Let me start with a confession, chums: yours truly finds Formula One rather dull. Long gone are the days of charismatic icons like Arton Senna, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell (yes, yes, that last one is definitely a joke... honest). It’s because of this that I’ve failed to play a video game concerning the sport since good old F1 World Grand-Prix 2 on the mighty N64, so, can F1 2019 change my opinion? Or will the song remain the same? Ladies and gentlemen: start your engines!
“Now, now, our Bob,” I hear thee say “graphics don’t mean a thing if the gameplay don’t swing.” Wise words, comrades, wise words. We’re pleased to announce that the game plays an absolute dream. Every car feels different, and heck, even laps feel different as the tires degrade and corners have to be taken more cautiously (car assist options like racing lines and breaking assistance helped out a lot in our early stages). There's a true meditative pleasure in getting into the groove of a track, following its preferred racing line, breaking and accelerating at the perfect times. It’s sheer ozone-destroying bliss (and this is using a pad, so just imagine the fun of a wheel and pedals).
F1 2019 also boasts options so hearty you’ll be dining out for many a moon. There’s a wealth of single-player options: Career, Championship, Grand Prix, Time Trial and plenty of online malarkey too (more on that later). Firstly, Grand Prix is the exhibition match equivalent: pick a track and a car and off you go for a one-off race. Time Trial is also shockingly self explanatory, but no less addictive for it - the last time we enjoyed them this much was about 1998, trying to take advantage of that ruddy Koopa Troopa Beach shortcut…
Championship, on the other hand, possesses a little more intrigue than its straightforward name suggests. There are the obligatory run-throughs of the F1 and F2 championships, sure, but Championship mode also contains a “Legends” challenge mode that sees you take control of Prost or Senna, over the course of some sumptuous short-burst scenarios. We opted for Senna, thoroughly enjoying smashing Prost in vintage motorcades on the classic Monaco circuit. More sports games need to feature these kinds of hark backs to the past - just imagine if EA could get a Matt Le Tissier goal scenario mode in FIFA 20.
Trust us when we say that career mode will give you your money’s worth on its own.
But alas, we digress. Those wanting to truly get sucked into F1 2019 should head straight to Career mode, the fleshiest part of the game. Here you’ll progress through the ranks from F2 champ to F1 beast and everything in between - and what a ride it is.
The F2 season sees you tussle with rivals Devon Butler and Lukas Weber, interactive cutscenes and all, although they do tail off once you make the step up to F1 and select a team to join, which is where the real game begins. You’ll have chats with your agent, interviews with journalists, qualifying and racing to do. We just grazed over the depth on offer here - there’s so much to tweak and trial car wise for simulation fans - as it all seemed a bit much for our arcade-y tendencies, but trust us when we say that career mode will give you your money’s worth on its own.
If all that isn’t enough for you then we recommend you venture online. Those familiar with Codemasters’ racing games will feel at home here; there are weekly events, leagues, and more. There’s also a focus on the esports side of F1, with videos from global events and competitions to enter, too.
So, to the chequered flag we head, one hand off the wheel in triumph. F1 2019 is an undeniably high quality racing game, full of thrill-n-spills. Sure, the acting and storylines of career mode are corny rubbish of the highest order, and the potential for hardcore simulation mostly left us cold, but the overall racing and package is so fully formed that we can’t help but leave impressed. Add to that the recently announced update including the latest season of F2 and you've got a lot of longevity. If you’re a fan of the sport you should already have this, but if you’re not, you should probably still consider taking it for a spin.