Codemasters is at the forefront of racing simulation, along with the occasional fun splash in the mud ala DIRT 5. But it’s time to get serious. The roar of the hybrid engines have returned with their latest official Formula 1 game, F1 2021. Featuring a brand new, cinematic mode, and a whole new generation of consoles with which to draw power from, could this be the best F1 game to date? Find out in our F1 2021 PS5 review.
F1 2021 PS5 Review – It’s in the Game?!
Let me just say that it was real jarring to have the famous “E. A. Sports. It’s in the game” phrase as the very first thing I heard when I first booted up F1 2021, but it reflects EA’s very real purchase of Codemasters which completed in February, though other than that you would hardly know such a thing happened. I imagine next year’s game may have additional EA-related features, but for the time being, F1 2021 remains solely a Codemasters creation.
On the PlayStation 5, load times are essentially nonexistent. This should come as no surprise, but the system’s incredible speed means that every track loads in before you can count to five. Meanwhile, although raytracing isn’t enabled while racing, it does activate in replays. Lighting while driving is serviceable, but hopefully it will see a better upgrade next year. Graphics options allow for Performance or Quality modes, with Performance aiming at 120 frames per second on a compatible display and scaling back the graphics, while the Quality mode aims for 60 fps and better visuals. You can’t go wrong with either, since this is the best-looking Formula racer out there. The adaptive triggers of the DualSense controller are on, but even on the highest setting it’s hard to tell as there’s never much resistance coming from them. It’s funny, when you consider DIRT 5’s intense utilization of haptics, that Codemasters would be so subtle about things in F1 2021, but then again Formula and rally races are worlds apart, and F1 races are won and lost by centimeters and fractions of a second, so perhaps the subtlety makes sense here.
F1 2021 PS5 Review – The Drama Unfolds
The marquee feature for F1 2021 is the cheekily-spelled Braking Point. This cinematic-driven mode follows Aiden Pearce Jackson as he graduates from being a Formula 2 superstar to a rookie Formula 1 racer, alongside veteran racer for whichever team you pick, Casper Akkerman. The drama is realistic enough that my wife actually became engaged with the story once I took the headphones off for the cinematics. Most cutscenes are a few scant minutes. The focus remains on the driving, as it should be. Whenever a cutscene wraps up, things seamlessly transition back into driving, and the player is tasked with completing certain objectives in order to progress the story. Sometimes, though, these transitions occur mid-race. This means you are tasked with performing well on a track you’re probably at best a bit rusty on, because there has been no practice or qualification sessions played prior to the scenario’s events. This adds to the challenge a bit, but might be frustrating at higher difficulties where knowledge of a track is paramount to success.
Surprisingly, this mode doesn’t have the player only taking control of Aiden, and shows both sides of the conflict between two competitive athletes quite well. The level of consideration that went into this is evident even in each racer’s trailer. Aiden, a fresh-faced youngster compared to everyone else, has a gaming laptop to check company emails on, complete with an RGB-backlit keyboard for MOAR SPEED, and his mother occasionally calls to check in on him, while Casper has a more toned-down laptop positioned next to a picture of his family, and it’s his wife and young daughter who call instead. Without spoiling too much, just know that you’ll want to play this game’s cinematics on the TV or sound system if playing near others, because you never know who might have their interest piqued by the entertaining story.
F1 2021 PS5 Review – More Accessible, Can Still Punish
If you’re not here for the drama (understandable), then you’ll be happy to know the racing in F1 2021 remains as accessible as ever. Three new driving modes are available to choose from: Casual, Standard, and Expert. As the names suggest, Casual involves pre-built configurations and simplified car setup, while Expert has a ton of twiddly knobs and sliders and options to get a car setup exactly the way the player wants, and Standard attempts to find a balance between the two extremes. There are also a handful of difficulty settings to choose from, as usual. Setting the difficulty at Normal should be no challenge to anyone familiar with the basics of racing a Formula 1 vehicle, while the Elite level will punish even the smallest mistake, as it should.
The well-received My Team mode makes a return here, letting players build their own team, and compete as the fictional 11th team of drivers. This mode, alongside the regular ten-season career, will see updates to player and team stats as the real-world 2021 season progresses, which is a great reflection of the always-connected world we live in. Beyond My Team, a two-player career mode is also included, alongside split-screen multiplayer! If you’ve got a friend who also appreciates the fastest circuit racing in the world, you’ll no doubt want to invite them over to give these modes a go.
F1 2021 is the most fun you can have in a Formula driver’s cockpit. Braking Point brings the kind of drama you didn’t realize you needed in your racing life, even if it does get a little cringeworthy on occasion. This wonderful looking and sounding Formula racer shines on the PS5, even if some of the platform’s features are under-utilized at this time. With some sense of normalcy slowly returning to the sporting world at large, F1 2021 represents a great way to follow along with the F1 season while attempting to make a virtual name for yourself, and nowhere else does the sport come alive more than in F1 2021.
F1 2021 review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.002 reviewed on a PS5. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.