Formula 1 – The Bold and the Beautiful

It was of course a nice surprise when Codemasters announced that it had been acquired by Electronic Arts. In the early years of this century Electronic Arts still made its own Formula 1 games, but with little success. Sony later tried again but to no avail. The rights eventually ended up with Codemasters, and that seemed like a golden opportunity. Codemasters is a master at making good racing games, as well as making professional racing games that are more simulation-oriented. However, the takeover by EA could mean that the game might go in a slightly different direction. Are we seeing some of this again this year?

Formula 1 is now more fun than ever with Max Verstappen doing extremely well. However, we immediately see a change in the form of an addition that may have been made by EA as an idea. It concerns the Braking Point mode, a kind of story mode in which you choose one of the slightly lower placed teams. As a player you dive into the car as Aiden Jackson, who is having trouble with his rival and also a teammate. He has to take on rivalries, but other teams also put a lot of pressure on you by ******** you up as a newbie. Who do you believe and how do you react to the press moments? It doesn’t matter that much, but it’s nice that the gameplay of this mode is very varied. It makes the game a lot different from the standard Championship and Team modes. For example, you get thrown in the middle of races, you have to reach the pit lane with your car to achieve a certain goal, or you simply have to try to get the HAAS drivers behind you during an entire race. They are fun moments and challenges, which are easy to do, by the way, but have a nice motivating effect. The race at SPA, for example, where it starts to rain during the race, will test your tactics. Do you take the advice of your team, or do you drive stiffly in the rain in the hope that it will stop later? Are you going for the slicks after the intermediates, or are you going for it? In yet another race you suddenly lose seventh gear, so you have to give up some speed on the straights when accelerating. They are challenges that you have to meet, and which are very easy to do, and sometimes even a little too simple, but hey, it doesn’t take away the fun. The soap opera content of the story is quite high. The way your team boss reacts, the fights within the team, the childish conversations between different team members, it looks a bit like a poorly acted act, but the idea is sublime. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a mode that is an excellent addition, and takes about 5 hours, more than enough to form a story in itself.

In addition to the standard Championship mode, there is also Team Mode again. This mode was launched last year and it was a good move by Codemasters. Here you manage the team yourself and drive the races as a driver. Not much has changed in this mode. However, the Research & Development system has been slightly modified and made somewhat simplistic. You can force developments faster, but this also entails more risks. Furthermore, driver statistics are measured with the reality within Formula 1. In addition, you can also make some simple decisions during interim events that take place. For example, do you want your teammate to have a press moment within your team? Or do you want him to focus on other things? It doesn’t really have much influence, but you can make these choices. Unfortunately, there are not many other changes, but this mode is still extensive enough to be able to use it.

While we are talking about the innovations, we can also report that new settings are possible. Where I personally focus more on the driving aids that you can set (self-shifting, help with pit stops, self-steering, etc.), there is now the option to choose ‘Casual’, ‘Standard’ and ‘Expert’ . It should be clear that the Casual difficulty is more suitable for beginners, and the Expert setting is intended for the experienced players. But the menus in the game and the UI also adapt to this by hiding certain settings. However, experts can again unlock fine-tuning options, for example. The game also has a 2-player career mode, in which 2 friends can work together online in the mode. You can be on the same team together, but you can also compete against each other in different teams. It brings an extra dimension to the mode, making it feel a little less lonely and solo. The game also has a split-screen mode, and you can have training sessions simulated by choosing targets yourself and dividing them into the training sessions. Furthermore, in terms of controls, the adaptive triggers have now been used. At high speeds, the triggers give a little more resistance to braking, which certainly adds to the realism. It is also certainly not disturbing while racing, and you can also adjust its intensity where necessary. Furthermore, the haptic feedback brings just a little more realism by transmitting the vibrations more sensitively to the player. The commentary from the pit crew also comes through your controller, although the volume could have been a bit lower. The sound of your car has also changed somewhat. So you hear the power of the battery, or whatever it may be, reverberate through your speakers when accelerating, something that is very realistic in itself, but may have gone a bit too far.

Significantly improved load times, overwhelming cinematics and excellent adaptive trigger support

Of course there are also features that are a bit less striking, but are still worth mentioning, both in a positive and negative way. For example, Olav Mol’s commentary is still very mediocre, and you only hear some simple anecdotes before and after the race. In terms of user interface, this is still one of the best games out there, and everything looks very clear and sleek. The gameplay itself has not changed too much, and in that regard you can expect an F1 2021.01. The gameplay is great in its own right, and seems to be a little more accessible, and easily tweaked. However, the loading times have been considerably shortened, where they were still excruciatingly long in F1 2020, also on the PlayStation 5. It is therefore certainly an upgrade in that regard and now really good use has been made of the console’s SSD. Also, the AI ​​of computer-controlled drivers seems to be better. They don’t pound on you like headless chickens, and adapt where necessary by protecting themselves and sometimes taking a little less risk. In addition, they don’t give you too much space, so they don’t try to make it too easy for you. Graphically, the game has been sublime for years, but with the Braking Point mode, an extra layer is added. The cinematics in this mode and the transition from cinematic to in-game racing is seamless. It just looks great, and sometimes even seems like a big contrast when you suddenly see those ugly character models again during the (press) interviews. It seems to be a mix of new and older concepts that have been used for years, and there is room for some refinement as there are real steps here to take the game to a really vibrant racing experience. You really feel the new Max Verstappen is important, and that is still missing a little bit at the moment due to the slight sloppiness here and there, but fortunately people are making steps forward. The Dutch voice-overs don’t really help with that either, since they seem a bit childish. But Braking Point should definitely get a sequel if it continues to develop in this way.

In general, F1 2021 is not a groundbreaking change compared to F1 2020. Still, the notable changes are well worth the money. The new Braking Point mode is certainly a varied addition, the loading times are remarkably short (don’t say it is not present), the 2-player career is a great addition for people who like to play with a friend and the AI ​​seems a bit better too than before. Yes, the story feels a bit over-the-top, the Dutch acting isn’t great, and the old elements don’t mix well with the new elements in the game yet, but in general the new Braking Point mode brings a lot more variety to the game with very nice challenges, in addition to the already fairly standard modes. F1 2021 has thus become a real next-gen game that, in this case, certainly brings significant improvements on the PlayStation 5 compared to its predecessor. In that regard, the new partnership between EA and Codemasters seems to be paying off right away.

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Author: Jeroen Janssen | Genre: Racing | Release: 13-07-2021 | Publisher: EA | Developer: CodemastersGraphics: 9.0 † Sound: 9.0 † Gameplay: 9.0 † Controls: 9.0 † Playback: 8.5 9.0+ Braking Point is a great addition+ Shorter loading times, great graphics, Adaptive triggers+ AI slightly improved- Not very extensive otherwise- Comment from Olav still meager- Story Braking Point feels like a soap opera

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