Review: Now published by EA, F1 2021 continues its momentum from previous years

A lot has changed for Codemasters over the last year, but can the same be said for the F1 franchise? No, and that’s a good thing.

Image via Codemasters

Codemasters’ F1 franchise has been quite successful for years, but things changed from a business perspective in 2020. Electronic Arts, which at one point did have the official Formula 1 game license in its portfolio, scooped up the British-based developer from Take-Two’s feet in late 2020. EA already had a number of officially licensed sports games in its arsenal, and adding the F1 franchise gave the company something that it hadn’t had in quite some time, a strong racing game.

F1 2020 impressed us very much last year, but did Codemasters stray away from its popular formula for F1 2021 now that the developer is EA property? No, and in fact, the game developer managed to make this simulation racing game better than in prior years.

Precision on the track

Image via Codemasters

Successful racing games tend to share a similar characteristic: a good mix between having enough for detailed, hardcore players while at the same time making it easier for newcomers to hop on the track and have fun. F1 2021, much like its predecessors, does this well.

F1 2021 allows players to turn on assists that make things much easier for new and casual players. Users can accelerate with little to no effort, while turns can be cut with relative ease, so long as you make sure to turn the analog stick (or wheels, depending on your preference). But for those looking for a challenge, Codemasters has that covered as well. Players can turn off assists and increase the AI difficulty to make things much more challenging. Brake and accelerate inputs, gear shifts, and cutting turns must be done with precision, and in this game, every second counts.

We should also note one piece of the gameplay that might not seem like much for some: the graphics. The next-gen version of F1 2021 really pops from a visual standpoint, and that added clarity doesn’t just add incredible aesthetics, but it also makes it easier to see the cars in front and visualize what needs to be done in order to cut past opposing drivers.

Did Braking Point hit a snag?

Image via Codemasters

Story modes in sports games can be rather divisive. Sure, these modes, if done properly, can give players a real glimpse of what it’s like to be a professional athlete. On the other hand, one issue that can arise is that these modes can tend to be bland and confining. Additionally, bad story modes also don’t let players really influence the most important part of the feature: the story. A good example of this was Madden 18 & 19’s Longshot mode, which featured missions in which the outcomes didn’t matter at all.

Braking Point is a new addition to the F1 franchise. In this story mode, you’ll be following three fictitious riders: rookie Aiden Jackson, hotshot driver Devon Butler, and grizzled veteran Casper Akkerman. Throughout this story, you’ll experience tension and division with other drivers, team leaders, and all tasked with completing missions in order to progress in the story.

I did enjoy the story portion of Braking Point, but in some ways, I’m not entirely sure this mode is for everyone. While completing missions in Braking Point does offer XP for F1’s Podium Pass, so do other modes like Career. And outside of the XP, there’s not a whole lot outside of that in terms of rewards for completing the story. It also felt at times like the story was a bit stiff and didn’t offer too much in terms of allowing users to create their own path. Outside of answering media questions that don’t really have any effect on the story, you’ll just be following the cutscenes and watching everything take place, without having any effect on the final outcome.

If you enjoy this kind of story mode, you’ll probably enjoy Braking Point. But it does fall into some of the same traps that other games have in the past.

Start your engines in the F1

Image via Codemasters

Just like last year, Career and My Team are back in F1 2021. This year, however, offers a new twist. Codemasters has added a two-player career mode. Users can pair with a friend and take control of all the elements of a Formula 1 team, ranging from handling setups, research and development teams, and all of the other aspects that make an F1 car run.

But if that’s not for you, single-player Career and My Team modes are also available. These modes do look a lot like the ones that were in last year’s game, as there’s not much in terms of new features that are in both. Still, there’s enough depth in these modes to make them worthwhile.

The verdict

Image via Codemasters

Much like last year, Codemasters did a strong job with F1 2021. The F1 franchise is still a force in the racing game industry, and the fact that it hasn’t changed its successful formula is a positive sign. But that doesn’t mean that this title is a copy and paste from last year. The British developer added some new features, including Braking Point and a two-player career mode, to freshen up the title and give players more options.

If you’re looking for a fresh racing game, especially one that takes advantage of next-gen hardware, this game might just be for you.

Final score:

8.5 / 10

+ A deep and deliberate combat system presents a fun challenge on higher difficulties.
+ The creature design is just weird, and that is always a good thing.
+ The entire cast of characters is fun and exciting, with surprising depth.
+ The art style very much sets it apart from similar titles.
The combat and anime tropes will definitely be divisive, and not everyone will see that charm in them.
Disclosure: This review was written using a game code provided by the publisher.