MSPoweruser’s F1 2019 review was conducted on a base Xbox One

Alongside the annual sprawl of Call of Duty, FIFA and NBA, Codemaster’s Formula 1 series consistently rocks up alongside them. While an appropriately nicher annual offering than your average sports game, the developer’s leading sim racing franchise has almost guaranteed players a decent enough title, even on an off year.

The sad reality is, I never enjoy the F1 titles as much as I probably should. It’s obvious to see that most of Codemaster’s modern entries are optimized for competitive racing and eSports, a focus which undoubtedly results in many of the core game modes getting neglected. It’s a common issue, and it hasn’t been remedied here. If you’re looking for a laid-back experience, F1 2019 is not a great option.

The single-player Career Mode, now a staple of the series, has you starting out as a Formula 2 star, working your way up to an F1 team member, This could offer a legitimately fun progression model, but ultimately feels like Codemasters simply showing off the license. Instead of Formula 2 being a substantial part of the main campaign, you’ll only take part in a few short races before getting offers from every F1 team you can think of.

I went with McLaren, as per my own tradition, but there was nothing stopping me picking Ferrari or Mercedes and running away with the championship. Also, as things stand, it’s not even the new Formula 2 season you take part in. Codemasters has promised the 2019 season will be “digitally added,” at a later point. For now, you’ll have to make do with last year’s season instead.

Once you move up to Formula 1, resource management becomes a key mechanic. Fuel, tyres, ERS, car parts and your team’s R&D all have to be managed throughout the season. This has always been a key part of the Formula 1 games, but it’s executed better here than ever before. I recall last year’s game having a release bug that caused engines to explode for no reason.

This year’s implementation of mechanical feedback and internal deterioration makes more sense: players are given a bounty of useful information both in and outside of races to inform them on any necessary tweaks or corrections. It makes practice laps more crucial than before, giving you a chance to test the reliability of your vehicle before a big race. Research and development also lets you improve your car with points earned through practice, qualifiers and races.

Depending on how hardcore you are, adjustments can vary from just swapping out an engine to creating a completely custom aerodynamic setup. F1 2019 generally isn’t that welcoming to newcomers, but it does do a better job of accommodating them than its predecessors. Assists feel more powerful: traction control is more consistent and racing lines are accurate. Of course, you could simply drop all these assists and set the A.I to max difficulty; expert players should feel well accommodated here.

For F1 buffs, this year’s A.I is a massive improvement. While 2018 saw the A.I disrespecting the rules more often than you’d like, F1 2019’s opponents actually stick to F1 etiquette. Many rules, such as only being able to make one blocking maneuverer per straight and leaving space for reasonable overtake attempts, are followed. I had one run at Austria where Lewis Hamilton plowed me to Narnia but in his defence, his car did have smoke spewing out of it. I’d say he had bigger problems to worry about.

While some game modes fail to intrigue, F1 2019 always feels great to play. Making F1 cars work well in video games has never been an easy task—make them too grippy and it’ll feel arcade, too little grip makes the lighting-fast cars difficult to drive—but F1 finds the perfect midground. Years of tweaking and iteration has certainly helped Codemaster’s to create a fantastic Formula 1 experience. It doesn’t feel like a tiring battle, more a thrilling duel.

In 2019, you’re one with these thrilling 1000bhp monsters. If you can tame it, it’s one of the better driving experiences the genre can give, but not the best. Unfortunately, Project CARS 2 still wipes the floor with F1, despite offering so many other race classes and tracks. While the mechanics here are more specific, it still doesn’t have the best F1 cars in gaming.

Whilst perfectly functional and well made, F1 2019 fails to do anything innovative. Codemasters’ failures to differentiate this from its predecessor makes it difficult to highly recommend. Even if accept its a decent enough racing sim, there are still better options on the market for cheaper. Forza Motorsport 7 still has a booming community, Project CARS 2 feels better to play and DiRT Rally 2.0 is leagues ahead in terms of offering a more progression focused single player. The long-awaited addition of Formula 2 is nice but playing an out of date season is far from optimal. Imagine if FIFA launched with licenses and teams from the year before. Promising they’ll add this content later just doesn’t do enough for me. Especially considering how little elsewhere seems to have been improved in the first place.

Still, even with all that said there’s no denying that if a Formula 1 fan picks this up at launch, they’ll probably love it. All your favourite drivers and teams are there, the driving feels responsive and this year’s F1 Calendar track list is probably the best I’ve ever seen. They’ve brought back historic events as well so timeless cars such as the ’76 McLaren M23-D and 09’ Brawn GP amongst many others are available. If I was to summarise F1 2019, it’s basically F1 2018 with a little more fan service thrown in for good measure. For some, that’s all they’ll have wanted and expected. For me, this year’s minor additions just weren’t enough.

The Breakdown
Pros
  • Feels as good as ever to drive.
  • F1 2019 has the best resource management in its genre - adds a potentially huge skill ceiling for eSports.
  • The A.I respects the rules of racing - allows for real wheel to wheel racing.
Mehs
  • Formula 2 is nice but the new season isn't coming until later.
  • The difficulty system doesn't really make sense.
Cons
  • Somewhat uninspired - far too similar to F1 2018.
  • Somehow gets outperformed by Project CARS 2 at the only thing it does.
  • There's better options on the market for cheaper.

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