It’s been a while since I last played a game in the F1 series from Codemasters, in-fact the last one that I personally reviewed was F1 2015, so it’s been a good few years.  However, this has probably worked in my benefit, because especially with yearly sports games, if you play each new release year on year, it can perhaps be too easy to miss some of the more subtle improvements or lack of.  So having not played this series in quite some time, I can certainly notice the difference in improvements since my last outing, not only with the gameplay and visuals, but also the various modes, and F1 2020 IS far more in-depth then I remember this series ever being.

I would consider myself a very casual F1 fan at best, although I used to love watching the sport on regular basis many years ago.  But despite this, I’ve always had a keen eye on F1 racing games, both that puts you in the driving seat and one from a management sim perspective.  There’s something very satisfying about winning a race after a challenging encounter, pipping your rival on the very last corner to claim the top place on the podium.  Equally, I would get just as much satisfaction managing an F1 team, acquiring the best drivers, investing in the best R&D and balancing the financial books, akin to the likes of F1 Manager or even the legendary Grand Prix Manager from the mid 90’s.

So what quite possibly makes me happy most of all in F1 2020, is that Codemasters have brought aspects of being both a racer and a manager in this latest instalment.  Granted, the simulation of being a manager, isn’t to the level to that of a dedicated F1 management sim, but F1 2020 could be a glimpse of what to expect from the series as we move into a new generation.

Whether you play the My Career or My Team, you can start from an upstart in Formula 2, which gives you the option of playing a variety of short seasons or even a full season, earning your stripes and reputation, before joining the big leagues of Formula 1.  Regardless of which path you take in either career, you can have a shorter ten race season or have a full blown season, both of which now featuring the new circuit additions of Hanoi Street Circuit of Vietnam and Circuit Zandvoort of Holland.  Another aspect that more casual fans such as myself will appreciate, is that this is quite possibly the most accessible F1 game to date in a variety of ways.

There are tons of difficulty options that you can tweak, to the extent that F1 2020 can feel more in-line to an arcade type racer, with elements of being a simulation racer.  However, this might not please some purists, who want as an authentic challenge as possible, fear not, because despite being incredibly welcoming to casual fans, hardcore fans have not been forgotten about.  You can fine tune F1 2020 to your tailored needs and not just when it comes to tweaking car performance.  From the difficulty of the car handling, opponent A.I, assists and much more.  You can either make this the most welcoming F1 arcade racer or the most unforgiving F1 sim racer, it’s totally up to you.

The two main modes that I’ve briefly touched upon is My Team and My Career.  For My Team, this is your standard career mode.  You pick your team, choose whether you want to start your career in F2 or jump straight into F1, and away you go, and then you work your way up the ladder.  For me personally, as much as I have a soft spot for the Ferrari, I’ve always liked choosing a lesser team with the aim of climbing the ranks and earning a contract offer from the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes AMG.  It’s always been rewarding when you get that well earned call-up, after fighting against the more superior cars of the F1 world.

Then you have My Team, which I can see most of my time being played in F1 2020.  Here you essentially become the 11th team and not from one of the already established teams, but you create your very own team from scratch.  You choose your team name, colours, liveries, sponsors and hire a team-mate driver.  Once done, you also have to balance the financial books, so when you start out, you can’t just hire the best driver and purchase the best engine.  When this career starts, you most invest in Research & Development, as you aim to build your bottom of the grid car, to one that can compete with the big boys.

Choosing the right sponsorship is also vitally important, because if you choose the sponsor with the biggest payout, but should you fail to meet their performance requirements, you’re not going to get much of a return on your financial investment, which means you’ll have fewer funds to build your team.  Don’t get me wrong, My Team doesn’t have the kind of management depth to that of F1 Manager, but this mode offers a satisfying balance of being a race driver and a team manager, then any F1 game that I have ever remember playing on console.

On the track, F1 2020 feels sublime, like I’ve already said, it’s been a good few years since I’ve played an F1 game from Codemasters, so as a result, I can more than notice the gameplay improvements.  I still get annoyed when an A.I driver bumps into me and I get penalised for it, but in terms overall responsiveness, slickness and the satisfaction of taking 1st place on the podium, there’s not many racers that makes me feel quite as satisfied as F1 2020.  Regardless of what difficulty settings you have set for yourself, this is one of the most rewarding racing games that I’ve played in recent years.

One of the great aspects of having so many options to tweak, is that you can ease yourself into a higher difficulty and as you become more comfortable with how the game plays, you can up the difficulty as you go, which makes races all that more intense and as a result, all that more rewarding when you pick up a placed finish.  There are not many games that has me feeling content with a 3rd or 4th place finish, or even a 6th place, but when you up that difficulty, every qualifier and race becomes a genuine challenge, it feels great picking up even a single point on the board as you climb the Driver and Constructors Standings.

Visually, F1 2020 is a wonderful game on the eye, which to be honest, I’d expect nothing less from Codemasters.  Playing on a PS4 Pro, an F1 game has never looked so good playing on a console, other then I assume playing on an Xbox One X or even on a PC.  Each car is created to great detail, everything from the exterior to the interior and the roar of the engine, it’s all as authentic as any F1 fan could ever want and that of course includes the incredible details to each and every officially licensed race circuit.  From what I’ve noticed, I haven’t encountered any form of real slowdown, even during the eventful start of each race, with twenty cars clambering for the best start possible.  However, if I was to have one criticism, at least in terms of visuals, it would be the lack of emotion or facial expression on certain NPC characters, especially those of the press when they’re conducting interviews, for which gives you multiple choice answers.

In terms of other modes, you have your online races to test your skills against other players, though you won’t have the same amount of difficulty options available to you when competing against your fellow human, because understandably, everything has to be on a level playing field as possible.  F1 2020 also features some good old local, split-screen multiplayer action, something that takes me back the 90’s.  Speaking of the 90’s, you can also race in classic cars which includes everything from the iconic Marlboro sponsored McLaren, which was driven by the likes of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, as well as my personal favourite of Nigel Mansell’s Williams car. If you pick-up the Deluxe Edition, you’ll even get access to Michael Schumacher’s Jordan (1991), Benetton (1991-1995) and Ferrari (1996+) F1 cars.

All in all, I’ve been having a blast with F1 2020 and I genuinely believe that my break from the series has done me good.  The game looks gorgeous, it plays super slick and it has an impressive level of depth that I’ve not seen before from the Codemasters series.  Previously, as much as I’ve enjoyed this series, I often found it to be a little too serious and I know I might get hate from purists for saying that, but other than being a fantastic game, I believe one of F1 2020’s best assets is just how welcoming it is for all skill-levels and styles.  If you want a hardcore F1 simulation, especially with a top-end gaming steering wheel, no problem, if you want something closer to an arcade nature, worry not or if you want something it-between, then Codemasters has catered for that too.  In a nutshell, F1 2020 is a series at its peak and claims pole position as we move into a new console generation.