Codemasters has a reputation for leaning towards the simulation side of racing, and it's certainly understandable with the F1 license. This year's changes show that there's more than one way to get at the heart of a sport.
The majority of additions revolve around making the game more accessible. Thankfully, this doesn't mean overhauling the fundamentals of how to drive a car with as much power as an F1 ride has, but instead changing everything related to the experience to make it easier to get into.
A small but noticeable tweak for anyone who's previously played the franchise is that there is now the option to shorten the race weekend. If you don't like to go through full practice and qualifying sessions, you can now dive into a one-lap qualifying period followed by the race.
My favorite addition is the Season Challenge mode, which features a shortened 10-race season that tasks you with picking a rival and beating them in best-of-three race series for their car. It's a fun way to change up the familiar season format while retaining a small taste of a career mode. If you want things even more trimmed down, you can also take on six F1 champions via scenarios that not only test your mettle, but also teach you a bit about the sport and its cars.
I like the way the new modes accommodate new players, but we've seen these features before in other games. Instead, Codemasters should further flesh out the life-as-a-driver career mode it has left relatively untouched since it took over the F1 license two years ago. I like what's there – especially the frenemies relationship with your teammate – but I hope that Codemasters can still provide more meaningful change to the normal racing career mode.
Perhaps another lost opportunity lies within the game's online modes. While being able to pair up with a friend as teammates and drive through a season is great, there is no larger online structure that imbues that sense of rivalry with others. Experience earned online is mainly for matchmaking purposes, and single- and multiplayer are separate affairs.
Racing cars of this magnitude is not like hitting the streets with some jacked-up sports car. F1 cars are a special breed, and Codemasters has done a great job conveying that. Some of the racing moments are challenging and exciting the likes of which you won't find in other titles. A little more depth in the series' career mode could go a long way into making that portion of the game just as special.
This year's changes show that there's more than one way to get at the heart of F1.