Racing games have been and always will be the technical spotlight for any console. So much so, the genre has been a staple of console launches for years. Even throughout a console’s lifecycle, racing games act as a litmus test for pushing a console’s tech, resulting in some of the most beautiful games ever created. It just so happens there are a lot of great racing games out there as well. It’s a competitive space, and if you can’t stand out, it typically isn’t worth playing.
This brings me to F1 2019, the latest entry in the Formula 1 racing game franchise. I’m not an expert by any means, but F1 racing, in my eyes, is the fastest and most furious racing on the planet. Yet, F1 2019 lacks the characteristics of its real-life counterpart.
Gameplay in F1 2019 isn’t unlike any other modern racing game. You use the right trigger to accelerate, the left trigger to brake, and the left analog stick to steer. There are a lot of complexities to the racing once you dig a bit deeper, giving the impression that F1 2019 is intended as a sim. There are on-the-fly decisions you have to make to overtake the other racers on the track. This includes implementing DRS or ERS modes and using rich fuel mixes to get the edge on your opponents. It’s really interesting, to some degree, especially for someone who isn’t as familiar with the world of F1.
Despite some features that deviate it from the competition, F1 2019 doesn’t really feel all that unique. Clicking through a menu to switch modes doesn’t really feel intuitive and the racing itself just isn’t all that exciting. Granted, there were moments I legit fist pumped because I ended up winning a race I was definitely not supposed to. But, all in all, it lacks the sense of speed other racers like Forza, Project Cars, or Dirt have. Which is ironic since F1 is the pinnacle of speed.
Something I do really love about F1 2019 is the pre-race setup. I’m not just talking about tuning your car before the race. I mean the practice days and qualifying round portion of each major racing event. Almost like a preparation mode for certain facets of the race, each trial will test your racing ability in a number of ways. This includes tire-wear prevention, course recognition, and fuel efficiency.
After you complete each test, which can be simulated, you will enter the qualifying rounds to determine your starting position. At this point, it seems like the best option is to just put the pedal to the metal. Efficiency and duration isn’t really a factor during qualification rounds since positions are determined by each racer’s best lap time. It isn’t really revolutionary, but I like that I know what to expect when the championship is on the line.
During Career Mode, doing these practice sessions will earn you points to allocate into a skill tree to further improve your car. Each upgrade takes a few weeks to be added, so you don’t get the effects right away. Additionally, there is the chance that the upgrade will fail, and you have to pay for it again, albeit at a lower price. Failure seems to be caused by your relationship with your pit crew, but also seems pretty random, which can get annoying. Those also never really felt like I was getting the upper hand after they were implemented, so it didn’t seem to really matter.
That sentiment extends across much of F1 2019. The aforementioned upgrades, as well as the different on-the-fly modes never really felt like it made any significant changes to the gameplay. Granted, I was playing on whatever the default difficulty was, but there wasn’t a moment where I got an upgrade and thought, “Wow, this feels completely different and to my benefit.” Basically, as long as I listened to what the person on the headset said to me, followed the DRS button prompts, and used the balanced tuning option, I was successful.
I had mentioned a Career Mode earlier and how you can develop relationships with your pit crew in that mode. Let me explain how weird this mode is. You begin your career in Formula 2, a sort of developmental league for aspiring F1 racers, where you and your teammate, Lukas Weber, attempt to grab wins for your team by working together during the race. You also have a rival, Devon Butler, who is there to get under your skin and tear the two apart. It’s pretty campy, and honestly, something I wasn’t expecting. This feud continues throughout your F2 career where you’ll have post-race interviews with the press which affects your relationship with your team.
However, that F2 career eventually ends as you move up to F1. It also seems this “story-driven” take is also erased, focusing more on the simulation aspect of racing. It just seemed off that F1 2019 would introduce these characters only to separate you as if it never existed.
For those wanting to race online, there are plenty of modes, both for casual and hardcore racers, to enjoy. What I like about the online races is that it isn’t just picking a tuning option and racing. Online brings over many of the features from single-player, like the practice and qualification rounds, except your qualification time is put against other online racer’s times, making it more difficult to qualify. That being said, I found myself taking laps around the same track for about an hour and a half. In that sense, it has an arcade quality to it; I was always trying to beat my fastest time.
F1 2019 isn’t really all that spectacular. The gameplay is mostly what you’d expect with the potential of an exhilarating moment here and there, but it wouldn’t be the first game I’d look to for a racing simulation experience. That being said, it is enjoyable and there is plenty to do, especially for those looking for a new racing game to pick up.