Home Tech Review of F1 2021 – A Classic with a Modern Twist

Review of F1 2021 – A Classic with a Modern Twist

Review of F1 2021 – A Classic with a Modern Twist

What hasn’t changed, actually, is the headline news. The most noticeable aspect of this year’s F1 game is the EA Sports logo that appears when you start it up, after Codemasters sold out to the mega-corporation earlier this year. The game has developed over the years to become, in my opinion, one of the most comprehensive racing game packages available.

It is obviously too recent to have any significant effect on Formula One 2021 (not that Codemasters needed assistance with the more sinister schemes people tend to associate with new bosses, Electronic Arts – the podium pass and other pre-order bonuses from previous years are here, accurate, and thankfully completely ignorable). Indeed, three tracks—Imola, Portimao, and the brand-new street circuit in Jeddah—will be available as free post-launch DLC for the changing target of an F1 circus that is still navigating the epidemic. Thus, this is all quite known material.

Then you have to consider that this is a transitional year for the series as it launches on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and X, as well as for the sport itself as it implements the budget cap and prepares itself for the radical new vehicles that will arrive in 2022. In light of all of that, it’s amazing that Codemasters released the game while the season was still in balance; even more amazing, they did it while introducing one of the most entertaining new features in recent memory.

When it comes to new features in F1 2021, the Braking Point narrative mode sets the standard. Despite some initial reservations and minor setbacks, it ends up working very effectively. This isn’t the first narrative mode attempt from the franchise (or Codemasters, for those who recall Race Driver Grid), but it’s a lot more substantial affair given that some of the main characters, like the evil Devon Butler, were introduced in F1 2019. Its many plot points, which are presented in elegant computer-generated-image sequences and include appearances by well-known actors and actresses, span two seasons and almost make up for the cost of admission on their own.

Why does it function so well? To get too specific would be to give away too much, and the fact that there is a story that I believe is worth hearing firsthand should probably tell you enough. However, to put it broadly, what begins as a corny story about a bright young man succeeds in shattering stereotypes, and it’s aided by being based on the politics and rumors of the paddocks. The outcome is more plausible than the progressively exaggerated Drive to Survive Netflix series, and I’m hopeful the subtly hinted at follow-up is made.

Naturally, there are restrictions, and your agency is severely restricted. After selecting the team you want to start young Aiden Jackson with, all that’s left to do is meet the goals – beat a certain person by a given lap, or place in the top five to assist the team earn a higher position in the constructor’s championship – to trigger the next cutscene. Even though you’re just a passenger on this particular ride, the scenarios give you a tour of the various features of the F1 series. Some of the scenarios include having to navigate through the skies to determine which tires to use, dealing with your engineer’s radio chatter as they step in to handle one of the many complex systems on a modern F1 car, or simply enjoying the thrill of racing alongside the sport’s superstars in an experience that’s getting harder and harder to distinguish from the real-life broadcast.

If you’re looking for agency, the career’s My Team mode, which made its debut last season and has now returned with some much-needed adjustments, will more than satisfy your needs. I was able to lead my own Team Lotus through another full season with only a few minor adjustments. These included the ability to earn development points without having to complete all practice programs and a bit more busywork when managing the team’s calendar. I also managed to weave my own compelling narrative while juggling sponsors, spreadsheets, dense development trees, and the more serious task of driving a very fast racing car.

Every now and again, there are issues. Another new feature allows you to pick up the championship for this year at any time. I thought this was fantastic since I wanted to challenge Mercedes and try to win Sir Lewis his eighth title, but alas, that was not going to happen. Rather of playing as your hero, you replace any given driver with your own avatar, a la Quantum Leap. Yeah, what a boy.

While faithful to the real-life FIA’s wonkiness, there are some awkward bugs here and there, some legacy features that may have been removed years ago (please, can we do away with the dialogue choices at the end of each race that remind me of Telltale), and an uneven approach to track limits elsewhere make me want to avoid any more serious minded online multiplayer. This year, the vintage automobiles from prior years are completely missing, and virtual reality isn’t supported either—a regrettable omission for a genre that works so well with the technology.

But just like in other years, I’m not too concerned about it as I’m in the middle of another full career campaign and F1 2021 isn’t where I go to spend endless hours strapped into a sim seat. I’ve always loved playing this console racing on the couch with a controller; it’s the kind of ostentatious console racer that’s becoming less common.

It’s also a showy feature on the latest systems; I’ve been playing mostly on the PlayStation 5, often switching between picture and ray-traced mode to appreciate the finer details and the ray-traced automobiles made by Codemasters. The DualSense works well as well. The left trigger alerts you when the front tires are about to lock, while the right trigger clearly indicates when you’re going to lose traction when forcing your way out of a tight spot.

Having a racing game with so many features on the newest technology is a treat. Longtime viewers will recognize several flaws, and it’s even debatable whether series regulars will find enough fresh content to make the investment worthwhile. Therefore, although this upgrade is minor, it is mostly effective. Let’s enjoy another consistently entertaining, stunningly genuine official Formula One game for the time being, and we’ll see how precisely EA’s influence manifests itself in the future.


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