F1 2019 on PlayStation 4
The first few moments of F1 2019 suggest that we’re in for a drastically different experience this year. Before you even get your hands on a Formula 1 steering wheel, you’re thrown into the world of F2, a second division of sorts that acts as a feeder system for the premier racing world.
There’s a story, voice acting, and scripted racing moments, and it’s all quite the departure from the hyper-serious and realistic F1 world that Codemasters’ games usually present.
You’re quickly introduced to two new rivals, Weber and Devon, one of whom is on your team and the other being your team’s biggest rivals for the title. There are cutscenes between the three racers that see the three drivers toss around cheesy trash talk, and while it can be a little awkward, it’s a fun addition to what can often be a mundane world of voiceless opponents and intricate tech changes.
The addition of the F2 championship to F1 2019, both the cars that can be driven and the story elements to the Career Mode, is one of the biggest new features this year, but it’s disappointing that it’s pretty much abandoned past the intro.
Now, adding a story to racing games has a history of failure and cringe, but from the moment you and your fictional rivals are thrust into F1, the elements introduced at the start disappear.
That’s not to say that the addition isn’t a step forward for the series. Even just having other drivers to battle against that have some resemblance of a personality is nice. Watching how they do from race to race and over the course of the season is interesting if you’re not invested in the real world racers.
It would have been great for the style of the intro to continue throughout at least the first season. I understand that it would be difficult to incorporate cutscenes and story into a mode that progress by however well you perform, but it would be very welcome as a way to break up race weekends.
Elsewhere though, particularly in the Career Mode, F1 2019 remains as top quality as ever. Codemasters has ‘mastered’ the driving mechanics across all their games and it feels great again here.
The cars grip to the track incredibly well, but you can push them too hard. Clip a curb at the wrong angle and you’ll spin out, and being overzealous into a corner can end in disaster. The feedback you get from a controller when accelerating or bouncing over a curb makes every corner feel satisfying too.
The technical changes you can make, as well as the impact of tyre degradation and wing damage, can truly be felt too. After clipping my front wing on the really tight section in the middle of Azerbaijan’s circuit, the understeer was immediately noticeable.
In the wet, cars get slower and feel slightly floaty when turning into tight bends. You need to learn how to drive under each circumstance, ensuring that your full attention is required and that the racing doesn’t feel repetitive. Not only do these mechanics make the driving satisfying, but it makes you want to perfect every turn.
How much all the technical aspects of F1 2019 matter is very much down to what you want out of the game and the difficulty settings you choose. All the assists and the 100 point difficult setting return, allowing you to tweak the gameplay so that you’re challenged just to the right degree.
It takes a while to get right, but you can have it so that you’re winning every race comfortably, set it so that you’re realistically finishing in the bottom half of the pack as Toro Rosso, or anything in between.
Myself, I like to be challenged just enough that I have to work for wins. It’s a balance between being able to get on the front row and not being able to win every race by tens of seconds over just five laps.
If you’re interested in managing race strategies, wing angles, or fuel levels, it might be better to increase the difficulty to the point at which those choices can have a noticeable impact.
If you’re playing with all the assists on and the difficulty set to easy, none of those things matter. You’ll be able to relax as you drive around the beautiful tracks, winning the championship without any worry.
For players who are really invested in the Formula 1 world, there’s all the depth you could possibly want. It’s a balancing act, but it does mean that you can get whatever experience you want out of F1 2019.
What doesn’t feel so precise is the penalties system. For the most part, the AI driver opponents are intelligent and play by the rules, but they can be aggressive going into corners, particularly at the start of races.
I lost count of the number of times I had to restart a race because I’d been clipped from behind going into the first turn, seeing my car spin out. Of course, the view you get of the space around you is limited in certain camera settings, so you can’t see if one tiny movement will get in another racer’s way, particularly at high speeds.
However, there were certainly some times in which I was warned for a collision that was no fault of my own. One time, after being spun out when going down the pit straight in Canada, I was clipped from behind and sent flying over the grass by turn one.
As I bumped backward over the turf and rejoined the track under no control, a little message appeared to say that I’d been given a two-second time penalty for corner cutting. So, not only had I been damaged and lost places due to an opponent’s recklessness, but I was further punished for the path my out of control car took.
This is even more noticeable online where contact is more frequent. I finished one race with just one of the 18 racers not having at least one penalty to their name.
I understand that penalties are needed to avoid havoc online, but the leniency could be increased to allow for the fact that it’s impossible to be as precise in F1 2019 as you need to be in the real-world sport.
Visually, F1 2019 is a step forward too. There are still some inconsistencies with certain tracks seemingly being given more love than others, such as the tighter tracks of Monaco and Azerbaijan feeling more alive than even Formula 1 classics like Spa, but lighting has been improved across the board.
Sometimes, during the sweeping shots of the locations and start line before a race begins, it’s easy to get them mixed up with real-world clips. The heat haze, swirling dust in Bahrain, and rain-soaked Silverstone (because of course the British GP was the only one that had rain in my whole first season) all look excellent.
More content has been added to F1 2019’s online slate too. On top of just being able to jump into races to mess around on the track, there are weekly challenges to test yourself in and online leagues if you want to battle against the best sim racers over a long period of time.
It can be carnage online, just as any sim racer often is, which can be a strange mix of fun and frustrating, but you can find servers and groups of players that want to take it seriously and engage in exciting and fair races. Also, with the customization options available, you can have fun with your appearance on track as you level up.
Even though it’s just 10 months since F1 2018’s launch, F1 2019 feels like a step forward. It adds improved visuals, a beefed up online multiplayer component, and an enjoyable light story to a great base that already boasted phenomenal racing mechanics. It’s not perfect or a mind-blowing departure from the decade of games before it but it shows that Codemasters’ series is still improving each and every year.
Score: 4/5 – Great
For more information on how we review games, check out Twinfinite’s review policy here.