Codemasters F1 2021 (which is newly acquired by EA) is set to release a little over a month from now on July 19th. Until this point we’ve learned more about the Breaking Point narrative career mode, and the Deluxe Edition content; But we haven’t seen any gameplay or learned more details beyond that.
That’s all about to change. Back in late May, we were invited to an early presentation and were given access to an early playable demo of Codemasters F1 2021 and today we have the greenlight to tell you all about it.
First, we’ll talk about what we learned from the presentation, then we’ll talk about our first impressions after going hands on with the demo. Let’s get into the kind of content we can look forward to.
Codemasters F1 2021 In-game sport content
As this is an official F1 game you can expect all 20 current F1 drivers and all 10 current F1 to be included. When it comes to race tracks things are slightly more complicated.
There will be 21 tracks total available with three of those tracks: Imola, Portimão, and Jeddah being added after launch. China will be in the game but not in the career mode. As we understand it, China will only be available as part of the “Breaking Point” narrative career mode at launch.
Formula 2 will be featured in F1 2021 as well with all 22 drivers and 11 teams represented. It should be noted that when players start their Formula 2 careers, they will be using the 8 event 2020 calendar and 2020 cars. The 2021 Formula 2 calendar events and cars will be added in later on in a free update. That update will include the 2021 rule changes.
Codemasters F1 2021 Breaking Point explained
The “Breaking Point” narrative story mode is an evolution of what Codemasters started in F1 2019 with the short story mode that followed the players transition from F2 into F1.
This time, the developers wanted to go even deeper and were very much encouraged and inspired by the success of the Netflix Drive to Survive Formula 1 documentary series.
The story will be set across three seasons which starts with the 2019 F2 season then the 2020 and 2021 F1 seasons respectively.
Players can chose to race for one of five teams: Racing Point/Aston Martin, Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo, Hass, or Williams. So throughout the story mode the player will likely be fighting from the back of the field.
To make the story mode more accessible, players can choose to experience it in “casual” difficulty mode but “standard” difficulty is still available for those who don’t mind the challenge.
Codemasters outsourced the productions of the cutscenes to a high end CG house which resulted in very realistic looking character models and staged scenes. A team of writers with experience working on Netflix shows and other major productions managed the Breaking Point story as well.
The player will take on the role of a new character and protagonist, Aiden Jackson, a talented rookie working his way up to F1 to make a name for himself.
Another new character is Casper Akkerman, a seasoned veteran who is struggling with reality that he may be at the end of his career. There are several other new characters who all play a role in fleshing out Aiden’s story as he contends with the personal and professional rigors of becoming an F1 driver.
Not all characters are new however. The fan-favorite antagonist from F1 2019 Devon Butler is set to return and will likely continue to be the driver that players love to hate.
Finally, to keep the narrative moving and to provide some extra layers, there will be story specific interactions with the press, emails, and even social media.
2 Player Career Mode Expanded
Previous F1 games featured a 2 player career mode, however in F1 2021 things have been expanded quite a bit.
Two players can race for the same team, working cooperatively to earn the constructor’s title, or they can race for opposing teams.
When two players race for different teams over a career, the contract system comes into play. So, despite starting on two different teams, two players may end up on the same team later on in their career.
Contracts, R&D, rivalries, and all other vehicle management systems that are a part of the single player career play a part in the two-player career as well. Even interactions with the press play a factor in two-player career mode.
Also, should the need arise, the career owner can swap friends.
Real Season Start
Real Season Start is one of F1 2021’s marquee new features. Essentially, what this mode does is take into account all the previous results of the real F1 2021 season and drop the player in to align with it.
The player would replace a real current driver with their avatar and inherit all the points that driver has already earned up to that point. For example, if the Red Bull team is chosen and the player chooses Max Verstappen’s car, then they would take on all 104 of Max’s current points.
Players can start their season from any F1 2021 race weekend that’s already happened and the results of all the races previous to the chosen weekend will all factor in.
The game will update after every real F1 2021 race weekend with driver standings, constructor’s championship standings, and even simulated R&D progress. So if say, McLaren develops a new aero piece that gives them a significant advantage and they leapfrog Red Bull in performance, that in theory should also be simulated in the F1 2021 game if the player uses Real Season Start.
As the new tracks release (Imola, Portimão, and Jeddah), those real world results will be dropped in as well.
Additions to My Team Mode
F1 2020 was the debut of the “My Team Mode” which put the player in charge of managing the team while also worrying about driving. Everything from marketing events, to allocating budget for R&D were all part of the player’s responsibilities.
In F1 2021, My Team Mode will be expanded to include what Codemasters calls “Department Events”.
Department Events are meant to engage the player in some of the “day-to-day” operations of their team. An example given by Lee was the scenario that a member of the R&D team may tell the player that the simulator is having problems and needs a software upgrade
That upgrade will obviously cost money. The player can chose to make that investment, or ignore it. Though, whatever choice the player makes will have ramifications later on with team operations.
R&D Skill Tree replaced with new UI
The R&D Skill Tree was a feature that Codemasters added back in 2016 and has persisted as a main element of their F1 games since. In F1 2021 the developers did away with the Skill Tree style UI for research and development.
Replacing it is a new, seemingly cleaner and simplified UI.
Practice Sessions revised
Completing practice programs during a race weekend isn’t new to F1 games but in F1 2021 Codemasters has given the player more options in how they approach the programs.
Players won’t necessarily need to complete as many practice programs as they have in the past and there are new objectives called “development boosts”.
Development boost practice programs give players the opportunity to gain a reduction on development costs and allows them to focus on lower cost R&D overall.
The other new addition is “quick practice” sessions. As the name suggests, quick practice is for those who may not want to spend as much time going through practice programs but still want the benefits that the team gets from them.
Quick practice allows players to set team goals before a practice session and turns practice into a time-management “minigame”. It then turns practice into a risk/reward exercise depending how much time the player spends on a particular practice goal or goals.
Finally, F1 2021 will have the new practice session lengths that went into effect this season.
Focus Driver Statistic
Driver stats are a huge part of F1 games, especially when it comes to My Team mode. In F1 2021 a new statistic called “focus” is being added to driver stats.
The focus statistic is “a measure of a driver’s readiness and motivation”. Essentially, it measures how much a driver’s head is in the game so to speak or if they’re mentally checked out.
A driver’s focus has a direct effect on their performance. Even if a driver has very high stats in other areas, if their focus is low they may not perform to the best of their ability.
On the other hand, if a driver’s focus is high then they are more likely to drive at their full potential as determined by their other stats.
Team activity decisions, on-track performance, and even responses to press, all impact a driver’s focus statistic.
It should be noted that driver focus statistics are not part of the constant real world stats update that will happen regularly in the game.
For example, if a driver has some kind of scandal in real life that causes their performance to drop off, that won’t be reflected in the game.
Expert race style
To make their F1 games more accessible Codemasters added the “casual” race style to F1 2020. To appeal to the more advanced players, a new “expert” race style will be added in F1 2021.
Expert race style “lifts the curtain on the really advanced features” in the game according to Mather. In expert race style, players can adjust how quickly the AI teams progress and gain resources relative to their team. So, a player can make it more difficult to keep up with the other teams in terms of spending and R&D.
Players could also do things like turn off speaking with press, or mechanical failures.
Codemasters F1 2021 Multiplayer
All the previous multiplayer features from F1 2020 are returning in F1 2021 with some additions as well. Lee noted that there was a lot of feedback from fans that suggested they loved the structure of ranked multiplayer racing but didn’t necessarily want the pressure of being in a ranked race.
To remedy that Codemasters created a “social play” multiplayer lobby section. Within it there will be beginner and advanced lobbies.
“Beginner” social play lobbies will use the “casual” race style, have auto reset for crashes, and no collisions with other drivers.
“Experienced” social play lobbies will use the “standard” race style, have collisions turned on, and longer races.
Players can browse active lobbies or create their own custom games and the server browser has been updated with additional filters to make it easier to find the types of races that players are looking for.
What would a new F1 game be without new customization features.
In F1 2021 players can add “personal stickers” to the inside of the halo device. That’s something that has become a mainstay with teams currently so adding the feature in F1 2021 seems like a natural choice.
There will also be more multiplayer decals available for more customization of multiplayer cars.
And for the first time players can change their victory shout outs over the radio. There will be a selection of radio shout outs available at launch and Lee confirmed that more will be added later post-launch.
Finally, avatar emotes will return in F1 2021 as well. It wasn’t mentioned in the presentation but we speculate that there may be a few new emotes added to the roster.
F1 2021 is the first F1 game to launch on the Xbox Series X | S consoles and the PlayStation 5 (PS5). Lee promises that F1 2021 will take full advantage of the extra power from the new consoles in terms of graphics, frame rates, and load times.
Lee mentioned that both the Xbox Series and PS5 versions of F1 2021 will have “performance” priority and “graphic” priority modes and mentioned that they will both target 120 fps (frames per second).
However, Lee did not mention any resolution specs. So, as of now we’re unsure what resolution the game will run at when it is targeting 120fps or what resolution the game will target when it is running in “graphic” priority mode.
Both Xbox Series and PS5 versions of F1 2021 will feature ray tracing, 3D spatial audio, and improved load speeds.
F1 2021 will still release on last gen PS4 and Xbox One consoles as well and there will be feature parity. So, all of the gameplay-related features will be found in all versions of the game.
There are two features that are exclusive to the PS5. The first is support of the PS5 controller’s adaptive triggers. For those who don’t know, Sony implemented special triggers on the PS5 controllers that can change their tension and resistance on the fly depending on what is happening in the game should the game developer choose to utilize the feature.
Lee confirmed that F1 2021 will support the feature which will allow the player to “feel” the different level of grip coming from the tires as they drive.
The other PS5 exclusive feature is support for PlayStation’s activities and accolades.
Also, players who start with the PS4 or Xbox One versions of F1 2021 will be able to upgrade to the PS5 and Xbox Series versions of the game for free when they upgrade their consoles.
Codemasters F1 2021 Pre-order content
EA and Codemasters really want you to pick up F1 2021 so of course there are a few incentives on the table for anyone who pre-orders the game.
Pre-ordering the standard edition of F1 2021 (physical or digital) will net you the “Breaking Point customization pack” which is a crop of Breaking Point inspired goodies including:
3 avatars (including a Devon Butler avatar)
3 Car liveries
3 Race suits
3 Pairs of gloves
3 Victory radio variants
Players that pre-order the Deluxe Edition (digital only) will get all of the Breaking Point bonus content, 3 days early access to the game and the My Team Icons pack which includes:
7 Iconic drivers for “My Team” mode (Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Button, Rosberg, Coultard, and Massa)
1 Car livery
1 Race suit
1 Pair of gloves
1 Victory radio variant
The Deluxe Edition also comes with 18,000 PitCoins.
If you’re a returning player then you will also get a 10% discount on the price of the game.
Codemasters F1 2021 Gameplay Impressions
Here is everything we thought from our time with the limited playable Codemasters F1 2021 demo on PC.