F1 2021: How good is Braking Point really?

F1 2021: How good is Braking Point really?

There was plenty of hype surrounding F1 2021’s new storymode, but does it deliver on its promise?

Image credit: Codemasters / EA

For the latest instalment in the F1 game series F1 2021, Codemasters promised a full-length storymode campaign after the success of the F1 2019 career mode F2 prologue in which original characters Devon Butler and Lukas Weber became overwhelmingly popular.

This new storymode was dubbed Braking Point, and it’s safe to say it was a great and welcome addition to the F1 games. The developers openly credited the success of the Netflix docu-series Drive to Survive as inspiration, and the fans were very much onboard with the concept as OverTake readers voted it the best feature of the new game. So what was so good about it, and how can it be better?

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The good

You can drive for Aston Martin, AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo, Williams or Haas.
You can drive for Aston Martin, AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo, Williams or Haas. Image credit: Codemasters / EA

Before you begin playing, you have to select one of five midfield teams. You’re then thrown into a scenario as Aiden Jackson – heavily suggested to be the next British F1 star – as he’s wrapping up the F2 championship at the end of 2019. He achieves it and earns an F1 drive alongside seasoned Dutch veteran Casper Akkerman, who has been in the sport since 2002.

Despite Jackson expressing admiration for Akkerman, their partnership doesn’t get off to the best of starts. In their first race together, an attempt by Jackson to pass Akkerman into the fast turn 11 at Albert Park was compromised when a move by Devon Butler caused the pair to collide and Akkerman loses his front wing, and this is the only the beginning.

The story itself shows the differing perspectives of what a rising star and a seasoned veteran must face in this cutthroat world of F1. You play as Aiden for the first season and you see the pressure he faces and even more so in season two when you take control of Casper.

Devon Butler is the antagonistic force looking to derail the hopes of Aiden.
Devon Butler is the antagonistic force looking to derail the hopes of Aiden. Image credit: Codemasters / EA

As Casper, you experience the toll that being the elder statesman of the sport is taking, and the frustrations about potentially playing second fiddle to this young upstart. This story being told through very human and layered characters in such a competitive and cutthroat world is fascinating, especially as you see the other characters such as team liason Brian Doyle and Casper’s wife Zoe also playing their part.

But you can’t have a great story without a great antagonist and Devon Butler is just that. He’s exactly what you need in such a character and he amplifies the insercurities and competitiveness of both the protagonists to a tee. He’s masterfully portrayed by an actor named Daniel Ben Zenou, who absolutely nails the performance of Butler.

The bad

McLaren driver Lando Norris is all of us, having enough of Devon Butler
McLaren driver Lando Norris is all of us, having enough of Devon Butler. Image credit: Codemasters / EA

As we already alluded to, the story is great. However, it does feel very contained. It’s a linear narrative, so there isn’t an alternative outcome if you play a scenario differently, which is honestly fine considering this is the first attempt at a full-blown storymode in an F1 game. Having dual outcomes would be nice but maybe in the next storymode career.

However an aspect of the story that really isn’t touched upon is the history of both protagonists. There are always hints at their lives before F1 and even away from the racetrack, but that’s it. The number one rule of storytelling is show, don’t tell. Such examples include Aiden getting calls from his mum who never features in a cutscene, and there’s dialogue that seems to confirm that Aiden’s dad is deceased.

Tensions rise when Akkerman suspects the team is favouring Jackson
Tensions rise when Akkerman suspects the team is favouring Jackson. Image credit: Codemasters / EA

Then with Casper, you see some hints of his career from when he began in 2002 in articles but again, not much beyond it. Generally, it would have been amazing to begin Braking Point with Aiden Jackson as a child perhaps spectating at the Belgian Grand Prix with his parents, and they’re rooting for his dad’s favourite driver, that being Casper Akkerman.

Akkerman could be fighting for the win against the likes of Schumacher and Coulthard and come out on top, and then Aiden and his parents meet Casper who gets a photo with young Aiden and signs his cap. That could be the moment that Aiden Jackson decides to become a racing driver. Though licencing issues could perhaps have prevented that.

Jackson and Akkerman celebrate their team getting fourth in the constructor's after Aiden scores a podium in Casper's last race
Jackson and Akkerman celebrate their team getting fourth in the constructor’s after Aiden scores a podium in Casper’s last race. Image credit: Codemasters / EA

Now rather than what could be, let’s move on to what is. That being, the lack of realism and difficulty. In many of the scenarios, you can easily win if you’re at a skill level that is above average, even if you’re in a Haas. Plus they don’t move the storyline’s goalposts depending on the car you drive like in regular driver career mode, so F1 purists will have to part with some sembelance of reality when playing it.

Another disappointment was that they got rid of the other popular breakout character from F1 2019‘s Formula Two career mode, everyone’s best mate Lukas Weber. He does appear in the career mode in the form of articles, emails and social media posts as it’s officially canon in this universe that after 2019, Weber lost his F1 drive and became a jounalist. That’s a shame!

Lukas Weber was seen as the dominant force in many people's career modes
Lukas Weber was seen as the dominant force in many people’s career modes. Image credit: Codemasters

What’s our overall opinion?

Braking Point is safe, derivative and very Hollywood-like in fiction but whilst some people may scoff at the clichés, we personally love it. Yet, all too often there are attempts to take the racing genre and create a compelling human-interest story, and more often than not they miss the mark completely.

But when the right story comes along, it reminds us of the appeal our compelling sport can have beyond the racing community. It happened with Ron Howard’s 2013 film Rush which depicted the titanic duel between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the late 70s, and Braking Point as a story is very much in the same ballpark as that.

However with that being said, as good as Braking Point is both as a story and as an enjoyable gameplay experience, it’s at best a great foundation to build upon for any future storymode campaigns by Codemasters. After all, it is from Codemasters’ own TOCA Race Driver and GRID series that we got some great characters and interesting stories.

Braking Point is still worth playing at least once. It features incredibly likeable characters and is an interesting peak behind the curtain of the world of Formula One.

What did you like Braking Point? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

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