It’s the little things that impress the most in F1 2019. It’s the sun poking through the trees at Melbourne before turning into a full-on glare by the time you reach the chequered flag. It’s the screech of an engine as it roars through Monaco’s claustrophobic tunnel. It’s the dread you feel when you realize a pit crew’s gloomy weather prediction is coming to pass as rain slowly drops on your visor.
This all adds up to make F1 2019 both the best-looking driving game on the market, as well as the most immersive. The racing – and all the aforementioned granular detail that crops up in lap-to-lap gameplay – is as stellar as ever. While the fresh features surrounding it may not get the motor running for those that aren’t dyed-in-the-wool F1 fans, F1 2019 is undoubtedly the most complete package yet, both for newcomers and veterans.
F1 2019 Review | 2 Formula 2 Furious
One of the new additions, and definitely the most eye-catching, is the introduction of Formula 2 to the series. Bolted on as part of a souped-up Career Mode, you’re given the chance to race in a handful of narrative flashpoints in a Formula 2 season alongside your teammate, the fictional Lukas Weber, and the tryhard villain of the piece, Devon Butler, before grabbing an F1 seat.
While it serves very much as The Journey-lite in terms of sports stories in the medium, the palpable tension between yourself, Butler, and Weber turns what would’ve been a cookie-cutter Career Mode into something a little more exciting. Cutscenes are present throughout, while things can even spill over onto the track, something that (obviously) wouldn’t have been possible when going wheel to wheel with real-life drivers such as Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.
Mid-race clashes between you, one of the pair of fictional drivers, and possibly even your Rival(s) (which can fluctuate as the season wears on) are now given an extra dimension of drama. The racers will even react accordingly. Have you given Weber a little bump in Bahrain? Expect him to retaliate in kind come China. It’s the kind of excitement that has been sorely missing in Career Mode for the past few years.
However, it is disappointing that a full Formula 2 season, while playable away from Career Mode, isn’t integrated into the showcase single-player offering. Your Formula 2 career then, much like the Career Mode press interviews that you have to endure after and before each race, feels very half-baked. The press junkets can provide arbitrary points to help you upgrade the car and turn heads at other prospective teams looking to sign you on the dotted line, but often don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
Formula 2 itself, though, is a welcome addition, and indicative of Codemasters’ ability to constantly thrive and adapt in the typically stagnant market of annual releases. The 2019 Formula 2 season, too, will be added in an upcoming patch, which is a breath of fresh air when you consider how little sports games are normally supported with meaty add-ons in the post-release window.
Speaking of other modes, there’s your typical suite of Grand Prix and other challenges to get stuck into. There are themed race playlists – including all wet-weather tracks and a whistlestop tour of F1’s most famous venues – to dip in and out of when the Career Mode begins to wear thin. It’s not much, yet you’ll be glad to have the option to mix things up.
Invitational Events, meanwhile, provides a welcome trip down memory lane with a smattering of challenges involving some of the most iconic cars of yesteryear. Mileage may vary in that regard for those who don’t know their Hamiltons from their hairpins, but it’s a great piece of fan-service to reward longstanding fans of the sport.
F1 2019 Review | Legends in the making
Plus, if you’ve ponied up the cash for the Legends Edition, you’re even treated to a Senna vs. Prost mode that shines the spotlight on two of the most iconic racers of the 1980s. Is it worth the extra money? Honestly, probably not. After all, there’s only eight challenges, two cars, and two sets of helmets and suits for your online avatar to parade around in for $10, but it’s undeniably cool seeing a recreation of the Brazilian’s 1990 McLaren waltzing his way around Monaco, trying to hold off a resilient Prost.
Of course, you could have all the features in the world; it won’t count for much if the driving isn’t up to snuff. Thankfully, Codemasters has merely refined, not revolutionized a top-quality physics system that puts most of its competition to shame. The only slight difference you might notice is that cars feel a little heavier, and it’s slightly more unforgiving for those who like to put the pedal to the metal and frantically accelerate out of corners. You’ll find that there’s less traction than ever, and it could send you in a spin. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but worth considering for those who rely heavily on muscle memory to get them to where they’re going.
The AI is fantastically aggressive this year too. No longer will it put up with your slow shenanigans or chicane chicanery. If you’re there for the taking, your opponent will punish you for it.
This, when coupled with the graphics, makes it hard to see how any others, including future entries, will beat F1 2019 into pole position. The weather effects are second-to-none this console generation, and the lighting effects appear to have improved even on last year’s shining efforts.
Of course, F1 2019 would be nothing without some sort of multiplayer component. This year’s introduction of Online Leagues gives the game the community aspect it has been so sorely lacking. Now, you, your friends, clanmates, and even random players online, can schedule regular seasons and tournaments, which only further drives the game’s long-term appeal.
Simply put, F1 2019 is fantastic. There’s enough here to take you well into next season (and beyond), while the Career Mode has finally shaken off the cobwebs to emerge as a genuinely thrilling highlight that players will pump hours and days into. Things aren’t perfect, sure. The Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost add-ons are too pricey, the press interviews are too one-note, and there’s no fully-updated Formula 2 2019 season on launch, but it’s hard to turn your nose up at an exceptional recreation of one of the world’s most adrenaline-pumping sports. It’s a must-buy for F1 2019 fanatics and soon-to-be converts alike.
GameRevolution reviewed F1 2019 on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher.