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Game review: F1 2020 (PC)

Codemasters' F1 2020 is a rather unique entry in the series. This year the motor racing game is the only way to experience the 2020 Formula One Championship as it was originally intended.

Yet again, we find ourselves experiencing another motorsports extravaganza as a video game rather than the real-life event, which has been cancelled or postponed as a result of COVID-19.

As fans queued up outside Albert Park on Friday March 13th 2020, little did they know that the imminent cancellation of the Melbourne Grand Prix would be just the first in a list of motorsports events to suffer postponement as the harsh reality of a global pandemic set in.

I can only imagine the disappointment that the waiting fans experienced after being told to go home. Whilst the real F1 season did, belatedly, start with the Austrian GP on July 5th, the race calendar is quite different to the original championship schedule.

Like the Isle of Man TT: Ride to the Edge 2 and MotoGP 20 games did for their motorsport championship contests, F1 2020 exists as a digital stand-in for the original Formula One World Championship 2020 race season.

F1 2020 includes all the championship races and circuits in the original schedule. Whilst there's no additional races in Austria or the UK, the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone are still there. The additional circuit for the Tuscan GP is not, however, in the game.

As well as the F1 championship, the game also includes the 2019 F2 season. The career mode allows drivers to start with F2, or shortened version of F2 before being promoted to Formula One.

Players can take part in a full career mode, a full or part championship, as well as online racing. This year, though, taking a leaf out of EA's sports titles, players can also set up their own team.

My Team allows players to create their own F1 team, including naming, car livery and logo. It's an interesting alternative way to play the game.

Of course, the game is really about the actual racing.

As with previous entries, I like the way the game encourages players to partake in the practice sessions. By running successful tests during these sessions you gain points which can be used for research and development. The practice session also allows players to get familiarity with the circuits, a better qualifying position and, hopefully, a podium position in the actual race.

The campaign's press interview mechanic feels a bit awkward and a throwback to the narrative campaigns Codemasters used to put in their racing games. In practical terms, though, it does serve to give a boost to tech divisions within your team.

The on-track action caters for everyone from the casual arcade fan to the dedicated race simmer. There are loads of assists, including the usual rewind, racing line, assisted braking, auto gears and AI difficulty.

Unless you are having a hopeless time of it, I'd recommend switching off the braking assists straight away. Another tip would be to using manual gears changes, advise I'd give for any racing game. Manuals gear shifts help to maintain a sensible cornering speed and allows for faster acceleration if you get it right.

I played the game primarily using a gamepad. I did hook up the Thrustmaster T300 RS racing wheel with the T3PA pedals for a more authentic racing experience. The Thrustmaster kit worked a treat with the game but is by no means essential.

Cars from the 2020 F1 season and the 2019 F2 season are joined by a selection of classic Formula One cars. The classic liveries are, of course, missing there awkward and outdated tobacco adverts, making for a couple of very barren-looking, but iconically coloured, McLaren cars sans the Marlboro logo.    

I'm not kidding when I say that F1 2020 looks absolutely spectacular. A while back Codemasters nailed the franchises graphical fidelity, but it seems that every year they squeeze little bit more realism out of the visuals.

The cars look amazing, with every detail of these incredible machines reproduced for the game. Similarly, the circuits, including some that we are unlikely to actually see in real life this year, look incredible, even if they are no more than a blur as you race around them. The replays look pretty-much photoreal.

Once again, Codemasters have cemented themselves as the experts in bringing four-wheeled motorsports to life in video games. F1 2020is not only feature-packed, it looks the part as well. With the real Formula One 2020 season a bit fractured, the game gives us a chance to experience the championship as it could have been.

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