4, ahead of Perez by around 30 seconds and decide to change to the soft tire compound on the next lap in hopes of getting a podium finish.
Moments after I get out of the pits, my engine loses power and I push hard enough. At this point in the race, my best bet is just holding my position. With 2 laps to go, Bottas and Albon make contact, Albon drifts on to the curb and hits the tire wall and Bottas has to go into the pits to repair his front wing. I start pushing and finish the race on P2! This was my first podium of the season. The new ‘My Career’ mode in F1 2020 has yielded many such moments for me. While the core gameplay is quite similar to the previous entry in the series, the new game mode does change things up quite a bit.
So how’s the Gameplay in F1 2020?
Quite similar to F1 2019. But there are some major improvements for controller players and there are quite a few tweaks to the AI. On a Thrustmaster T500RS, the FFB is decent, though not on par with games such as Automobilista 2 or Assetto Corsa Competizione. F1 2020 is a difficult game to review. There is enough complexity in the mechanics and a steep enough learning curve for it to be considered as a sim. However, you just turn the assists on, connect a controller and have some casual fun. I would not, however, call it a sim-cade like Forza 7 either. You can play it seriously, timing each gear shift and neailing every corner, or you can just let the game do it for you and joke around with your friends instead. It handles both situations gracefully.
Apart from the ‘My Team’ game mode, F1 2020 also includes Splitscreen. This is by far one of the best features of the game and I’m glad to see it making a return. The new ‘My Team’ game mode is a great addition and adds enough progression for it to feel fresh. In it, you enter F1 as the 11th team and start from scratch. After selecting your engine, a primary sponsor, and a secondary driver, you’re basically playing a game of catch-up with the rest of the teams. Every 8-11 weeks, you have an option to renew the secondary driver’s contract or negotiate a new one.
Every race weekend, you can earn resource points and acclaim by completing the practice programs. You can boost your acclaim by getting a good qualifying result or by finishing on the podium. Every once in a while, you’ll have interviews that you can use strategically to either boost one of your departments or your acclaim. Higher acclaim unlocks better sponsors. Better sponsors make you more money. With more money, you can upgrade any of your 5 departments. Upgrading a department unlocks R&D upgrades for your car while reducing build times and reducing failures.
The R&D tree is divided into 4 parts: Powertrain, Aerodynamics, Durability and Chassis. The research points gained over the race weekends can be spent here to further improve your car. It is quite important to focus your efforts into making sure your car gets the necessary updates before each weekend otherwise your team will lag behind the competition. And no amount of exceptional driving will be able to make up for an outdated power unit. You should also be careful not to spend too much on upgrades before the secondary driver contract expires and must have enough cash reserved so that you can get a lucrative contract deal.
Overall, the new career mode adds a ton of new RPG-like mechanics and you do indeed feel like a team principal managing your team while racing at the same time. The rest of the game is fairly similar to the former title, with updated teams and liveries. The new AI improvements are a welcome change and you’ll find the drivers defending their inside positions more frequently now. However, on certain tracks, they are just too overpowered and the top qualifying times are next to impossible to achieve. Still, they are a major improvement over its predecessor and are much less frustrating to drive against.
F1 2020 Customization
With the new game mode, you can choose and customize your car livery based on the sponsors you currently have. This adds a great new element of personalization and further increases your immersion. You also get access to a podium pass and unlock new suits, gloves, emotes, and car liveries every few levels. You can earn levels by playing any game mode and don’t feel forced to complete a particular objective to be able to unlock an item.
There is an optional VIP which gives you access to even more customization items that you can purchase with in-game currency, called pitcoins. Pitcoins can be gained through unlocking more levels on the podium pass or by real-world money. While the game does have microtransactions, they are purely cosmetic and the progression is quite fast such that you never feel forced to pay for them. Moreover, if you reach enough levels in the podium pass in a season, you can earn enough pitcoins to pay for the next VIP. I’d even go so far as to say that this is one of the best monetization models of this generation.
If you’re new to the series, this game is a must-buy for both F1 and non-F1 fans alike. While it’s a sim, you can have the same amount of precision and fun with a controller and the game does a pretty good job of teaching you the mechanics. In a sentence, it’s the most comprehensive F1 experience that you can have today. Codemasters have refined the series to a fine mix of excitement, challenge, and adventure. While there’s still a small way to go, F1 2020 is the strongest the franchise has ever been.