Codemasters has been making officially licensed Formula 1 games for many years now, and it's reached a point where petrolheads can purchase them with confidence. The team has gradually built up its simulation of the popular motorsport, tinkering with the formula each year to get players closer to feeling like they're a real part of it. F1 2021, of course, is taking things up another notch. Not only will it be the first title in the series on PlayStation 5 as well as PS4, the studio is keeping the new features coming, with the headline attraction being Braking Point.
Braking Point is a story mode, which isn't completely new territory for F1 games, but it's being taken a step further here. Taking you through three seasons of racing, you'll play as Aiden Jackson, starting off in F2 and working up into F1 as the story progresses. It sounds like it'll be focused on a set of characters (including Devon Butler) and their relationships with each other; we're hoping for some super cheesy melodrama off the track. While you can't pick your character, you can choose one of five teams for which to race — Racing Point (Aston Martin), Alfa Romeo, Alpha Tauri, Haas, or Williams. With fully rendered CG cutscenes and a professional writing team behind the narrative, this should be a highlight.
Of course, you'll be able to carry out your very own racing journey in the usual Career mode, but again, Codies is adding new features. For 2021, you will be able to play Career with two players. While this is something fans have been able to do before in previous games, this is a much more fleshed out version. Essentially, you can play Career solo, as usual, or you can have a friend play with you, either in co-op or Contracts. The latter sees your buddy racing for another team, and you'll compete on the track and battle to take on contracts.
One interesting new idea is that of Real-Season Start. When you begin your career, you can either start from the beginning of the season, or you can jump in where the real-life season currently is, adjusting the standings in-game to real-world stats. You can hop in and replace a driver, inheriting their season points, and the game will update as each weekend passes.
Aside from that, the Career modes continue to be tweaked; My Team returns, this time with even more depth to the decision-making you'll do off-track, while the R&D aspect has been overhauled. It's no longer presented as a skill tree, with Codemasters opting for a far more streamlined presentation, which looks rather smart. Overall, something the developer is emphasising this year is player choice, giving you a much wider array of options in how to play F1 2021.
That includes a new Expert race style, which basically lets you completely customise the game's difficulty. While this applies to handling, it also lets you adjust things like the Meet the Press segments, mechanical faults, AI's research and development progression relative to yours, and so on. Casual and Standard difficulties will still be there if you're not bothered about making those adjustments, but Expert will let hardcore players sink their teeth into all kinds of metrics to make a truly custom experience.
It's worth noting how the PS4 and PS5 games will differ. Fortunately, Codies has confirmed feature parity on both versions of the game, so you won't miss out on any content. However, the new-gen F1 2021 will of course have various benefits, such as enhanced visuals, a choice between performance or graphics modes, ray tracing, faster loading times, 3D audio, and of course DualSense feedback. It'll even support Activity cards and Accolades, so it does seem to be making the most of Sony's new console.
It looks as though Codemasters has another successful entry in the F1 series on its hands. The game was "significantly into development" before EA's acquisition was a possibility, so it'll be no measurement for whether the publisher will make a significant difference in the series going forward — that will remain to be seen. For now, though, this appears to be building yet again on the franchise's strengths, and fans should have a real winner to look forward to on 16th July.