F1 2019 is filled to the brim with upgrades and new features, all of which promise to deliver one of the best installments in the series. This year's release marks the 10th anniversary of the F1 franchise, and Codemasters decided to go all out to commemorate the event. When it comes to annual releases, especially in the sports genre, games can often feel underdeveloped. This is something that's plagued several franchises over the years, but the fact that F1 2019 is releasing earlier than expected - two months earlier, in fact - is a great sign of how confident Codemasters is in their new product - as they should be, since it's quite impressive, to say the least.
Playing through F1 2019 is like going through a career, beginning with Formula 2 and the 2018 season (with the 2019 season coming at a later point) and then eventually moving into Formula 1. And there are numerous differences between the two, most of which are noticeable in the vehicles themselves. Graphically, F1 2019 is a significant improvement over last year's installment, and it comes off more as a generational jump than a simple annual release. These advances are representative in the background, the tires, the sound (wind, engines, downshifts, etc.), and so forth - but perhaps the most noticeable differences can be found in playing in the night-time races.
The all-new night lighting permeates throughout the tracks and can, honestly, trick players into thinking what they're playing is real. Unfortunately, that realism doesn't extend to the day-time races. That's not to say the day tracks aren't graphically impressive - they are - but they are somewhat lesser than. But the cars themselves are undoubtedly some of the most graphically pristine versions that have released thus far. It's something all fans will appreciate.
Fans of the F1 series will also enjoy the subtle improvements that have been made in the new installment as well as the various new components that have been added in. Throughout our demo as well as the presentation that preceded it, it was clear that Codemasters' objective for F1 2019 was to deliver more - more gameplay options, more multiplayer components, more customization - in practically every way possible. These are all to the benefit of the player, whether they choose to play on their own or online. And while F1 2019 is every bit as difficult as the previous games were (of course, it also depends on your difficulty level), retrying isn't dull; rather, it's quite enjoyable as the A.I.'s skills aren't withheld.
In addition to demoing F1 2019 ourselves, we learned quite a bit about the game from the approximately 20-minute presentation as well as our interview with game director Lee Mather:
- One of the biggest improvements in F1 2019 is the graphics, and in addition to the night lighting, Codemasters has also improved upon the tires (which mimics a chrome release agent used in the real-life sport), the particle effects, the weather, and so forth. All areas of the game have been tweaked to give it a "really realistic effect this year," says Mather.
- Over the years, Codemasters has noticed that players have developed comprehensive communities outside of the game, and this year they put in the effort to give players options to manage their multiplayer experiences from within the game. This includes the addition of badges and trophies for taking part in Leagues, a new multiplayer component in which players can create clan-type groups (for the uninitiated). Leagues will be comprised of Admins, Owners, and Members; they can be either public or private and be used to either schedule races or play on-demand. It's a one-stop shop for F1's new multiplayer experience. If players are searching for a League they want to join, they can search for when people play online the most at certain times so they can join in on the fun. The great thing is, Leagues also have a voting system, so members can make their voices heard.
- Codemasters has always tried to develop the world around Formula 1 in their games, but this year they wanted to introduce a narrative to the career as well, which comes with the Rivalry. With Formula 2, the developers were able to give players an introduction to the world while also laying the foundation for a rivalry with another driver. This carries through to Formula 1, and it entices players to want to beat specific people in the races instead of simply winning, which is great in and of itself. "It's all about injecting that little bit of emotion into it," says Mather.
- While the Formula 2 season in F1 2019 is meant to act as somewhat of a prologue, players can enter into a full Formula 2 season if they choose, filled with all the correct rules and so forth.
- In addition to the new Showroom, players can also look at Highlight Reels from races that are automatically generated for them. And if they're on PC, they can easily export those clips, but on consoles, players will have to use the integrated features, like the Share button on PlayStation 4.
- At the moment, the only confirmed post-launch content for F1 2019 is the 2019 Formula 2 season as well as its expansion into multiplayer.
- Of everything that we saw and tried ourselves, the one aspect that's concerning is currency - Competition Points that can only be obtained through "online experiences" - which allow players to purchase customization items up to a certain level.
- We confirmed that there are indeed a form of microtransactions in the game, and while players can use the currency they earn in multiplayer to unlock new skins and gear, there will be premium options which can only be purchased using real money. When asked if you can only unlock items from the Premium Tier using cash, Mather confirms, "For the very high level ones, yes." Furthermore, there are customization items that can only be obtained through completing certain events; they are unlocked as rewards.
- As for why F1 2019 is releasing earlier than usual, it's no surprise that Codemasters is hoping to capitalize on the buzz around the F1 season getting underway. "This is when there's the real energy around the season ... So the earlier we get it out, the sooner players can play exactly what they're watching on TV." To accomplish this feat, they increased the size of the development team, and a third of that team will start on the next title much earlier than normal.
F1 2019 releases on Xbox One, PS4, and PC on June 28.