The F1 racing series from Codemasters has long-earned a reputation of being the best representation of a sport in video games. With F1 2021 marking the debut of the franchise on the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X|S systems, this year is no different.
The game brings back a number of popular modes while introducing a number of new elements and a brand new story mode to take the experience to the next level both on and off the circuit. It’s driver vs. driver; team vs. team. And there’s something to be said about how well F1 2021 pulls everything together.
Codemasters does a perfect job of not only bringing players of all fandoms and skill levels into the game but making it the deepest and most feature-filled racing game ever released
F1 2021 Review
On the track, F1 2021 remains the best racing experience you’ll have. Using a controller or wheel will give you a nice control of your car as Codemasters really has raced with a controller down to a well-executed science.
Like last year’s game, F1 2021 features a quick-to-select accessible handling option that allows players to jump between casual and standard settings. Casual settings give you easier-to-understand menus, all of the off-track surfaces become more forgiving when driving on, and steering assists. It continues to make the franchise much more open to newcomers which will only bring in more players. Of course, as you improve, turning off your various assists will make the racing much more fun as a whole.
Braking response feels finely tuned and driving through corners are tough yet fair. Obviously, this is more noticeable if you play with fewer assists. As you improve, you’ll notice the fewer the assists, the better the racing feels. Even racing in the elements is more fun with assists lessened.
Tire wear seems better, but it’s still not where many fans will hope it to be. For me, personally, though it’s in a much better place than it has been the past few years, especially on longer races. I get that it’s purely subjective, however.
If you play the game on PS5, haptic feedback on the DualSense makes everything more reactive to everything you do. Even braking feels more intuitive on the DualSense, making it the best controller to race with.
The major new mode addition to F1 2021 is a story mode that puts you in the shoes of Aiden Jackson, a young star in the world of Formula 1. Players start out picking one of five teams and take part in the final race of the Formula 2 season.
Without spoiling things for you, Braking Point features some quality acting by all of the characters involved. The faces don’t always look like they match how the character is talking, but the inflection in the voice is as though it’s live people speaking.
As with any sports game story mode, some of the lines are cheesy and some of the experience is a bit over-the-top. You have the stereotypical young driver in Jackson, the ego-filled antagonist in Devon Butler, and the disgruntled teammate in Casper Akkerman.
Everything in Braking Point is handled either on the circuit or in the hub. The hub includes your email, social media, and a news feed.
Outside of the cutscenes within the mode, the conversations happen via phone calls and emails in order to fill in the blanks and keep the story going. It’s a bit too linear for my liking, but it’s still a good alternative for those who love story modes. The best thing, though, is that Braking Point doesn’t take away anything from other areas of the game. If it’s not your cup of tea, there are a number of other modes to enjoy throughout F1 2021.
Career Mode returns largely the same as last year with a couple of big new additions: A change to Research & Development (R&D) and a two-player option.
The new R&D process removes the “skill tree” of the past for a new way to unlock improvements for your team. This new process forces players to really think about the decisions they make when spending money. Not every decision made will be successful, and the route to profits and victories is going to take more learning the ins and outs of your vehicle.
The two-player option allows you and a friend — either locally or online — to start a career either as teammates or rivals on separate teams. In two-player, you have a separate set of assists, research and development, facilities, and more. It’s a brand new level on entertainment that adds replay value to a game already full of it.
My Team also returns, allowing you to create your own F1 team. Like the single driver version of Career, My Team remains largely the same with the addition of the new R&D process and a development event feature. Development events are day-to-day tasks that are required to keep your team running smoothly, and help you become F1 royalty along with teams like Mercedes AMG Petronas and Red Bull Racing.
Other modes include Grand Prix, Time Trial, Online, and the Esports section for those who want to take their racing to a more competitive level.
It’s cliche to say, but F1 2021 really does look like a photorealistic copy of what you see on television each week. The circuits continue to look like their counterparts and the vehicles look better than the real cars. On the next-gen consoles in 4K, it looks even better.
My small gripes with the game’s visuals are in two areas. The first is the vehicle’s tires. No matter the type you use, the game just doesn’t seem to have them look any different.
The other issue I have — if you even want to call it that — is with the interviewer from your career mode. You know it’s the same person, but she looks exactly the same in the career while looking more refined and human-like in Braking Point. It’s an extremely nitpicky thing, but something that caught my eye that I just can’t let go.
F1 2021 Review Verdict
Once again, Codemasters has come across the finish line in first place with F1 2021. From the additions of Braking Point and the two-player career mode to the changes off the track with R&D, there is so much here that it could be overwhelming.
Luckily, there’s enough guidance and assists throughout to make it as accessible of an F1 game as Codemasters has produced. The racing feels tight whether using a controller or wheel, and there’s a rewarding feeling when you find success in whatever mode you enjoy.
Whether you are a fan of Formula One or not, F1 2021 is a game that you’ll want to play just for the experience of playing — what I believe to be — the perfect racing game.
F1 2021 once again shows that the best games can still find ways to improve to stay at the top of racing genre.