F1 2020 releases to the public on July 7th (Schumacher Deluxe Edition) and July 10th for the standard version - and we managed to secure some time ahead of launch day to give our thoughts on Codemasters newest racer.
  • Official videogame of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship
  • Incremental improvements to handling
  • Split screen multiplayer joins the franchise
I'm more than aware that the Codemasters Formula One franchise isn't to everyone's tastes. Some criticise the game for a simplistic approach to car handling simulation, others adore it for the detailed and lengthy career mode and gameplay aspects - as such, it is often incredibly hard to identify exactly what type of game the F1 title's are, and if they offer a suitably detailed driving experience to satisfy the general sim racer.

Let us start with the obvious. F1 2020 is the only racing game on the market to enjoy the official Formula One licence for the modern Grand Prix season (with exception of mobile games), that in itself pretty much guarantees a substantial number of people will flock to buy the software on release... leaving Codemasters in a bit of a predicament - do they go for 'simulation value', or do they appeal to the largest number of people possible?

Well actually, since taking over the franchise for the 2010 season, they've actually done a pretty fine job of finding a balance between realism, accessibility and gameplay - something yet further improved for the new addition to the franchise.

In terms of handling, fans of F1 2019 will instantly feel the similarity between the two games, however much like I said last year, incremental improvements appear to have been brought to F1 2020, giving the cars a little bit more over the edge of grip feel than last season, whilst introducing an authentic touch of understeer on corner entry that adds a nice additional flavour to the behaviour of the cars.

Let us be perfectly honest here, this is in no way a rival for the big hitters such as rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa Competizione, RaceRoom etc in the force feedback stakes, but it is a step ahead of the last game, with a noticeably less dampened wheel feel (but still too much, btw), giving a perfectly serviceable handling experience to the game. Not uber realistic, but plenty good enough to not detract from the gameplay experience.

Content wise, the new game again features the supporting F2 season and drivers, with the 2019 season coming as part of the V1 release content, with 2020 set to follow as an additional free DLC at some point later in the year.

Graphics have also been improved over the previous version, with smoother and more detailed shadows, especially in HDR mode, particularity noticeable in the new game. I've always thought the F1 series does a remarkable job with the graphics and details such as sparks and trackside debris, and again, in 2020 these continue to look very impressive, although track layout detail, especially on venues such as Spa where many sim racers have enjoyed near countless laps on laserscanned versions, still leave a lot to be desired...

One of the biggest changes for 2020 is the 'My Team' feature, where players can become the 11th team on the F1 grid, signing engines, drivers, sponsors and designing and developing their own cars to race over the career span of the game.

These is a surprisingly detailed touch from Codemasters, and goes a long way on expanding from the often awkward attempts introduced in F1 2019. I'm famously not interested in this side of racing games, but from what I've seen of it so far, this actually looks like a very nicely implemented new gameplay feature, and one that will doubtlessly be popular with a large proportion of the playerbase.

2019 was the Prost vs Senna edition, and 2020 sees legendary 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher celebrated with a selection of historic cars from the successful German drivers career. The 1991 Jordan Ford, 1994 Benetton Ford and 2000 Ferrari being just some of the highlights from a solid selection of iconic cars from Formula One history.

Much like previous games within the franchise, I'm not overly fussed with historic content, as it really doesn't feel up to scratch from a physics standpoint, and the inclusion of a 1988 McLaren racing against a 2009 Brawn just doesn't do much for me personally - however it does add yet another different gameplay experience for those who are interested, and if desired, one can happily ignore the cars and stick with F1 or F2 from the modern era - so no harm, no foul on that score.

I must admit with that all said, I do get a little bit of a cheeky grin when seeing two of my favourite cars in the game, the Nigel Mansell Williams FW14b and the Damon Hill Williams FW18 - two cars that carried my two favourite drivers to World Championships, so even if you can easily argue the driving experience isn't that realistic, it's still pretty cool to see them in the game.

In summary, the Formula One franchise of games from Codemasters is a difficult one to judge when one considers all that has gone before this new title. Unlike the majority of racing simulations we will be more familiar with here at RaceDepartment, the F1 series is a yearly franchise, and as such it is incredibly difficult for Codemasters to continually come out of the starting blocks with a significantly different experience than the previous game.

Much like FIFA syndrome, this leads to the unenviable situation of recent games all looking and feeling rather like one another, which isn't an ideal scenario when the studio are looking to recoup nearly £50 for a full price release day purchase.

However, as the years have gone on, the franchise has gradually improved with each release to get to the point where Codemasters are dangerously close to having nailed that fine line between accessibility and authenticity. F1 2020 offers a driving experience that has enough authenticity to satisfy sim enthusiasts, whilst providing gameplay features that should keep players coming back for more. A pretty good combination if you are willing to look past the serious simulation credentials of the game.

Overall, I would say that although the game has many similarities to F1 2019, and aside from My Team only enjoys minor improvements over the previous release, those changes are enough to justify a brand new title, despite the surface similarities between the two.

If you are new to the F1 franchise you are going to love this, and if the 2018 and 2019 edition didn't float your boat, then this one is unlikely to either.

Will I play it again? Absolutely, and I'll enjoy every minute of it too.

(oh and for the love of all that is good - still no mouse support. Come on, it's 2020 folks....)