STAFF REVIEW of F1 2020 (Xbox One)

Friday, August 14, 2020.
by Brent Roberts

F1 2020 Box art Lauda, Senna, Schumacher. What you just read are three names that have changed F1 racing for eternity. Just as teams such as McLaren and Ferrari have impacted the automotive world, the drivers of these very cars are the quintessential key to understanding the potential power that is quite literally in your very hands behind the wheel. Codemasters for years has been trying to develop a quality F1 racing game, and this year they put Schumacher's name to the game. For those who need to be brought up to speed, Michael Schumacher is arguably the greatest F1 driver ever to have existed. He started in 306 races during his career, winning 91 of them and taking 68 pole positions. Sadly, on December 29, 2013 Michael Schumacher suffered a skiing accident and spent 6 months in a medically induced coma, and while alive, his status as of today remains shrouded. If Codemasters is going to put this legend's name on their game, personally speaking, they better do it right.

They surpassed all expectations.

While Codemasters' F1 games have been decent in the past, you kept feeling like there were things missing and things weren't polished enough, but in F1 2020 you get the sensation that everything you ever wanted in and F1 game has finally come to fruition and in a way that is purely spectacular. Normally you can expect racing games to rehash familiar resources which can produce a game that almost feels like a cash grab that we see in other games every year (Madden I'm looking at you), but not this time.

Loading up F1 2020 you'll see that Codemasters included a mode called "My Team" which is hands down the biggest success of the game. Yes, the basic driver's career is still included where you can go through as you always have, or you can jump straight into racing and time trials, etc. But My Team is the mode that takes this game into stratospheric heights. Normally, F1 games make you the driver of a team and you go about your career, however this time you are not only the driver but owner of the team as well, which means you will have to contend with all the logistics of being a team owner. You'll have to manage your budget, performance, schedule, drivers (yes, you'll have to sign a teammate), R&D, sponsors, strategy and so much more.

This literally added a depth to the game that felt like it had been missing for the longest of times. So, when you begin, you will have to first sign your sponsor. Here you will have to determine your initial cash allotment which needs to be divided up between hiring your driver and building your power for the car. Now, your sponsors will give you an upfront amount of money, however, they provide bonus payouts should you complete the secondary goals of the sponsor. These bonuses should be a priority for you considering that every week you have your weekly expenses for your team (divisions of your race team, drivers, etc.). As you progress and win races and level your team and drivers up, you will be able to select more sponsors with more secondary goals and more payouts.

One of the sponsors I selected had a secondary goal of do 75 laps combined from the start of the first practice day to the end of race day. I thought that things were going to be going well for me but then when the end of the race came and I saw that out of 75 laps required, I only did 74 and I was gutted because I missed out on over $130K because I needed 1 more lap during a training or qualifying session (races are set amount of laps). The negative here is that there's no real way to tell how much progress you've made throughout, so if you have a secondary goal like that then you have to pay attention if you want that bonus. Some secondary objectives can be simple such as lead the race for four laps and you get an extra $160K. These secondary goals may seem trivial, but are essential for your development of your team. How do you develop your team? Well...

After you've begun your team, you'll be tasked with generating a schedule. These activities are spread throughout the upcoming week and can range from 1 - 4 days on the calendar. You obviously can't do them all, and if there are any events that take a day or two out of the week then you'll have to make some tough choices. After you've planned out your week, you'll need to take a look at your facilities. This is where your team is grows and is divided into 6 departments (Aerodynamics, Powertrain, Durability, Chassis, Personnel and Marketing). Each facility generates weekly resource points that you can use to develop new upgrades for your vehicle. These upgrades take time and are not guaranteed to be successful, so if it fails you can install a lesser version at a higher success rate. The rate of success is determined by your upgrade and morale of the individual facility.

To boost morale you can invest into upgrading these facilities which increases the weekly running cost (remember you have a budget to think about) which also increases the number of resource points you can generate. If you can't keep your facility open, you may have to shut it down to make sure you don't bankrupt your own team. When you invest you can spend millions, so if you're thinking of emptying the bank early on then you're going to be hurting when your cash reserves are almost nonexistent. When you upgrade you can purchase things like decrease failure rate by 10%, decrease development time, work on multiple parts at once, etc. You can also boost morale by saying complimentary things about the different departments during interview sessions. When the mic gets thrown in your face and they ask you about how the car handled, if you give a positive answer then your aerodynamic team will take notice and they will get a boost of morale which will slightly decrease the development time of an upgrade and slightly decrease the failure rate.

After you've managed your facilities then it's time to get into the R&D of the game, and this is where you can branch out in Powertrain, Aerodynamics, Chassis and Durability. Each branch gives you the opportunity to improve various functions and features of your car, but as I stated earlier, these upgrades are not guaranteed to succeed and they do take time. Some of the upgrades you can't even get until you get through your first season, so if you want to really develop your team and make your mark on F1 glory, then you'll be racing for many seasons. To purchase these upgrades, you'll need resource points, so here is where your department management is critical. You can also earn resource points for your actions during the race weekend.

Your vehicle tab will keep track of your components of your car, the status and wear of each part. Here you can see the overall wear and tear on and how much performance you can get out of it before it needs to be replaced. The Corporate tab will allow you to manage your drivers, contracts, sponsorships and more. Starting out, my driver was beyond poor and finished in 21st place as his highest placing, which earned my team nothing, but if I want to sink 19.5 million I can buy Lewis Hamilton who is currently rated the best driver in the world. This plays a massive role because throughout the season if you're saving your money, when contract negotiation times come around you can either replace your driver teammate or negotiate the current driver you have. The reason this "Driver Market" is important is because it's based off performances. Meaning if you notice that a top tier driver is going through a slump you will watch their price drop significantly, which means you can get a deal on amazing talent (better than what you can start with obviously).

After you have managed all of this, it's time to race. You have 3 practice sessions, qualifying and the race itself. Now you can go straight to the race and bypass everything, but here is everything you miss out on. For starters, you will have various team objectives during the training session that you can complete for resource points, as well there are numerous challenges such as tire wear, fuel economy, pace setting, track acclimation and more. The better you do in these challenges the more resource points you get to spend and after these events you can be greeted by a news reporter who will ask you various questions which will give you an opportunity to boost morale in your various departments.

You can also tune the various aspects of your car such as your Aerodynamics, transmission, suspension, suspension geometry, brakes, and tires. The level and degree that you can adjust these dynamically impacts your car and your experience. The beautiful thing about this is you can read a description of what each modification will pertain to and you can test it out on the track during these practice sessions to see what best fits your method for driving and car development for the track itself. When you actually get to the race itself you can also customize your race strategy to either pit earlier and be on the track for longer periods of time or stay out longer and risk wear on the tires.

Other modes such as the Career mode offer the identical experience to everything you just read about the My Team except you're not the owner, you're simply the driver and can select if you want to start in F2 or jump straight into F1. You are also able to customize your race season all the way up to a massive 24 race season. Everything I've written so far is easily enough to make a phenomenal racing title but Codemasters isn't done yet. They have improved on the handling tremendously, so the car feels far more responsive, and you can really feel a difference when you start switching tire compound and go from medium to hard tires. This difference also applies to wear and tear on the tires themselves and can find you losing tremendous amounts of time as you start to lose your grip. This plays a massive role when you take into account the dynamic weather, and God help you if you're caught on the track with racing slicks and a storm opens up. I'm speaking from experience because one time I ignored my pit telling me to come in and switch tires and a storm opened up and the rain came down in sheets and I was stuck going like 20mph around every corner just trying to limp back to the pit lane.

Another neat feature that surprised me is that this F1 game can utilize Kinect. Yes, the dead peripheral of massive wasted potential can actually be used to deliver commands to your pit crew. You can order up new tires, new strategy, etc, all with your voice, or a headset if you're like the millions who don't use Kinect. This is one of the downfalls of the game because you have to hit the B button to open up the in game menu where you can make all these changes, but you can't do it when the game is paused so you actually have to slow down, take your eyes off the road and examine your options and which can be very costly.

F1 2020 also ticks the boxes when it comes to graphics and sound. The pit crews sound authentic and the engine noises (especially when you upgrade them) sound like angels blasting their trumpets with hundreds of horsepower under your right foot. Also, the menu music is sensational and really does a fantastic job at not being annoying, but rather melodic and soothing. This audio contrast is pure blis,s and when combined with the amazing graphical work, helps create such an immersive and dynamic racing experience that you'll never forget.

Oh, and did I mention that this isn't a full retail price game? This was truly inspirational to see the quality and depth of work done on this title. Many have tried to make a good F1 game, but Codemasters not only did so incredibly, they just became the new standard for F1. F1 2020 has exceeded any and all of my expectations and Codemasters has not only set the bar the gaming world was hoping for, but has generated a new standard of improvement and innovation that the rest of the racing game industry should take note of if they don't want to get lapped.

Codemasters put Michael Schumacher's name to this game and delivered a racing experience worthy of the greatest F1 driver in the sport's history. An incredibly deep and extensive game, F1 2020 has very negatives which is why Codemasters has released what could arguably be called "The Defining F1 Experience" ever to be found on Xbox One. If you are a fan of racing games, pick this up and you can thank me later. Are you in the market for an F1 racing experience that is quite literally second to none? I give you F1 2020 by Codemasters which I'm calling "A Thank You to Michael Schumacher".

Overall: 9.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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