Oh, it’s that time of year again, only this time 4 months early. F1 2019 is the latest title to bear the F1 name and bring the “pinnacle” of motorsport to our homes without a Sky Sports subscription. So let’s see if this is more than just a graphical overhaul shall we?

There’s no denying it, this is a big graphical jump compared to last year. The title looks fantastic. While the characters we see might still be a little wooden in animation, that’s not what this is about really. The atmosphere on track is simply sublime. From blinding sunlight obscuring corners as the sun sets in Singapore, to the dusty haze of Bahrain and of course, the races under the lights. It’s quite simply gorgeous, as the screenshots will show you.

The graphics are bolstered this year by a fantastic gameplay experience. Career mode follows the standard pattern of building upon the year before, this time around bringing Formula 2 to both the game and career mode. As part of the career, you start out in the 2018 season of Formula 2 and work your way through a series of scripted events, where you battle your Rival, Butler, and your teammate, Weber. You’ll race a small portion of these events, as the first half follows a scripted pattern, be it a turbo issue or a collision, and then your following performance will impact the state of the race and the story. Do you let your team-mate through? Will you catch your rival after they are given a penalty? How you act and perform has a big impact on how events play out.

Sadly, what they don’t seem to have much of an impact on, is what team you end up with. Sure, you’ll pick a driver program to be under, which increases your standing with said team, but at the same time, should you wish to dive into a Mercedes, you can. You’ll be a second driver with zero perks, but you can. It is nice to see that there is an impact should you chose to follow through, however, as I saw myself quickly become the number one driver at Mclaren.

F1 2019 Formula 2 Screenshot

The main body of the career also carries one small, but rather major change. Driver swaps. No, this isn’t F1 meets Le Mans, but more drivers swapping teams towards the end of, and between seasons. While not particularly realistic (Hamilton to Redbull and Gasly replacing him at Mercedes? Give over) it’s still fun to see and especially between seasons, adding some realism to the title as drivers move around. You’ll already see two different drivers on the grid, as your rival and your old teammate join you in the pinnacle of motorsport.

While this might be an upgrade on F1 2018, you cannot help but feel that you know what’s going to be coming in F1 2020, and wondering slightly why it’s not here in F1 2019. Formula 2 feels rather cheaply integrated, skimping on the full season and giving what feels more like a prelude than an actual driving experience. There’s no introduction to the cars, which given their drastically different characteristics would have been greatly appreciated. Instead, you’re thrown into a car that’s far removed from what players will be used to. When you do a full race, you don’t even get a practice session to learn it. All in all, it feels like a misstep, and one that I think will be fully rectified next year. Better late than never, right?

Of course, you’ve got all the standard modes that come with the F1 franchise. Time trial, single race, championships, etc are all there, now including Formula 2 as well as F1 and the classic cars. For those willing to spend some extra money, the Legends edition will net you some extra content featuring Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. It’s great to have more classic content, especially more of the two driver’s iconic cars, but overall the content feels underwhelming. Besides 2 new cars and skins, all you get are a host of challenges, which really underwhelms.

But what are those skins for? Well, for the first time in a long time, it seems that some real attention has been paid to the multiplayer aspect of F1 2019. Leagues have always been popular on the F1 games, with the likes of Apex Online Racing hosting leagues that see many participants throughout a game’s lifespan. Leagues are now integrated into the menu of the game, making them even more present, and undoubtedly has something to do with the esports league that runs for the game featuring drivers supported by all 10 teams on the grid.

F1 2019 Screenshot

Improvements have been made to the safety rating system, meaning that, in theory, you should be matched with players a little closer to your ability level. Improvements have also been made to the penalty system, making the multiplayer considerably more enjoyable. With integration and focus applied, some ways to personalize your multiplayer experience have been added, as F1 2019 introduces customizable race suits and car liveries.

These liveries are quite akin to those in Motorsport Manager, featuring a series of fictional sponsors, and customizable color schemes based around preset designs. They’re simple but really effective, and even cars with matching designs end up looking drastically different as the colors change. It makes for a very vibrant grid, which is greatly welcome.

helmet customization is back again, and all features feature the use of in-game currency. This is a first and is earned by playing online. It’s a nice little incentive, that will hopefully see more designs added in the future. What some player might be opposed to, is the addition of microtransactions. While these only cover cosmetic items, it’s sure to grind a few gears out on the track.

Lastly, we have how the game drives. And my oh my does the game drive well. Controller players will be pleased to hear that this year’s entry is extremely well optimized, with a fantastic feel and handling on offer and this does indeed transfer across for those players equipped with a wheel. With such a great feeling, the driving is a joy, while still keeping the difficulty of driving an F1 car alive.

F1 2019 Driving Screenshot

F1 2019 is a fantastic follow-on from its predecessor. I’m pretty sure I said that about the last game too. It’s what you expect. A better version of what you know. There’s nothing wrong with that of course but it’s becoming a little predictable.

That being said, this really is a glorious title. It’s made me want to continue playing long after my first season, which is more than I can say about its predecessors. So while this is a building-block title, it’s a bloody good one at that.

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