Arriving on July 16, F1 2021 sees Codemasters’ stellar racing series return once again, with the developers tasked with improving upon last year’s superb instalment – a feat easier said than done. Thankfully, it seems the team have delivered enough incredible new content to ensure F1 2021 maintains the series’ incredibly high standards, with the standout new feature Braking Point set to introduce an incredible new mode to an already brilliantly-comprehensive release.
We caught up with Codemasters’ Lee Mather, franchise game director of F1 2021, to find out more about the exciting new additions in the series’ latest iteration, including an incredible new multiplayer mode set to fuel rivalries like never before.
Can you break down the new features in F1 2021?
F1 2021 gains some significant new headline features, along with a whole host of refinements to existing areas. The standout new feature for F1 2021 is Braking Point, the fully fledged cinematic story experience. We’ve also added a fantastic new online two-player career. Two-player career will allow a player to play our iconic career mode with a friend.
What are you personally most excited to see in F1 2021, and why?
There are two things I’m excited to see: first up is the reaction to what we’ve achieved with Braking Point. As a team who produce a racing/sports title, to create a massively cinematic story-driven feature is relatively new territory for us. I think players will be amazed at the high level of production, writing and storytelling which the team has achieved.
I’m also looking forward to seeing how players engage with two-player career. Our career mode has been a huge success for us since its introduction in 2016 and what could be better than enjoying it with a friend? Be that cooperatively or in direct competition.
Can you tell us about the new tracks? Which do you think of the Portimao, Imola, and Jeddah circuits provides the sternest challenge?
The team are delighted to be able to bring Portimão, Imola and Jeddah to all players as free post-launch content. What’s great about the three new circuits is that they all offer different challenges and experiences.
Jeddah being a street track brings with it the risk of a race-ending impact, along with the enclosed feeling of racing between walls. What makes Jeddah unique amongst other street tracks are the high speeds, with the circuit being the fastest street track on the calendar. It’s also the second-longest circuit in the sport.
Imola is a classic Formula 1 circuit and loved by fans. It’s a fast, flowing and notoriously challenging circuit and with the potential for inclement weather, it’s always likely to throw up an exciting race.
Portimão is a circuit in a similar vein to Imola, being set in the sweeping hills of the Algarve. Portimão also has several crests leading into blind apex corners. Nailing these corners will prove challenging and be key to a fast lap.
Tell us more about Braking Point. What does this new mode mean for players?
Braking Point is our new narrative-driven story mode, which tells a story through a mix of gameplay and cutscenes. A fully fledged story mode is something we’ve had on the roadmap for some time. As with most major features, we wanted to wait until we were in a position to do it justice. We dipped our toe in the water in F1 2019 with the story-driven F2 career introduction. That was received incredibly well, with Devon Butler becoming something of a cult character amongst fans. That, along with the fantastic success of Netflix’s Drive to Survive really gave us the confidence to push a story-driven game mode to the next level. It’s also something that the fans have wanted to see for some time.
We believe it will appeal to a broad F1 fanbase, injecting more of the excitement away from the track into the fast and frantic on-track experience. Before we started on the feature, we had some broad story ideas and partnered with a professional writing duo to ensure we hit our goals of creating something with a nuanced, exciting and engaging journey for the player. We think players will really engage with the new characters and find the story a fantastic change of pace for both the series racers and more casual F1 fans.
How does Braking Point differ from a traditional career mode? How does it better immerse players in their F1 journey?
The main key difference is that Braking Point is a linear experience. In My Team or Career, the player creates their own story and forges their own destiny, creating a narrative in their mind. Braking Point takes the player on a rollercoaster ride, where we can not only inject exciting on-track scenarios into the mix, but then focus on the repercussions and emotions away from the track. We can take you behind the scenes in great detail.
What are the new additions to career mode? Can you describe Real-Season Start?
Real-Season Start gives players the opportunity to jump into the 23-race season at any point that’s already occurred with up-to-date standings. We know how closely our fans follow the sport, so felt that the addition of Real-Season Start would be something which would really appeal to them.
Being able to jump into any point of the season that's already taken place and then trying to change the direction of the Championship is something we felt would be great fun.
And because the Real-Season Start data is updated in light of adjustments to the calendar, it also offers players a way of having their first career season play out as closely as possible to the calendar used in the real F1 2021 championship – where possible location changes will be accommodated and start points will take into account the historical results from tracks – even if they don’t exist in the game.
Finally, to keep things fair, we also simulate R&D, so no matter where you start your season, the teams will all have been working on developing their cars, including the team that you elect to join.
What do you think it’ll mean for players to have friends join their career online?
Two-player career is something we’re very excited about this year. We had something similar a while back, but never with this level of engagement and as feature-rich. We know a lot of players love the concept of racing either together or against each other in a full F1 season, so that’s what they’ll able to do in two-player career.
There are two ways a player can engage with two-player career: One is that you can partner with a friend and decide to work together on the same team, with a goal of winning the Constructors' World Championship as a pairing. The second is that you can start your journey on separate teams, racing to become Constructors' and Drivers' World Champion. Through all of this, both players will engage with R&D, meet the press and any of the other team-running-related elements in the driver career.
Rivalry becomes particularly interesting when it’s possible to have your friend as a rival, be that on the same or opposing teams. For players who start their two-player career on opposing teams, it’s also possible that they could end up driving together at the same team at some point, if that’s how the contracts system plays out. We’re excited to see the way people create their own journey in F1, as a pairing.
What can next-gen console owners look forward to?
Launching F1 2021 across current and next-gen platforms is a big thing for us and something we knew would be the right thing to do to enable the maximum number of F1 fans to access the new game. Unlike the last generational transition, this time we’ve implemented new tech that can be scaled effectively depending on platform. All players will get the same game modes and will be able to play against each other within each platform’s infrastructure.
Are there any specific features for each of the next-gen consoles?
F1 2021 will take advantage of a number of the next-gen hardware specific features. Raytracing will be utilised in a number of areas of the game, such as within the Front End, Photomode and within replays. We’re also adding a Performance Mode option which will allow the game to run above 60fps on compatible hardware.
Players on next-gen platforms will also be able to experience a significant reduction in loading times, allowing them to flow smoothly from session-to-session.
We’ve also worked on the quality of on-track models and textures, adding a new level of visual fidelity to the next-gen experience.
F1 2021 is coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, and PC on July 16, 2021.