It might not be what it says on the title, but as in at least one previous Codemasters F1 game, you can start your career in F2, which is a good way to learn the circuits or refamiliarise yourself with them in a slightly less ferocious vehicle than an F1 car. Do well and you'll be offered an F1 drive, which is where everybody obviously wants to be. You can also design and race your own car both offline and on, which is an amazing feature.
The handling is better than I ever remember it. They really seem to have let the rear end of the car loose (as long as you have traction control off) and now you can really rotate the car with the throttle to change its attitude in a corner. The ubiquitous Rewind mode will often save you from your mistakes, and definitely tempts you to try some ambitious lunges, and it also encourages you to play on the higher difficulty settings, which will undoubtedly produce some thrilling races. As usual Codemasters have been careful to taylor the game to be playable by gamers with a wide range of abilities, everyone should be able to find a level they can enjoy.
Adding to the assistance when playing is the Rewind mode, which allows you to rewind 15 seconds. Personally I wasn't a fan of the "Rewind" mode originally but now I'm totally converted, and would find most serious driving games a chore if they didn't have one, so thanks to Codemasters for inventing it.
You have the option to simulate a race session if you don't like the circuit or have just built up such a big lead in a championship that you don't care.
OK now for the bad news. The frame rate in replays sometimes drops to shockingly low levels, so if you enjoy relaxing after a hard race and watching a replay like I do the game is kind of spoilt. The main 'TV-style' cameras lack something... placement, movement, who knows... and sound-wise the engines in replays sound echoey and rather weak.
In stark contrast to the iffy frame rate when the cars are viewed from distant cameras, some of the on and in-car pod-type cameras look amazing! Quality developers really do get ever closer to photo realism.
So yes, a disappointing replay mode may not be a game breaker but there are a few other little things, like there being no Christian (first) names included on the list of names that's used audibly whenever you're spoken to by your engineer or referred to by a commentator–both regularly use first names nowadays. My name, (a biblical name, one of the top 30 most popular Western boy's names on the planet in 2021, and the name of at least two former F1 drivers and TWO of the commentators) is not there, and neither is my slightly less common surname, while 'Begum', 'Black Mamba', 'Crofty', 'Grim Reaper,' 'Maverick', 'Old Timer' and 'Wang' are. Out of these personal favourites I decided on 'Wang', because that's the first syllable of what I think the person who compiled the list of names is.
The rain effect is as good as ever and the reduced grip levels feel spot on. After a 5 lap race at Monaco in the wet I was a nervous wreck, so I guess that's about right! If you play from a cockpit view like I do the the water droplet effect is a bit OTT, I've never driven a single seater but I've been on a motorcycle in the rain, and droplets don't run straight down or ever get as big as they do here, they tend to get blown to one side or the other unless you're going very slowly, and F1 (and F2) cars rarely go slowly.
I don't think it's a new feature this year but it'll be an important one for many, and that's mid-session save, so longer races aren't the impossible dream they used to be for most of us family men.
The online racing is as good and bad as ever, and the quality of your experience will be dependent on the speed of your connection and the quality of the drivers you race with. You can start off in a 'Beginner Friendly' lobby with One-Lap qualifying, 5-lap races and collisions turned off–a great place to start. Although it's a couple of years since I played an F1 game in earnest I'm fairly experienced so soon got bored with that and wanted to play with collisions on and stricter rules. I still got T-Boned or rear-ended far too many times at the first corner (the damage looks more realistic than ever by the way), but once the initial melee has settled down there's some quality, intense racing to be had. You can also enhance your chances of having a good time by joining one of the many Xbox F1 Clubs, where driving like a Verstappen with no brakes is frowned upon. Whichever you choose a lot of people are complaining about the online game crashing or lost connections, but I can only say as I saw, and I didn't suffer from either.
Back in the career mode, I was beginning to think the AI was totally believable until I raced at Monaco, got sandwiched at Sainte Devote (at the bottom of the hill) and then spun by the car inside of me and then pushed for a couple of hundred yards sideways up the hill by the lunatic on the outside!
Another feature to stop you getting bored as you hurtle around the world's F1 circuits is the MFD (Multi-Functional Display). This gives you all the info and options to change things like strategy, brake bias, differential, request a pit stop etc. but how many circuits actually give you the chance to study it these days? One thing's for sure, using the MFD is almost an art in itself!
Another gripe voiced by everyone who uses the cockpit view is the intensely annoying animation as your driver's right hand taps what is presumably the 'ERS' button on the steering wheel, which is in fact a dial on many car's steering wheels, so it's not only annoying and distracting, it doesn't make sense! You can relieve this by turning the ERS assist 'off' so you have to do it yourself, but it's worth it.
While we're in the annoying department, the repetitive engineer in your ear, that really hasn't improved over the years–he still says things a real F1 engineer just wouldn't say, and chirps up at the most inopportune of times. He also informs you of how many laps of fuel you have left, which may be of some use if you're running a long race distance and have fuel usage turned on, but otherwise he's just noise–annoying noise. Thankfully there's an option to reduce his communication to 'critical' or 'responses only', or I think he'd have driven me mad. Unfortunately, for some reason this muted my driver's voice in the post-race interviews! Hopefully this'll get fixed like a number of other bugs have been since release.
The F1 is introduced and "outro'd" by SKY commentator David Croft with expert comment from Ant Davidson, which is great, but the fact that they obtained jabbering Italian idiot Davide Valsecchi for the F2 commentary sidekick is an incredible coupe–he's even more annoying in the game than in real life!
Apart from Career mode (and Two Player Career), Split Screen mode, solo Grand Prix, Time Trials, Online Multiplayer and Weekly Events, the Braking Point playable story mode is rather good, and the rivalry between Aiden Jackson (that's you that is) and veteran Racing Point (who are just about to become Aston Martin in the story) teammate Casper Akkerman (who you also play as later) almost overshadows the expected rivalry between you and massive wanker Devon Butler, a recurring character from previous F1s. You basically play a series of scenarios and while I'm not sure your performances actually alter the storyline, it's compelling stuff and you'll want to see the outcome.
All in all, despite some annoying bits and a disappointing replay mode, this is an amazing package that looks great and plays better than any F1 game before it, and is surely a must buy for F1 fans.