F1 2021 (PS4) Review

F1 2021, as the name suggests, is the latest installment in the annual franchise. We got to check it out and chime in on Codemaster’s latest racing game
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Reviewing F1 2021 on PS4 was a bit of a challenge. Mainly because there are two types of people that are going to read this review: Formula 1 fans and fans of racing simulators. In the case of the former, chances are good that you know exactly what you are in for. F1 2021, as the name suggests, is the latest installment in the annual franchise. Admittedly, it’s been quite some time since I last played an F1 game, but a quick Google search shows that not much has changed. The biggest change, however, is the introduction of a proper story mode, akin to the highly popular Netflix series, “A drive to survive”. And of course EA Games now owning Codemasters, who have developed the previous F1 games and this one too.

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Dubbed “Braking Point”, the story-line is completely separate to the Career Mode. It follows the scripted story of rookie driver Aiden Jackson and veteran Casper Akkerman as they compete as teammates. Depending on your choice, these drivers will unseat the real-life drivers for one of five teams: Williams, Haas, Alfa Romeo, Alpha Tauri, and Racing Point (which fans will know eventually becomes Aston Martin). Another driver from the remaining selectable teams will also be replaced by antagonist, Devon Butler. The remainder of the grid is filled with actual F1 stars from the 2020 and 2021 season. The story plays out over two seasons, the first from Aiden’s point of view, and the second from Akkerman’s perspective. It is your typical rising rookie and ageing veteran plot, but the contrasting relationship provided a nice balance and background for the story that plays out. In contrast to the Career Mode, you don’t play through a whole season. Instead, you only race selected races throughout the season and with a specific set of objectives. This also means that sometimes you don’t even finish a race. Once you reach a specific objective, the cut-scene kicks in to take the story forward. Hardcore Formula 1 fans will also know the effect Covid-19 had on the 2020 and 2021 season. Braking Point compensates for this by taking some liberties and adding some fictional races. Overall, it is an interesting and entertaining mode, and a worthy addition to the franchise.

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Career Mode is exactly what you have come to expect from this type of racing simulator. You can either start as a rookie in the F2 junior category and work your way up to an F1 seat, or jump straight into an F1 season. There is also a Two Player Career mode allowing you to play through the mode with someone else online. It would’ve been nice to do the same split-screen using couch co-op, though. Split-screen mode is included, but it is separate from the two-player career modes. You can also jump straight into an F1 season using Real-Season Start and compete with points and standings as they were in real-life. The My Team mode gives you full reins of your own team as you become the owner and driver of the 21st team in the championship. You can sign your own drivers, use resource points to develop your car and facilities, train your drivers, and try to lead your team to the top. Your involvement is completely customizable, and should you want, you can automate most of these processes to focus on the driving. If you are looking for maximum resource points, you can take to the tarmac and run full race weekends. Alternatively, practice sessions can be automated through the Quick Practice mode. The choice is yours.

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In fact, the amount of customization and scalability from simple to professional is simply staggering. Casual race option allows you to jump straight onto a race, while leaving most of the nitty gritty to the AI. The Standard race option adds more options to the mix, but for the real hard-core racer there is also an Expert option. This opens up a dizzying amount of options, including the severity of mechanical faults, the rate at which AI teams accumulate resource points and cash, how damage is calculated, and a slew of mechanical options for your car. It also scales the AI difficulty significantly, making them tougher and less afraid to stick a nose in. This risk vs reward adds a nice challenge, especially considering the nuanced car damage. Damage to your floor, barge boards, or side pods can create additional drag, affecting your top speed. Brush a wall too heavily and your tires can become de-laminated.

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Handling of the cars feel superb. They tend to under-steer a little, but over-steer heavily if you are a bit too heavy on the throttle. The slightest twitch can drop you to the back of the grid, especially on higher difficulties and realism levels. In fact, in full simulation mode, I wouldn’t even recommend trying to play this using a controller. It is quite evident that this mode was meant to be played using a steering wheel – unless you are a sucker for punishment.

The game looks phenomenal. The cars look amazing, and the racing damage (if any) looks authentic. The tracks look like their real-life counterparts, and the track-side details are some of the best I’ve seen. Usually I criticize the details of the off-track surfaces, but this time around these surfaces received a massive bump in fidelity, even on a stock standard PS4. That said, the character models can still do with some improvement. They don’t look terrible, but tend to look rigid and emotionless. For those who want the most visually appealing graphics, we suggest you pick up the Steam version of the game or its next-gen counterpart on PS5 and Xbox Series devices.

Then there’s the sound. It is quite evident that a lot of time went into making the game sound as authentic as possible. In fact, I had a friend over when I started playing and he came into the room asking “since when are they racing F1 on a Saturday morning?”. The commenting and car sounds are spot-on, and there is a richness that adds authenticity. It’s not quite the golden age of V8-sounding cars, but the game sounds amazing.

Now, let assume that you are in the latter category of just looking for a racing simulator. Is F1 2021 worth the price of admission? While the game is a worthy addition to an F1 fan’s gaming library, it is more difficult to recommend for the general racing aficionado. If you are looking for a racing game that only an F1 title can scratch, then I would recommend last year’s installment at a fraction of the cost. Though F1 2021 is an excellent game, the improvements added to last year’s title is not enough to sway non-F1 fans. For an F1 fan, however, if you haven’t played an F1 game in some time, now is the time to jump back in.

A review code for F1 2021 was provided to Gameblur by the publisher

8/10
Total Score
  • Story
    8/10 Very Good
    Braking Point is a fresh and exciting addition to an already sold game.
  • Gameplay
    8/10 Very Good
    From casual to professional. There is something for everyone.
  • Visuals
    8/10 Very Good
    The game looks phenomenal. The cars look amazing, the tracks look like their real-life counterparts, and the track-side details are some of the best I’ve seen.
  • Audio
    9/10 Amazing
    The commenting and car sounds are spot-on, and there is a richness that adds authenticity. It’s not quite the golden age of V8-sounding cars, but the game sounds amazing.

The Good

  • Stand-alone story, Braking Point
  • Two-player career mode
  • Impressive audio and graphics
  • Amount of customization and scalability

The Bad

  • Hints of microtransactions for cosmetics
  • Character models could do with some improvement
Total
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