As racing games make their way onto a new generation of consoles, performance and experience is more important than ever. F1 2021 supplements its expected game modes with a new story mode and the return of the My Team mode, which allows you to own and design your own Formula 1 team. This story mode is meant to be the standout feature of Codemasters’ latest Formula 1 game, allowing players to make their way up the ranks and perfect their racing as they go. F1 2021 provides an experience that looks beautiful and is high quality only where it chooses to be.
F1 2021’s story mode, Braking Point, follows a young British driver named Aiden Jackson who is attempting to make a name for himself as he continues to succeed throughout his Formula 1 career. While this is a story mode with cutscenes layered throughout, the focus is on the driving itself. The transition from Formula 2 to Formula 1 is stark, as the difficulty increases intensely as it would during a typical championship. Most courses are focused specifically on certain portions of the race instead of completing every lap. This allows you to experience highlights of Jackson’s Formula 1 career, also challenging you to make big breaks in a shorter amount of time.
The story itself is nothing revolutionary, but it is an interesting take on the Formula 1 game experience. Being a driver new to the Formula 1 community and facing competitive rivalries makes for dramatic and entertaining cutscenes. The plot doesn’t take away from the racing and feels like a good attempt at raising the stakes, but the graphics hinder any chance of having an immersive story. The transition between each race and cutscene results in a drop in quality, and the scenes themselves aren’t entertaining enough to overlook it. The teammate rivalry between Jackson and Casper Akkerman is F1 2021’s attempt at mirroring rivalries highlighted in actual Formula 1 championships, but it isn’t noteworthy enough to make or break the racing experience.
As I have been playing F1 2021 on my PlayStation 5, it is clear that the game is meant to be highlighted on next-gen consoles. The adaptive triggers in the Dualsense controller provide helpful feedback during the races. For example, if you overheat your brakes the left trigger feels as if it has less pushback, signaling brake fade. While at times I feel that the adaptive triggers can be annoying during play depending on the mode, I found the vibrations to be quite useful and not too bothersome.
In terms of quality and performance, the game offers two visual setups for the PS5: Quality and Performance. Quality runs at 60 fps in 4K while Performance runs at 120 fps in 1440p. With Quality mode, the graphics priority I stuck with throughout my playthrough, the driving experience feels fluid and allows for fast reaction times. Performance mode is meant to have a smoother experience, but is only accessible with compatible hardware. The graphics stand out during the races, but feel muddled during each cutscene and other environments outside of the courses. While the game is meant to focus on the races themselves, the inconsistency hinders the experience.
Other modes such as My Team and the Grand Prix mode are good ways to improve your skills and enjoy the classic Formula 1 experience, and are further enhanced with the in-race graphics. My Team offers both a single player and an online two-player career mode where you can design and manage a Formula 1 team from the ground up. The detail within this mode is immense, allowing you to customize and choose sponsorships, unit suppliers and branding. In between races you can also work with various departments to make alterations to your car and improve things such as durability, aerodynamics and powertrain. The entire career experience is catered towards what you are looking for in a Formula 1 race car, which allows for a unique and closely personalized mode.
The Grand Prix mode is an easy way to customize races by creating a series of events based on a number of Formula 1 tracks. Each track varies based on difficulty and is a good mode if you are interested in practicing your racing skills and getting familiar with the tracks. Since the controls can be difficult for new players, this mode is a good first step before jumping into the My Team mode or Braking Point story mode.
While it is exciting to see an attempt at a more robust story mode in a Formula 1 game, EA and Codemasters need to match the graphics and plots featured in other AAA games in order for it to be worth playing. Hopefully Formula 1 games will take this into account and offer a better looking and more detailed story mode in the future.
F1 2021 was developed by Codemasters and published by EA. Our review is based on the PlayStation 5 version. It is also available for PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.
Katherine Long is an intern at Paste and a rising senior at American University. She loves hyperpop, roller skating and videogames and can finish a sudoku puzzle in 43 seconds.