Codemasters F1 2019

F1 2019 first play: The new F1 and F2 gameplay, Senna vs Prost and more

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Formula 1 fans will be able to get their hands on the official championship game much earlier than usual this year. F1 2019 will hit the shelves at the end of June, almost two months earlier in the year than its predecessor.

And there’s little sign its earlier release means Codemasters have skimped on the new material. In addition to the full roster of 2019 F1 drivers and teams, new classic cars have been added and for the first time the official feeder series Formula 2 also features.

At a media event earlier this week RaceFans had the chance to spend a few hours on a pre-release build of the game, including all the F1 and F2 cars and tracks, and spoke exclusively to game director Lee Mather.

Video: F1 2019 first play

Earlier release

Since Codemasters took over the rights to produce the official F1 game 10 years ago, the team has been keen to release the new edition earlier in the season.

“As a Formula 1 fan I know that I would be super-excited to engage with the game earlier in the season,” game director Lee Mather explained to RaceFans.

“It’s more relevant. We’ve always wanted to come out as early in the season as possible and keep the game relevant for longer. People are craving Formula 1 since the start of the season and we wanted to try and get as close to that as possible. It’s been a goal since the beginning.”

With an expanded team of around 110 people working on the game, F1 2019’s worldwide launch will be on June 28th (the ‘Legends edition’ will appear on June 25th). To their credit, they have resisted the temptation to bring the release forward by slapping the new liveries on last year’s game and pushing it out of the door.

The 2019 F1 season in F1 2019

As far as the core 2019 F1 season gameplay is concerned, however, circumstances dictate that not a great deal has changed here. The same roster of 21 tracks from last year’s game returns – inevitably, as it matches the 2019 F1 calendar – and various team and driver changes have been updated.

In order to meet the earlier deadline, a standard 2019 car shape was created for the early version of the game we played. This car, created with the input of Formula 1 Management’s Ross Brawn and Pat Symonds, will also feature in the multiplayer version.

Mather says the teams’ individual car shapes should be ready for launch but “that’s not guaranteed.”

“We will obviously to everything we can to hit that if possible,” he explains. “If there was ever going to be a compromise somewhere that was going to be probably the area that it would be.

“Obviously we’ve always had in mind that we don’t want to compromise quality. So as long as we’re confident the quality bar is still there, that’s something we’re prepared to do, to give people access to the game that little bit earlier.”

The teams’ performance levels will also be updated. This will include making Ferrari a little less competitive, as they have failed to live up to pre-season expectations.

“Every year we always look to update the teams’ performance as we [understand] where they are. At the moment what’s in the game is what we expected the season to be like.

“We’re pretty close, but obviously once we hit Barcelona that’s really the benchmark for how the cars’ are performing. Up to then the tracks either favour one team or another in performance.

“I think at the start of the season we were expecting to see Ferrari be more dominant than they are at the moment. Mercedes is still proving to be the car to catch. So we’ll continue to make tweaks to the performance of the vehicles in the season as we’ve done in previous years.”

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Video: Formula 1 onboard laps in F1 2019

Gameplay

At the wheel, F1 2019 feels very similar to its predecessors. But as the sport embraces Netflix and other new platform in a bid to win new fans, Codemasters have done more to help beginners master the more complicated aspects of the game, such as the tyre rules and ERS deployment.

“We’ve now added some additional help screens as you go through the game, just to give people an understanding of what to expect. We haven’t taken for granted that people who play the game understand Formula 1. It’s a complicated sport and we want everyone to be able to enjoy it.

“So from the assists that you have on-track, that allow people to actually get the car around, to understanding things like the tyre rules, the changes in the points, we’ve now added some paginated help that comes up throughout the game.”

An officially-licensed game such as this always has to be all things to all people: accessible enough for inexperienced newcomers, but authentic enough for devotees. Seasoned veterans of the Codemasters series will be pleased to know the concessions towards new players don’t get in the way of immersing yourself in the detail of the game.

Visually, all the detail changes for the new season are present and correct, from the sheen on the tyres to the new ERS lights. F1’s official on-screen graphics are also used more extensively throughout the footage, and you can sit back and scrutinise your performance using new, automatically-generated highlights reels.

Multiplayer

Feedback from fans after last year’s release told Codemasters to prioritise on enhancing the multiplayer side of the game, according to Mather. A key aspect of this was allowing users to modify their car and driver designs. “Customisation’s big in a lot of other games,” he explained.

As the multiplayer game now uses a specially designed 2019 car model which is not linked to any of the 10 teams, Codemasters have now granted players some freedom to create their own designs. This is done by selecting a series of skins and colour options, though we weren’t able to test it out during our demo play.

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There is also in-game support for players who want to set up their own leagues. “We deal with quite a lot of the leagues regularly,” says Mather. “You see they run spreadsheets, they’ve got their own websites and they set up all those things. That’s great for those guys but most people who would like to participate in a league don’t know where to go. How do they get involved?

“So now you can search in the game, find a list of leagues, search for the relevance that suits when they play, the style of racing, whether it’s long or short races, whether they race during the week. Also regionally, you [might] want to race people in the same territory as you so they’re all able to race at the same time.”

Updates to the multiplayer code are being made continuously throughout releases to address concerns over performance. “We’re always constantly working on multiplayer,” he says. “We have a team of people who work on the network code and they never stop. It’s not a case of ‘this is the ’18 game, the ’19 game, the ’20 game…’, this is a team who just constantly work on that particular area.”

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Senna vs Prost and classic content

Marking their 10th anniversary as producers of the official Formula 1 game, Codemasters have secured the licence to incorporate the image of arguably the sport’s most famous driver, Ayrton Senna. Paired, naturally, with a recreation of his arch-rival Alain Prost, you can adopt their likenesses as you in-game avatar and, more excitingly, race as either driver in a series of eight special in-game challenges.

This concept creates a level of expectation the game may struggle to reach. Which classic moments in the history of Senna and Prost would you most like to recreate? Senna chasing Prost in the Monaco rain, the 1989 title-decider or Prost’s stunning 1990 comeback from 12th on the grid in Mexico?

it’s a great concept, but realistically it’s constrained by the availability of rival cars and historic tracks to fill in the picture. The one challenge we played was a by-the-numbers affair set around 2019-spec Monza, which involved overtaking 10 Lotus 79s (which neither driver ever raced against) before catching your opposite number.

However Codemasters have done the usual first-rate job in recreating their classic cars, in this case a 1990-spec McLaren MP4/5B and Ferrari F1-90, both of which look and sound fantastic. The final version of the game will include more classic cars including – here’s a sign of the times – two which featured in Codemasters’ 2010 title.

Players can inspect and learn more about all the cars they collect in a dedicated showroom, and a new trophy cabinet lets you show off the silverware you accumulate during your virtual career.

Formula 2 in F1 2019

The existing F1 career mode has been enhanced in the new version of the game by the long-awaited of feeder series Formula 2. The team describe this as being like creating two games in one and you can see why.

Players get a fully-realised 2018 F2 championship (featuring the likes of Lando Norris and George Russell) and the full 2019 season will be added too after the game’s release. The full F2 weekend structure is reflected, with a mandatory pit stop feature race plus a short feature race, and the correct points system.

You can race in F2 as part of a route into F1 and attract the attention of the grand prix teams’ driver development programmes. Catch the eye of Mercedes and you could land a place in one of the Mercedes-powered teams when you graduate.

The game introduces two new characters at this stage for you to compete with. Although we weren’t able to try this out, we were shown footage of how they fit into the game, and how you develop a rivalry with them. Team orders even figure in the competition – one of your rivals is seen barking: “Next time the team gives you an instruction, follow it!”

Completing a thoroughly authentic F2 experience, the official commentary team have also been drafted in. David Croft and Anthony Davidson continue to narrate the F1 action while Alex Jacques and Davide Valsecchi do the honours for F2.

Video: Formula 2 onboard laps in F1 2019

‘We brought through all the things we loved in the previous games’

The earlier arrival of the official Formula 1 game clearly hasn’t come at the expense of adding new material to the game. As always we’ll reserve judgement until playing the finished code.

For the team, the 10th instalment of the series for major platforms feels like a culmination of the previous titles, especially when it comes to fleshing out the career side of the game by incorporating F2.

“We regularly go back and play the other games,” says Mather. “There’s so much good stuff in them. I think we’ve managed to bring through all the things we loved in the previous games and do anything we liked back them so much better now. Also we’ve got a good understanding of what people enjoy and what people want to play in the game.

“We focused on those areas and really polished those up to the standard I think we’ve always wanted to reach. We always had that vision for the career to be more than just on-track. That’s something we’ve really been able to build on.”

Pictures: F1 2019 screenshots

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 30 comments on “F1 2019 first play: The new F1 and F2 gameplay, Senna vs Prost and more”

    1. There used to be a time when video games were focused on the average PC user.
      We have moved on too far away from that i suppose..with the advent of E-Sports, there is a certain need for specific gaming infra that could enhance the experience to its peak and this i believe will slowly take the game away from our homes and move them into arenas only.
      While i am not a gamer and still play F1 2002 and F1 2010 sometimes, this is just my opinion as a former fan/addict of video games. In any case, i would still want to try out F1 2019; F1 2010 looks like a demo version now.

      1. 🤔 Of all the racing games to say this about I think the Codemasters F1 series is the least applicable. It’s very fun and welcoming to play with nothing but a console controller. They’ve done an excellent job on that front deliberately.

      2. Take it from me, as someone who has been playing games for 20 years and still plays at least 4 hours a day: E-sports are the least of gaming’s problems, but if you really don’t like the triple-A gaming scene (and all the power to you if you don’t), indie gaming is where it’s at. Never have there been better racing sims, and never have there been basically any other style of game out there, except RTS, I’d say.

    2. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
      3rd May 2019, 9:55

      @webtel I’m not an hardcore gamer, so I’m not interested in the the console VS PC war: I bought a PS, playseat and steering whell spending a little more than the price of a good video card. F1 with the playseat is so enjoyable and satisfying and by keeping an eye on price drops it can be also affordable.

      1. I bought the game for 1€ together with a 350€ wheel from Fanatec. It’s a steal, really. /s

      2. spending a little more than the price of a good video card

        @m-bagattini – Very nice point. I’ve been a big-time proponent of PC gaming and looked down on consoles. Then the cost (and sheer hassle) of keeping hardware and software up-to-date to enjoy PC gaming became frustrating as I was no longer a 20-year old with too much time on his hands. Bit the bullet, picked up a PS4 two years ago, and haven’t looked back since. Yeah, the games aren’t as pretty if you’re fussy about the fine details (I found out I’m not!), but if the game says PS4 on the tin, I can play it. No driver hassles, and all that annoyance. Wind the clock 10 years back, and I’d be laughing at the notion that I’d be making such a comment.

        1. I a big fan of the consoles, even though I don’t own one.
          The popularity of consoles and their long life-cycle mean that PCs don’t need to be updated that often.
          I have bought mine 5 years ago (average performance, average price), just after PS3 was released.
          I did get a small upgrade earlier this year (bought an SSD – but I guess you could apply a similar upgrade to the console) and price-wise it has made buying the PC just a little more expensive than buying both PS3 and PS4.

          PC games used to be cheaper (doesn’t seem to be the case now) and you don’t need to pay extra to play on-line.
          I guess, from the financial POV and hassle-wise ithe difference between the consoles and PCs isn’t as big as most people think.

    3. All looks great, i just wish they would put just a touch more suspension travel into the cars at high load, especially at the rear under high loads. Would look much more realistic, maybe even some tyre deformation…

      1. When was the last time you saw a F1 car squat? Doesn’t happen…

        1. Something else for you to ponder. Why does Adrian Newey build rake into his cars if they don’t “squat” ?

    4. “The teams’ performance levels will also be updated. This will include making Ferrari a little less competitive”

      Good thing Toto’s not on the dev team otherwise beating Ferrari would be like fighting a Dark Souls boss!

      1. Good thing Toto’s not on the dev team otherwise beating Ferrari would be like fighting a Dark Souls boss!

        @petebaldwin – stop making me laugh out loud at work.

      2. @petebaldwin

        beating Ferrari would be like fighting a Dark Souls boss!

        Ferrari, a.k.a. the Pinwheel of F1.

      3. Dragon Slayer Vettel and Executioner Leclerc

      4. Bernasaurus
        4th May 2019, 5:38

        @petebaldwin Brilliant!

    5. I’ve not always been a fan of the direction of the series but right now I love the way they’re going, the netcode has needed an update for the longest time although thankfully the last couple years has ironed out all the really nasty bugs of previous years, random desyncs and crashes etc… I love the idea of custom liveries and the F2 career and legends mode sound great. I hope they don’t go full TOCA on the series and end up trying to include every beginner formula, I always found those games lacking where it was needed most, in the title series.

      Sounds like they’re focusing on all the right areas and I can’t wait to play for myself and then see where they add to in the years to come. Seems like there’s some renewed direction and focus compared to a few years ago, hopefully Liberty has had something to do with this as they have said they see the importance of keeping F1 relevant to the gaming audience.

      (Some advertising about the F1 esport league wouldn’t go astray, hardly hear about it compared to for example Gran Turismo or iRacing.)

    6. Will the legends edition be available to all of us?

    7. I really enjoyed 2010. There was no DRS or KERS (in game), so from a driving perspective that made things a lot easier. I just lose focus more with the later games, and have a high appreciation for drivers nowadays with all the adjustments, modes, DRS, wing trimming, etc. But I’d be willing to try 2019 for PS4 – the Xbox 360 is starting to look a little granular ;)

    8. I’ve always been an avid player of motor racing games, but the problem I have with their career modes is that you only ever seem to be either in a menu or in the car, with nothing between. You start in a menu select your game mode, car, track, settings etc… then have the race, then back to a menu.

      What if, between sessions, you could walk around paddocks in first person and interact with different people (be it fans, media, team personnel), taking in the atmosphere? Maybe even sign some merch for fans with the mouse/analogue stick :’D You could do interviews on the grid before the race (or in the pit-lane if you’ve just been for a whizz and need to rush to the front of the grid for the national anthem). And after you cross the finish line you have a full victory lap, park in front of the 1st board, get out of the car and press a button combo depending on the type of victory pose you want (kind of like the goal celebration in FIFA), walk up to the podium room then out onto the podium, all in first person. Hell, maybe even throw in a champagne mini-game, why not.

      Got a little carried away there, but seriously, it would add so much more immersion to the career experience as a whole I reckon.

      1. Because it would become a real hassle after the first few times and you’d skip it.

      2. Why stop there!

        They could include fitness training routines that the player actually had to do (monitored by a fitness/smartwatch) and how well you performed would influence something ingame.

        Takes me back to playing the Grand Prix games as a teen – I got an old motorbike helmet, strapped two weights to the side and worn it for entire 100% races! Hehe

      3. It’s a Racing game, not The Sims. Just give me a car with 4 wheels, some settings I can tinker with and a piece of tarmac. Rest is just bs.

        1. @crystakke This made me laugh out loud – because at one point I considered doing a mod pack for the Sims 2 that was basically trying to simulate the non-racing parts of being a racing driver. (I gave up when I realised I have no modding skills relevant to the task!)

    9. I just want to buy this because Valsecchi is on the commentary box in F2 :)

    10. But will there be a game based on the W-Series? And can boys play it?

      1. @CC Liberty doesn’t own it, so I don’t think there will be such a game. Therefore, neither boys nor girls can play it ;)

    11. I presume there’s still no feature allowing other drivers to switch teams in career mode (licensing reasons I guess?) so I’m excited by the inclusion of new NPC rivals, who I’m guessing will follow you up the ranks throughout the career mode.

      I wonder if they’ll name them Stellan and Cesar as a little Codies throwback…

      1. @jackysteeg

        I presume there’s still no feature allowing other drivers to switch teams in career mode (licensing reasons I guess?)

        I’m sure they’d be shouting that from the rooftops if it was allowed, I can’t see why the teams would have changed their minds about it.

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