Do you have an insatiable need to be the fastest person in the world on four wheels? Are you driven to dominate your rivals and crush your heroes? Can you hang on to the edge of your couch for 15 laps at a time? Then welcome to F1 2019, the Formula 1 experience that shows you the ragged edge and shoves you over it.
F1 2019 is the 12th edition in the Codemasters franchise, and you can tell almost immediately that they have delivered again. The 2018 release was very strong, and it’s great to see that Codemasters have focused on refining the experience to round out, rather than reinvent, the wheel.
You see all the signs of a quality experience from your first race. The cars each have a distinctive sound, like a symphony of V8 excellence which rings in your ears as you crank up your speakers two notches past what the rest of your house might think is decent.
The visual appeal is likewise strong. Each car is faithfully recreated to look and feel like the real thing. Fans of F1 will want to get their hands on the Senna and Prost: Legends Edition gives you access to iconic racing royalty. You can customise your multiplayer characters with their signature gear and cars to instantly stand out on the grid and bump up the intimidation factor.
“Each car is faithfully recreated to look and feel like the real thing.”
There’s a further refinement of the career mode this year, and while you can jump straight into any race, building your career from F2 starter to F1 champion has a challenge all on its own. There’s a lot of good setup to the story mode. You have an arrogant rival, a supportive teammate and more helpful hints than you can shake a carbon fibre stick at. It does fall prey to some of the traps experienced by career modes in other sporting games, however, where the world around you is detailed and rich but your first person view of the world, without any supporting dialogue, makes you feel like you’re riding the ride more than experiencing the world around you. It’s a welcome addition to the franchise, and one that provides strong building blocks for future improvements.
Practice and qualifying is much more interesting with targeted activities that help you to familiarise yourself with the track. Although halfway through a season, you may decide that you can simulate most of these sessions as you’ll want to jump right into the actual races themselves. Those familiar with the tracks may skip past these altogether, while newcomers will want to learn about the driving lines of the track and understand how it runs under different conditions.
Once you eventually make it to the track, the racing is tight and intense. It’s a much more streamlined approach than the 2018 model. The focus is definitely on the simulation side, although the simplification of some of the customisation tools makes the end result more accessible for the average lead foot. Once you decide if you want more speed or more control, the preloaded settings allow you to quickly adjust to the preferred style. Although the hardcore sim fans will be happy to know that you can still customise the angle of the diffuser to get that extra few pounds of downforce.
Opponent AI is brutal. They’ll cut you off without a second thought, leaving you spinning off into the grass – hopefully not into the wall. The first lap feels like driving in Melbourne at peak hour on a rainy day. Everyone else has the right of way, and you’re either flooring the accelerator, or slamming on the brakes to stay alive.
“The first lap feels like driving in Melbourne at peak hour on a rainy day.”
Under the lower difficulty settings, AI will mostly hold the racing line, and will form an orderly queue to make the corner. Amp up the difficulty levels, and the AI employs a newfound sense of hatred for you and almost actively tries to grind you into the wall. It’s a massive automotive conspiracy and you are the target! It makes for a much more competitive race though, and one that you are unlikely to walk away from unscathed.
Car damage is brutal. You’ll smash your front wing off more frequently than you’d like, costing valuable time as your pit crew move to replace it like they’re walking in treacle.
When playing F1 2019 on the PS4, the pit crew instructions come out of the controller, which adds to the immersion factor. You can also bark orders to your pit crew via the on-controller microphone. You can access anything from information about your rivals to the condition of your car, and set instructions for the next pit stop such as changing to a different set of tyres to make the most of the conditions.
F1 2019 is the perfect companion piece to the F1 experience, and it’s fun to race around the track ahead of the next round of real world racing to familiarise yourself with the course and deepen your understanding of racing conditions. Hanging on for 15 laps, with the opportunity to restart if you smash out on the first corner, is surely a much more pleasurable experience compared to what it must be like to strap yourself into an F1 rocket – or, at least, a safer one. The improvements in the accessibility of this game makes this a much more enjoyable outing for the racing enthusiast – or anyone looking for the latest racing experience.
F1 2019 is available now for PS4 and Xbox One.