SPOILER ALERT: This review is going to have some mild spoilers for the Braking Point story mode in F1 2021. I’ll try to avoid anything major as much as possible but this is a heads up.
Codemasters’ F1 2021 is host to a lot of new features not found in the previous game, but easily the most talked about is the new “Braking Point” narrative story mode. It’s the feature that Codemasters has championed the most.
So, this review is going to focus solely on “Braking Point”. We’ll have a separate review for the rest of F1 2021 coming soon.
What is Braking Point?
Braking Point follows six characters over the span of the 2020 and 2021 F1 seasons. You start off as Aiden Jackson, a young driver with impressive talent who won the F2 championship and is starting his journey in F1. His teammate is Casper “Cas” Akkerman, a veteran F1 driver who’s best days might be behind him. The main antagonist is Devon Butter who fans will remember from F1 2019.
There is also Brian Doyle who is the main liaison between the drivers and the team principal. He provides moral support to Aiden when he isn’t feeling his best but will also give him a kick in the bum if he thinks he deserves it.
Zoe Akkerman is Casper’s wife, confidant and mother to their young daughter Lily. She plays a similar role with Cas that Brian does with Aiden.
Aiden’s mother also joins the cast to give her son a pep talk and wish him luck. Though, Aiden’s mother and Casper’s daughter Lily are never seen on screen. Instead they make the occasional phone call between races.
You can learn more about the characters in our cast breakdown.
Players can choose from 5 teams to play as in the story: Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo, Hass, Williams, or Racing Point which transitions into Aston Martin in the 2021 season. I choose Racing Point/Aston Martin to see if the transition would add any drama to the story. More on that later.
A linear story told in a unique way
Braking Point is a linear story that has the player jumping in at certain points in the season. In the standard mode I played in, I definitely did not hit every race in the season. Furthermore, you won’t be doing a full race at each stop.
Sometimes you’ll come in when there are only a few laps left in a race and other times it will be a bit longer. It all depends on the objective for that particular race as it ties into the story.
For example, one objective might be to get to the pits safely after suffering a tire puncture. Another is catching up to the safety car.
Though the majority of the time the objective is about finishing ahead of certain drivers to keep your team in the running for the constructor’s championship.
Throughout the journey tension rises between the characters as they all feel the pressure from external forces in Aiden’s case who is trying to live up to the hype or internal forces in Casper’s case as he is trying to prove to himself that he ain’t too old for this sh*t.
Then there is Devon who has his own plans to make things harder on everyone.
Most of the story plays out mostly in cut scenes which were created by a visual effects house that Codemasters tapped just for this mode.
Part of the story unfolds during gameplay on track through radio transmissions between the characters.
Those transitions were somewhat jarring when suddenly going from the hyper focus required to drive to suddenly switching to a cut scene. However, it does not happen too often and any time that there is a transition from a cut scene back to the track the player is given a bit of time to get ready for it while some last second dialogue comes through on the radio.
Further elements of the story happen between races in phone calls, emails, and even on social media. By the way, there may or may not be a few familiar faces in the social media feed if you follow the #F1 hashtag on twitter.
Braking Point is a compelling story told in a unique way and it was certainly appreciated. Especially considering that a narrative of this level has never been attempted in an F1 game before.
Even though the story was somewhat predictable, it was still gripping enough to hold our interest. We were invested and we wanted to know where things would go.
F1 2021 mixes a linear story with unpredictable gameplay
Though, that leads to our first problem with Braking Point. The meat of the story all happens in cut scenes in between races. So, when we were actually racing, it just felt like something of a chore to do to get to the next cut scene.
This feeling was exacerbated by the fact objectives during the races are mostly just about finishing ahead of other drivers. Speaking of other drivers, the way the AI drives in Braking Point is…not great?
For some reason they were all a great deal slower than us and were more like hazards to try and drive around than other competitors that we were actually racing against. I’m sure that this can be tuned in the difficulty settings but out of the box the AI is not quite up to task against anyone who is mildly experienced with F1 games.
Another downside is the fact that since Braking Point is a linear story, it means once you complete your given objective in a race, anything you do beyond that effectively doesn’t matter.
Not only does that make the racing segments in between seem like filler, it occasionally undermines the story itself.
One of the main conflicts of Braking Point is ensuring your team finishes ahead of Devon Butler’s team in the constructor’s points. But, because the AI was so easy, I was regularly finishing ahead of him in every race.
Yet, in the cut scenes Devon would continue to talk trash as if he were dominating us all season. I suppose in the races that took place off camera Devon’s team would get the upper hand but since we never see that happen it kind of took us out of the story a bit.
We think this is just a pitfall that can happen when trying to weave a Linear story with a sport in which just about anything can happen.
Still, we can’t fault Codemasters for their ambition here. For a first attempt, Braking Point earns high marks. Shortcomings aside, it is certainly worth playing through before diving into everything else F1 2021 has to offer.
We can’t wait to see what comes next.
It is our hope that in the next game, Codemasters changes the storytelling of Braking Point to a branching narrative and combines it with the My Team mode so that there is more weight placed on the player’s performance.
We know that sounds like a very tall order but considering Codemasters past record, we think they can certainly pull it off.
Now that you know what we think, we want to know what you think. How do you like the idea of a dramatic narrative story in an F1 game? Let us know in the comments below or find us on Twitter at @MotorworldHype.