F1 2021 (Xbox Series X/S) Review

By Neil Flynn 19.08.2021

Review for F1 2021 on Xbox Series X/S

Racing specialist Codemasters was purchased at the start of 2021 by EA, adding yet another British studio dedicated to driving games to the publisher's portfolio. The arcade nature of the Criterion Games developed titles, such as Burnout and now the Need for Speed franchise, means that Codemasters should be fine to continue down the simulation route that F1 and the DiRT series are normally known for. F1 2020 was utterly sublime, and very little could have been done to improve the gameplay mechanics, so has Codemasters finally hit a brick wall?

The F1 series of Codemasters has always had a proud history of great presentation, particularly in more recent years, focussing on making it look like the real thing, including video vignettes of the track layout, great commentary, and incredibly detailed car liveries. Last year Cubed3 gave F1 2020 a little bit of leeway due to the real-life implications of 2020, which meant the season itself was turned on its head with many races cancelled, moved or replaced. This impacted the available tracks in F1 2020's career mode, as these were the ones that were initially planned for the season. F1 2021 currently has three tracks missing, Imola in Italy, Portimão in Portugal, and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, these are not yet included in, but will be added at a later date, as free DLC.

Hanoi, Vietnam and Shanghai, China have been removed from the line up as they do not feature in the 2021 season, although leaving these tracks in place for exhibition modes could have been a good gesture given there are other tracks missing. The short variants of Bahrain, Silverstone, Suzuka, and Austin have also been removed, which is slightly perplexing given that the long form tracks are still featured in the calendar, and again would have helped bump up the available track numbers. Missing tracks is somewhat understandable, especially the ones not part of the 2021 calendar, however Classic Grand Prix mode has also been chopped, which is a shame, but not the first time that Codemasters has axed this mode, occasionally reintroducing it in other iterations.

Screenshot for F1 2021 on Xbox Series X/S

One hand taketh away and the other giveth, as for what F1 2021's loses, temporarily, in track count, it gains in five hour-long story mode, Braking Point. The story modes centres on one of five available teams: Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo, Haas, Williams and Racing Point/Aston Martin, alongside its fictional drivers; rookie British driver Aidan Jackson, and the veteran 'flying Dutchman,' Casper Akkerman, which replace the real-world counterparts for whichever team is chosen. Braking Point starts off with Jackson at the end of the F2 2019 season, right before his promotion to F1. The story mode is littered with beautiful cinematics, and well-acted cut-scenes. Even if the story is somewhat predictable it is still engaging enough to help relate to Jackson's anxiety and Akkerman's veteran status. Aside from the cinematography, there are a few added story elements, such as being able to read a social media feed, emails, and taking phone calls from loved ones, all of which add to the immersion. The nature of the social posts and emails will change depending on the results on track and post-race interviews which are conducted with multiple choice answers, similar to My Team mode.

The races are objective based, often starting mid-way through a race, and usually include having to get into a certain position, catch up to a particular driver, or managing a fault with the car. Unfortunately, these missions don't vary that much from what would happen during a race in any other mode. It would have been great to have a few more scripted team radio calls during longer races, or more events/objectives to complete during each mission. Surprisingly the viewpoint is changed half-way through Breaking Point, as the player gets to see life through Akkerman's perspective.

While the objectives remain similar the story develops further with Akkerman, and a returning Devon Butler from Career mode in F1 2019. As with F1 2019, Butler's arrogant and brute persona shines through, making him one of the best fictional video game sporting adversaries ever. Butler's mannerisms, dialogue, and social media posts all feed into Braking Point and his inclusion, despite being secondary to Jackson and Akkerman, make the mode worth playing. It will be interesting to see if Codemasters will continue to include a story mode next year, but if it does then this has laid an interesting foundation to be built upon, it just needs more variety in its mission structure next time.

Screenshot for F1 2021 on Xbox Series X/S

Aside from Braking Point there are the other included modes which are split into two, My Team Career, and Driver Career. My Team puts the player as the owner and driver of your own newly created team. Design the uniforms, liveries, hire your choice of sponsor, and bring in another rookie drive from a roster of drivers, including paid DLC classic drivers; Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, and five others. Being the team owner means that there is a direct responsibility to push for research and development funds to be invested in any of the four key parts of the car, and to also spend money promoting the team and keeping team morale high. Likewise, talking to the press can also influence how each of the R&D teams react to making changes on the car. Unlike with Braking Point, My Team subtly touches on the fact that the world has been in a challenging place in the past year and does mention in an introductory cut-scene with Will Buxton that a few rule changes have been delayed until 2022.

Speaking of which, the decision tree style R&D development has been simplified in F1 2021, with an easier to use menu and easier options to choose from. Driver Career mode allows for two options: to start a full season using the Formula 1 calendar of events, or alternatively customising a season from chosen circuits. Instead of designing a team from scratch, this mode gives players the choice for which real-world team they would like to race with, but ultimately both modes are very similar to one another. F1 2020 re-introduced local split screen multiplayer, and now F1 2021 has introduced two player career mode, which can be played competitively or cooperatively.

Screenshot for F1 2021 on Xbox Series X/S

It is hard to distinguish any graphical upgrades from F1 2020, despite F1 2021 being optimised for Xbox Series X|S - it isn't that this lacks decent visuals, but there isn't that huge leap that often happens with next generation systems. From a presentation standpoint, there are a few changes to the HUD and in-game menus, but as with previous years a lot this has been lifted or slightly transformed from previous years. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the F1 project keeps evolving it appears that Codemasters has a winning formula with how this is set up, and quite frankly the franchise is at the strongest it has ever been from a gameplay, visual, audio and modes standpoint.

It has got to the point now that there are many reused assets, and for casual F1 fans it may be hard to pick up each edition for smaller iterative differences. The EA acquisition most likely happened a bit too late into development to make any significant changes this time around, and it'll be interesting to see what will happen to F1 under the guise of EA Sports. Given how EA has evolved the FIFA franchise to include multiple modes, its involvement might impact F1 positively in the years to come.

Screenshot for F1 2021 on Xbox Series X/S

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

A predictable, but engaging story mode has added some real shine to the F1 franchise, alongside the addition of two player career mode adding more options for players. Each iteration of F1 has gone from strength to strength, and F1 2021 is a great representation of the sport, from realistic presentation, great graphical details on the cars, tracks that feel authentic, and the return of My Team. Fans of F1 who want to keep up to date with the sport and have the latest team liveries and driver rosters, will be totally in love with this.

Developer

Codemasters

Publisher

EA

Genre

Driving

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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