Fresh liveries, the return of Devon Butler, a two-player career and a release on next-gen hardware plus the return of F2, split-screen and My Team. There is a lot to get excited about when it comes to the latest instalment in Codemasters’ distinguished official Formula 1 series, F1 2021.
It may seem like the new game has all the appurtenances you’d expect, but if you peel back the marketing fluff and double-check the pre-order page, we’re left with more questions than answers about the core gameplay. Here are five points that got us scratching our heads.
How will iconic drivers work in My Team?
My Team was a new twist on the main career introduced in F1 2020. Driver Career still existed as per usual, but the new addition opened the floodgates to customised content that the F1 games had been crying out for.
After forming your own driver and team, you can then create a livery, be interviewed by Formula 1 presenter Will Buxton, sign a young F2 driver as a teammate and develop the car and team as the season progresses.
Sure, the on-track gameplay remained largely the same and the R&D tests are banal, but add into the mix post-season driver transfers – first introduced in F1 2019 – and the added depth made this more engrossing than a Christopher Nolan movie marathon.
If you pre-order the Digital Deluxe edition of F1 2021 you gain access to “seven iconic drivers to enhance your ‘My Team’ game experience,” which the YouTube description for the trailer hints will be “unveiled very soon.”
We tweeted recently asking who you would like to see included and there have been many interesting suggestions from Senna, to Button and even Yuji Ide.
As a pre-order bonus, it would be logical to gain access to these drivers from the off, making them selectable as teammates from the first season. But then, if you chose one, could some or all of the other six also be on the grid?
Do they return as part of the driver window season swaps? Is the pre-order the only way to get legends in this mode?
It reminds us of when older players retired in Pro Evolution Soccer Master League, re-appearing as young upstarts re-available to sign. Good ol’ Ximelez.
No matter how it works, this could be a significant step for the series where further legends from the sport can be introduced across the next iterations and open up new avenues for the driver transfer market. Or, it could simply be seven drivers as a pre-order bonus and it doesn’t go further than that.
How will the game perform on next-gen hardware?
It’s well known what happened to the F1 games the last time a new console generation came around. F1 2014 released on PS3 and Xbox 360 despite PS4 and Xbox One already being on the market. When F1 2015 did arrive a year later, it didn’t have a career mode.
This time around it sounds very different, with PS5 and Xbox Series versions releasing simultaneously alongside PS4 and Xbox One and PC. Which begs the question, just how much of an upgrade will the next-gen versions be for 2021?
It suggests to us a cross-generational approach before a thorough update at a later date, but without any gameplay footage or even screenshots at present, it’s impossible to tell.
Recent Codemasters game DIRT 5 managed to release across both console generations in 2020 and run on the new consoles at 4K resolution with a choice of either 60 or 120 frames per second modes. A technical marvel, however, it was developed by a different studio to the F1 games – Codemasters Cheshire as opposed to Codemasters Birmingham – and doesn’t use the Ego Game Technology Engine. As a result, we cannot assume F1 2021 will be as visually assured.
If there’s to be a 120 fps mode, which the Microsoft store mentions, we would anticipate a dip in visual quality to compensation. The launch material briefly mentions a “visual uplift” without specifics, but we would happily enjoy a stable and smooth 60 fps and a light graphical touch up in year one of the hardware lifecycles.
What are victory radio calls?
Once again the bullet point list of bonus digital items for the pre-order comes up trumps. Alongside the list of cosmetic items included, a car livery, suit, gloves and helmet – which sounds like a return for the Podium Pass customisation system to us – is a “victory radio call.”
After each real Formula 1 race, one of the most anticipated videos released is the team radio round-up. Access to radio messages for highlights has shone a light on driver and engineer personalities, providing fans with some memorable moments so far.
Pierre Gasly at Monza in 2020 or Nico Rosberg at Abu Dhabi in 2016, for example. Having these in the game after winning a race would be joyous.
Except, let’s not get carried away. This could also mean new clips recorded by the drivers, or even just a selection of generic victory congratulations. Maybe it’s your fictional engineer Jeff saying “that was a great start” at the finish line or David Croft shouting out the name of your teammate…
When will F2 2021 arrive?
F2 first joined the series in F1 2019 which at launch had the 2018 Formula 2 season included. This was then later updated to have the F2 2019 drivers and liveries.
The same was true again for F1 2020, launching with the 2019 drivers before an update some five months later added the most recent roster.
There is not a clue or hint as to which season of our favourite F1 support series will be included within the press material and at the time of writing. Our guess would be the current season added post-release, which is fine by us provided we know a rough timeline ahead of the game’s launch.
Is online multiplayer updated?
99.9 per cent of the launch material is talking about the career modes, but for those esports drivers or fans who love to play the ranked races in F1 2020, online multiplayer is a key part of the experience.
Strangely, this element of the game – which surely has a bigger emphasis placed upon it than ever before thanks to the various official F1 Esports series – gets one tiny mention buried deep within a rather non-committal sentence.
“We’re also expanding and refining many other features, including scalable assist options, driver stats and multiplayer,” said the release.
That sounds like evolution as opposed to revolution to us, but of course, we hope to hear more on the run-up to the launch.
Track limits, broadcast tools and game stability are the main online talking points. The pro esports crowd may only be a fraction of the F1 gaming community, but they are certainly a vocal one and it would be remiss to ignore its feedback.
So there we have it, five key questions based on the information available now and in many ways, it’s the pre-order bonus list that provides much of the speculation at this juncture. It’s worth bearing in mind that these bullet points are not meant to be prescriptive, they are carrots dangling before us in order to get more pre-orders. The ambiguity makes your imagination run wild, overseeing the minutiae. Either way, they’ve got us thinking.
What would you like to see in F1 2021? Let us know on social media, we’d love to hear your thoughts.