F1 2021 Hands-On Impressions

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Ahead of the launch of F1 2021 next month, we’ve been hands-on with a preview build of the PC version of the game.

Unfortunately it didn’t allow us to go hands on with the new Braking Point story mode or explore some of the other new features introduced to the series in this instalment. We could, however, see some of the changes implemented in career mode, and take the action to the track to see how the game looks and feels.

With F1 2020 handling like a dream and looking so darn beautiful, it should perhaps come as no surprise that F1 2021 isn’t dramatically different in those regards. Codemasters has been hard at work refining things such as the game’s tyre model, however, so there are subtle improvements to handling and physics. The damage model has been notably improved too, so if you’re a sloppy racer you can expect to see your car get suitably messed up.

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In the visuals department, the biggest change this year is the implementation of ray tracing. On PC, those with ray tracing-capable graphics cards will be able to enable ray-traced shadows and reflections, making F1 2021 look more realistic then ever before. It seemingly doesn’t come with an obscene performance hit, either. Our Ryzen 5 3600 CPU paired with an Nvidia RTX 3070 couldn’t quite manage a locked 60fps at 4K, but lowering the resolution to 1440p had us hovering around the 80fps mark. And of course, there’s still time for optimisation.

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As ever, F1 2021 will have comprehensive graphics options on PC, allowing players to fine-tune the visuals to achieve their desired performance. Dynamic resolution can even be turned on to allow players to set their graphical settings in stone and let the resolution vary to keep the framerate up.

Jumping into a career we found that it was easier than ever to tweak the experience to our preferences. It’s possible to disable off the track distractions such as press briefings, for example, allowing for a career that’s more focused on simply racing. And if you switch over to the new Expert Race Style, you can even further tweak your career, going so far as enabling the chance of your car suffering a mechanical failure or fault, just to keep things unpredictable. Needless to say, you can make your F1 2021 career more authentic than ever. Even official length practice sessions are available.

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When you’re actually in a career, changes to the R&D system quickly become apparent. Gone is the R&D skill tree, replaced with a more streamlined menu that’s easier to comprehend. There are meaningful changes to the Practice Programs within practice sessions, too. It’s now much easier to attain the brunt of the resource points they offer, though players can complete tougher objectives to earn a range of Development Boosts. These make certain R&D upgrades just a little bit cheaper, but every little helps.

Needless to say, we’ve only had a taste of what F1 2021 has in store for us, but it’s left us convinced that the game is going to outshine last year’s F1 2020 in every possible way. Along with everything else that’s new that we haven’t yet been able to sample, and the fact that it’s going to be on next-gen consoles for the first time, it’s clear that Codemasters is really pushing for F1 2021 to be a noteworthy entry in its long-running series.

F1 2021 launches 16th July on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

Preorder F1 2021 on Amazon