F1 2019 by Codemasters is an evolution rather than a revolution in the series – with some surprising twists.

Having entered the yearly race to design, develop, market and sell a brand new officially licenced Formula One game every 12 months, you can perhaps be forgiven for thinking that the F1 franchise would fall firmly into the FIFA mould of rinse and repeat – and to a large extent that has been the case with Codemasters since the franchise began all the way back in 2010.

Previous games had their ups and downs over the years, with many arguing that the incremental improvements to the franchise started to reach a bit of a plateau around the 2016 season edition – however in F1 2019, Codemasters have worked a little bit of magic to maximise their long experience within the game development industry – taking a bit longer over the development lifecycle in the new title, two years to be precise, despite an earlier than usual release window..

Before we begin looking a little closer at F1 2019, let me state my own position about my racing preferences. I am what you would consider a ‘hard-core’ sim racer – i.e. the more realistic the simulation, the happier I am.

As such, offline career modes, cut scenes and artificial contract negotiations are something I firmly believe just serves to get in the way of the important bit – the track action.

Let us be honest here, no one is claiming F1 2019 will be a detailed racing simulation – the franchise is afterall designed to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible. However, I feel more than ever that Codemasters have hit upon a golden piece of the racing game marketplace, a nice mix of accessible yet realistic. This will be important for future sales, as F1 2019 feels like the sort of game that with the correct options selected, could be just as enjoyable for the casual gamer as it is for someone who is looking for a more detailed experience, like me.

Firstly, let us start with the graphical updates in the new title….

Codemasters have always churned out a visually pleasing game with the F1 series, and for 2019 they claim to have spent plenty of time and resource on upgrading the lighting system within F1 2019 – to spectacular effect.

Before picking up the new title I firmly believed graphics in F1 2018 were good, however once sampling the new release on PC with high settings, I’m startled to realise that F1 2019 is visually much richer and more detailed in almost every aspect – but on my system at least, without much in the way of a performance hit. Score one for Codemasters.

No Mice Here

In 2019, on a mainstream PC game, to have no mouse support is pretty much unheard of. However, and despite the mouse curser making an appearance in fellow Codemasters game DiRT 2.0, navigation of the game UI and in game options is once again restricted to the keyboard - a significant disappointment, and something that goes a long way to making F1 2019 more difficult to enjoy than it really should be.

To make matters worse, Codemasters have continued to follow the tradition of assigning seemingly random numbers to keys on your wheel or button box. Want to know what frustration is? When the game asks you to press button "9" to do something. Which one is button 9? Hmmm.

That said, this "feature" is certainly less of a frustration than the previous version of the game, and the UI has noticeably improved from 2018, which are positives.


Audio in the new title is again rather solid considering the awful material they have to work with (did I ever tell you I’m no fan of the hybrid turbo era..?). The engine note is pleasingly similar to that of the real world series, and when watching replay footage of your track adventures give an opportunity for the graphics and audio to combine and produce a most impressive and immersive experience.

However, and this came to my attention late in the review process, much like a scratch on your car or that first prominent grey hair, once you see it you can’t miss it anymore, I’m getting a little annoyed about the FIFA style crowd cheering on various circuits – hearing the fans roar in near miss goal fashion when nothing of interest is happening out on circuit is gets a little grating after a while. Irritant as it is, these effects are likely to be adjustable and can be toned down in the game audio settings.

While speaking of audio, F1 2019 is notable for having F2 cars included in the base content for the first time, and the engine sounds on these are just lovely – Codemasters really capture the unique noise of a Formula 2 car in all of its glory here – or perhaps I’m just hankering for a return to loud and proud racing engines in my open wheel formula fix?

Sadly the same can’t be said of the historic content, which for this player at least appears to be once again a very disappointing stab at recreating some of these iconic beasts. Feels like a bit of copy & paste from the last game here, further adding to the feeling that historic content in the F1 game franchise is more of an afterthought than a serious stab at expanding base content within the title.

Formula 2

Here Codemasters have pulled a blinder, adding the popular Formula One support series into the game has really lifted the playing life and depth of F1 2019. The series that comes at launch will be 2018, a year where the top three championship finishers all progressed to Formula One for the new season, but Codies have promised a free update to add the 2019 cars and liveries later in the year – awesome.

The cars of F2 drive very differently that their Formula One big brothers, offering a much more raw and mechanical experience for the player. Longer braking distances, a more lively rear, heavier steering and a field of cars identical in all but livery and setup, the F2 content in F1 2019 is, for me at least, the shining success story of the new title, and practically worth the price of admission alone.

In F2, players can race the full FIA Formula 2 season, single player mode where you pick the track, and even race on the F1 tracks that don't appear on the Formula 2 calendar. Honestly, F2 is the standout pleasure from this game, in my opinion.

Career Mode

With F2 comes the opportunity for Codemasters to expand their career mode in F1 2019, starting you out in F2 with three ‘scenario’ races where you need to complete some objectives and interact with your teammate and rivals, either via cut scene interviews with the media, or in various situations away from the track that are dictated by your performances in the ‘scenario’ races.

Frankly I was underwhelmed by the idea when it was first announced by Codemasters, but having played my way through the process, I actually think the team have made a very clever link with F1 here, and I came away impressed with how Codemasters managed to filter in the F2 content, without having to let the player grind through races that might otherwise not have wished to compete in.

I appreciate that these sort of ‘canned’ scenarios aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea – mine included – but the way Codemasters have positioned the Formula 2 content, and how they manage to introduce your two new rivals, isn’t badly done at all… a very solid attempt to implement content and features that could otherwise have felt somewhat wooden in the overall scheme of the game. Job well done.

Speaking of rivals, that leads us nicely onto another new feature within F1 2019… driver swaps…

Now I’ve not played career mode long enough to experience this myself, but according to Codemasters they have managed to negotiate what was once thought impossible… the ability to have the AI real world drivers swap teams either mid-year or during the winter ‘off season’ – meaning it isn’t beyond the wildest possibility to see Max Verstappen finally make the move to Ferrari within your offline career – a great piece of news, and something that has often been considered lacking in previous F1 career modes.

As mentioned, I haven’t experienced this for myself, but some reports are circulating that this feature isn’t quite as grand as one would of hoped, with some players stating that AI driver moves have occasionally been a little bizarre – with drivers you wouldn’t expect inexplicably moving down the order to unfancied teams… time will tell exactly how well this pans out over the life of the game.

Another notable topic is the addition of the two F2 'rivals' you meet in the lower tier series. One a heated on track rival, the other your affable F2 team mate. When completing the F2 'scenarios' prior to starting your new Grand Prix career, both of these rival drivers will follow you to Formula One, replacing one of the real world drivers in each team - but not giving you the opportunity to choose which one. Not a disaster, and potentially a nice touch for those that like playing out a longer term career, but could be annoying for those who's favourite F1 driver gets kicked from the series before it even begins!

Physics / Force Feedback

The topic most people will be keenest to hear about is almost certainly how the physics and force feedback in F1 2019 have changed since the previous release.

In our F1 2018 review, I suggested that I was reasonably impressed with how the FFB behaved compared to previous games. The same would have to be said of the new release. Although not revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly not on the level of high performing simulation games like rFactor 2, the FFB in F1 2019 is nevertheless very serviceable and gives a solid if not spectacular feel of what the car is doing in game.

Still suffering from the now traditional feeling of over dampening that has been typical of the series to date, I could at least tell that the feelings transferred to my wheel had a slightly more natural feeling than was once the case in previous games, with much work having apparently gone into the wheel feeling to enable a significant increase in the way the car presents understeer to the player.

When considering FFB feeling, one has to recognise this is a Formula One car – something with big tyres and high downforce, so we are never going to get a wild ride behind the wheel. However, I still think Codemasters have a way to go in order to translate the rear traction loss in the game in a more natural and believable way. These cars are super grippy in corners, but once they start to go, it feels like the messages delivered to the wheel are just too late to allow me to do anything useful about it…

Better than F1 2018? Absolutely. On par with the best? Not quite yet, but still very much useable and not overly distracting from the main gameplay.


The F1 series by Codemasters is forever in a difficult position. Wanting to appeal to a wide range of audiences while at the same time staying authentic to the most popular racing series on Earth is a difficult ask. Especially with such a large pool of potential fans always happy to weigh in with their opinions on the game.

That said, Codemasters should be commended for their continual improvements to the series over the last years, even if it could be argued that some of these feature and gameplay improvements could have joined the franchise earlier than they ended up seeing the light of day.

Visually F1 2019 is by far superior in every aspect, further pushing the game engine and really giving players an impressive (and pretty performance friendly) treat. The physics / FFB seem to be a step in the right direction, and with new F2 and online multiplayer cars and customisation thrown into the mix, plus the AI driver swaps, a lot of new and much valued content and feature improvements have come the way of this new title.

Not a revolution in terms of change, but a case of taking what was good from previous instalments and building a much bigger, better and more solid baseline.

I think it fair to say, as I do in the title of this piece, F1 2019 feels incrementally better in almost every way over its predecessors, and I’ll be honest – despite not being a ‘hard core’ sim, I’ve had a blast with it.