The latest edition in Formula 1’s annual video game series will be released on 16 July, and is the first since Codemasters was acquired by EA Sports over the winter.
After previously announcing plans for a new two-player career mode and a story mode earlier this year, Codemasters revealed further information about its plans for the 2021 game on Wednesday.
Part of this saw the first gameplay footage released, harnessing the smoother visuals available through the next-generation PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles. Both of these will have the option to switch between ‘performance’ and ‘graphics’, as seen on Codemasters’ DiRT5 title, improved load speeds, 3D audio and ray tracing for realistic reflections in replays and broadcasts.
One of the big new features in the game is the ‘Braking Point’ story mode, which will see gamers race as Aiden Jackson, a young driver racing in F2 with hopes of reaching F1.
The game will span the 2019 F2 season before moving into F1 for 2020 and 2021, giving the chance to sign for Racing Point/Aston Martin, Alphas Tauri, Alfa Romeo, Haas or Williams.
Braking Point looks to take inspiration from the Netflix Drive to Survive series through its story, which has benefitted from a professional writing team and will emphasise the characters and relationships throughout Jackson’s story. Part of this will see the return of Devon Butler, the villain from F1 2019.
CGI cutscenes have also been filmed for the mode to add to the realism, while Codemasters is keen to keep further details about Braking Point under wrap to avoid any spoilers, but said the mode should span around five-to-six hours.
Another big change for F1 2021 comes in the new two-player career mode, allowing gamers to embark on their F1 careers with a friend, either racing for the same team (‘Co-op’) or against each other (‘Contracts’) through the mode, engaging with rivals and negotiating the driver market as normal. Multiple save slots will be made available, allowing for more than one two-player career. The regular single-player driver career also now allows players to start racing in F2 before moving up to F1.
The MyTeam driver/manager mode returns from F1 2020 and has been enhanced, featuring a new R+D structure in a move away from the skills tree presentation that has been used for a number of years. The development tasks in practice sessions have also been overhauled, with a “quick practice” mini-game set to be made available.
Codemasters previously announced that seven icon drivers would be made available in the MyTeam mode, but their integration into the driver market remains unclear. One added element for driver ratings this year is a new “focus” statistic, which is impacted by team activities, performance and press questions, the last-mentioned also being expanded for this year.
F1 2021 is being billed as the most customisable title in the series to date, allowing players to adjust settings so that it is accessible to both newcomers and hardcore sim racers looking for the most difficult challenge possible.
The customisation of the MyTeam and career modes allow players to adjust how quickly they make money and gain resource points, as well as how regular mechanical or technical faults are on the cars, tailoring the game for the player’s desired difficulty.
One other addition for this year is a ‘real-season start’, which allows players to dive into the championship at any point with the standings set to their real-life equivalent. The game will feature 21 tracks, with three more - Portimao, Imola and Jeddah - set to be added as free DLC at a later date. China is included as it features in the Braking Point mode, but will not be available in career after being axed from the calendar. The recently-announced sprint races will not feature in the game.
F1 2021 will once again include F2, launching with the 2020 cars, drivers and weekend format before an update later in the year to bring everything up to date for 2021.
On-track, F1 2021 has benefitted from greater input from teams and drivers after their virtual racing activities in lockdown last year, allowing for a more sim-like tyre model. There have also been changes made to the damage model, meaning there are more parts of the car that can get damaged.
In multiplayer, a new ‘Social Play’ option has been added to make it easier for players to jump in and create a less daunting online experience. The server browser has also been updated to make it easier for players to find the races they want.
Visually, there is also greater customisation, with players now able to add stickers to the halo, as well as selecting a “victory radio” message, shouting out to the team or fans for winning. There are also more multiplayer car decals and items available through the Podium Pass online shop.
F1 2021 will be released on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC on 16 July, with Deluxe Edition orders getting access three days early.