Codemasters: Putting The Form In Formula One
Updated: Sep 15
"America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed." - Eleanor Roosevelt
F1 is the world's most-watched sport on television annually, boasting nearly 600,000,000 viewers in over 180 countries. Unfortunately, in America, viewership suffers partly due to global race times often putting races early Sunday morning when much of America is still asleep. However, with the addition of a second U.S. race in Miami, FL set for 2022 (with the current race in Austin, TX at Circuit of the Americas), and a budding Netflix series, F1 is rising in popularity.
What Makes F1 So Special?
There's no better time to be a fan of Formula 1. I might lose my American citizenship for saying this, but F1 is the best spectator sport available right now. At the very least, it's the most intimate sport you can follow. The official F1 social media team provides funny and engaging content with clips galore on platforms like Instagram; while their YouTube page features race weekend highlights, interviews, and classic content from previous years. And with such a rich history to Formula One, there's no shortage of content available to comb through as you learn all about the origins of F1 racing. No other sport provides this level of social media engagement or content for their fans. Not to mention most teams and drivers provide great content as well with some drivers even engaging with viewers on Twitch.
F1 is easy enough to follow and with the Netflix series Formula One: Drive To Survive, you really get an inside look at how the sport works. Drive to Survive is a docuseries that follows the drivers and teams through each racing season starting with Season 1 in the 2018 racing season and the subsequent years portrayed in Seasons 2 & 3. The series dives into the drama of the drivers, a behind-the-scenes of the business, and a look at the logistics of what it takes to coordinate 22 races across 17 countries.
F1 Video Games by Codemasters
There's also no better time to dive into the F1 Games from Codemasters. There are a plethora of racing games out there but Codemasters is setting the bar for premium racing experiences with games like GRID, DIRT, and the F1 series. With the upcoming release of the F1 2021 video game, we were fortunate enough to have a quick chat with Lee Mather (@TheLeeMather), Franchise Game Director at Codemasters. I told Lee our plan was to bring F1 to the masses through our podcast!
"That's what I like to hear!" - Lee Mather
F1 2020 was the most approachable title in the series to date. With a Casual driving mode added to assist the player with braking and steering, it's nearly impossible to be "bad" at this game. I put Casual Mode to the test by having my wife race a few laps around the track. Nothing crazy like Monaco, but for a woman who literally crashes every video game vehicle (OR docks a boat) she gets into within 5 seconds, she not only completed a race but was able to secure a P4 or 4th place! Not only can you add driving assists to essentially turn an F1 simulation game into an F1 arcade game, but you can fine-tune the A.I. difficulty from 0-110. There's no end to the level customization found in F1 2020 and F1 2021 plans to build on that solid foundation.
What Can We Expect From F1 2021?
Aside from the typical livery update, new car designs, and roster updates, fans can expect a 2-player Career Mode allowing you and a friend to join each other online and play through the same career. One of the more interesting additions is the Real-Season Start, allowing players to align their career to the current F1 season and race alongside or as their favorite drivers. Fans are also getting an entirely new story mode called Braking Point! Not to mention, 3 new circuits will be available for free in a post-launch update.
"Again, bringing in all the official drivers, official teams, and obviously, there are some new tracks this year…we do gain Imola, Portimao, and Jeddah." - Lee Mather
Devon 'Douchebag' Butler, your career rival from F1 2019 makes his return in glorious fashion in F1 2021 as the main antagonist. Braking Point will expand the F1 experience putting players in the thick of all the highs and lows of the sport. For those who watch Drive to Survive, you'll know that some of the lows are out of your control with mechanical failures or overly competitive teammates. All the drama of the Netflix series is compiled into a story-driven narrative, albeit about driving.
"(2019) was the year that Drive to Survive first started. Obviously, we loved it . . . and we thought well, this is a great opportunity now to build on what we did in '19 and take that to the next level in '21." - Lee Mather
What About The EA Acquisition?
The last time EA had control of the F1 series was in 2003. Codemasters has faithfully taken on the franchise since 2009 improving upon the formula (pun intended!) year after year. With the success of GRID, DIRT, Project Cars, and the F1 series, what can Codemasters gain from an acquisition from EA?
"Basically, they came to us with a toy chest and a set of keys and went, 'Open the chest and see what toys you want to play with'… and that's literally going to give us the opportunity to really keep growing the game." - Lee Mather
This is EXACTLY what I wanted to hear. While some gamers might be wary of such an acquisition, I resonate with Lee's sentiment. An acquisition shouldn't necessarily be about restructuring a company or game, moreover, it's about giving developers the tools they need to produce the type of content their fans want and deserve. As consumers, we often forget that there are real people behind the games we love. These teams have a finite amount of time and resources at their disposal. With more access to resources and tools to help speed up development, it allows teams to grow their game instead of simply maintaining it.
No Blue Shells
Unfortunately, you won't be seeing any banana peels or power-ups scattered around the circuits like in the most popular racing game to date, Mario Kart. But Codemasters did delve into an arcade-style kart racing game called F1 Race Stars back in 2012. I asked Lee if we might ever get a sequel to that gem OR maybe a blue shell added to the game?
"Not yet! No. Back in the day when we did F1 Race Stars we did have bottle rockets! . . .that's part of your mission right? Broaden the appeal of the sport, get people excited in F1, and then sell Race Stars 2." - Lee Mather
That doesn't mean that F1 can't provide the classic racing experience gamers are used to, and in fact, I'd say that F1 is the most approachable racing game in any series due to the amount of assistance and fine-tuning that can be done to enhance your experience.