One of the reasons I play racing games, is because while I am at it, I am doing moderate physical exercise. For example, while playing “rFactor x”, “F1 xxxx”, or “Project Cars x”, at a demanding difficulty level, I have to focus and apply myself. These car racing games, when played with a steering wheel and pedals, configured to offer little to no assistance, and with the A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) set at ~100% strength, will require plenty of arms + legs + abdominal movements!
Today I raced 15 laps around Australia’s Melbourne circuit, in “F1 2019”. I started 20th and ended 18th, but achieved running in 10th position at a stage, until Lando Norris touched my rear-left tire, causing damage that would force me to anticipate a scheduled pit stop. I am starting to feel more comfortable in this game, but I have no pace at all, compared to the front-runners. The fastest A.I. cars were lapping in the 01:25:xxx, while I spent the entire race stuck on 01:29/30:xxx laps.
It was fun and hard. Here is the full “TV camera” replay of those 15 laps race. I am on the Renault number “2”.
I have been playing “F1 2019”. My “career” finally reached Formula 1, against A.I. set at 98% strength. The first race is the 2019 Australia GP, and this post is a recording of my best lap on FP2 (Free Practice 2), clocked at 01:27:873, very far from the 01:25:xxx that the computer is achieving.
Finally, on event #3 of 3, a “full” Abu Dhabi six laps race, you “just” have to finish ahead of your championship contender, nothing more, to win the F2 2018 World Championship.
The difference here is that the player gets to start the race on his/her own, for the first time, and has to endure the steering wheel’s force feedback for ~13 consecutive minutes.
Yet again, I failed. I managed to gain some positions, but was totally unable to catch the front-runners. The A.I. was lapping on 01:53:xxx, while my best is on the 01:55:xxx.
Do not fear: the player always graduates to F1. One of these days I’ll continue the game and try those cars.
On event #2 of 3, the final laps of the Austrian GP, you have to deal with a broken front wing. The challenge is to recover the lost ground and go overtake your adversary. I failed. I lost no places after the forced pit stop, but I could gain none either. The race pace of the A.I. was just too strong for my current skill.
Codemasters’ “F1 2019” game, which I play on the PC, features a “career mode” that consists of three events of the F2 2018 championship: Spain, Austria, and Abu Dhabi, the closing race. When a player plays the “career” mode, he/she must first complete these F2 events, before graduating to F1.
There is no “practice” mode in the game; the closest to it, is an option to race timed laps. This means that, for first time players, like myself, the handling of the car will be a complete unknown and unless playing on a very low difficulty level, success (race wins) is impossible.
My career is against A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) set at 98% and no driver assists, other than some traction control. The game should warn you that you cannot change these settings, ever, unless starting a new career. Makes sense, but the game’s defaults for the Logitech G29 racing steering wheel – my controller – feel so bad, that I had to spend significant time in tuning it to an “acceptable” state. That meant many F2 2018 Spain restarts, until I could control the car, at all.
At some point, I was comfortable enough to complete the challenges. I recorded videos of those three F2 events.
F1 2019 has great visuals, but its handling is well below the superb rFactor 2 (RF2) standard. RF2 feels “natural”. The behavior you get from the RF2 cars is just credible. Yet, because of its “social” component, including ESPORTS, F1 2019 is gathering momentum. It is “unfair” from a realism perspective, but it is what it is. I suppose F1 2019’s realism deficit versus not only RF2 but also versus iRacing, is rooted on its compromise to support gaming consoles (Playstation, XBOX), which are devices for audiences who prefer “fun” with stick controllers above “simulation”.
Today and in the next two days, I publish the “TV perspective” videos of events #1 to #3 of 3.
Event #1/3 is the closing laps of the Spain 2018 F2 race. In this first game “career” challenge, the story sets you with a “turbo issue” and a request from your team, to let your teammate pass. I did not have the pace to hold my teammate, so the request was easy to comply with :).
As the video shows, although the car was “controllable”, I was locking the brakes too often, due to inexperience, a yet poor control setup (that would improve days later, but remains still far from perfect), and because of damage that I suffered from contact against another car. “Damage” is another setting that you cannot change without erasing all the saved game data and restarting the “career”. I am playing with “damage” one level below the max “simulation”, and that means that contacts will cause handling and performance problems. The video clearly depicts the car parts that have sustained impacts.
I decided to try the game “F1 2019” (it was 30% off on Steam), and the experience evolved from terrible to interesting. It is amazing how bad the game defaults are: unrealistic handling and audio stuttering are the top issues. These issues seem to affect many players, considering the frequency they appear in support forums, yet – and this is quite a mystery – the big review sites seem immune to such annoyances, not referring how they configured the game to bypass all issues and apparently enjoy a turn-key 9/10 game.
I always perceived the “F1 20xx” game series as “racing fun” for “kids”, i.e., for those just wanting to have a nice looking arcade experience with F1 cars in it. For those who appreciate a “simulation” approach, these games feel ridiculous, sand-to-eyes (look good, drive awful), and unfair to other games on the market, which are so much more “real”, and better handling out-of-the-box.
In my first minutes with it, F1 2019 greatly exceed my WORST expectations. It was unbelievably bad, with video synchrony drama (sometimes, as if driving in slow motion), audio stuttering (interrupts in the audio stream), and a feel of disconnect (not exactly lag, but rather disrespect to what I was asking from the virtual car) between inputs from my wheel + pedals (Logitech G29) and their effective result. I literally could not believe the game was that bad, so I endured in many configuration experiments (hardware and software), until I achieved something enjoyable and worthy of my “simulation” label. It took me three days (more like three attempts in three different days) and I nearly dropped the towel on day 2, but this afternoon was rewarding. Now, in my book, “F1 2019” is the best of all the games in the “F1 20xx” series, which would not mean much (its siblings are not good), if it wasn’t for the “simulator” label.
So, what did I do?
I am running a graphics configuration much below what the video-card can allegedly do. In my case, the game suggests “Ultra High” settings for every graphical setting, but I cut back on several options, the most relevant being the shadows to “medium”, “motion blur” to disabled (why do people play with that on?!), the cars’ mirrors to just “high quality”, and decreased texture filtering. In theory, these options result in a less good-looking experience, but in practice, it is hardly noticeable at the resolution I play (2560×1600), and greatly rewarding in freeing up computer resources.
To help with the audio stuttering, reduce the frequency of the audio process to “low” and combine that with VSync ON, at 60 fps, or the exact refresh rate your monitor supports. It you have one of those 120 Hz or 240 Hz monitors, then you should also increase the audio process to “medium” or even “high”, but good luck with no audio hick ups.
For credible steering + pedals inputs, do NOT use the game’s defaults. Define a custom configuration for the controller you will be using, including manually setting the throttle + brake controls, even when they seem to be already configured. With the Logitech G29, I “saturate” the steering and the brake inputs. I also noticed that increasing the “linearity” for an input, seems to cost inferior accuracy. The controls feel more authentic if not subject to changes in “linearity”.
Having achieved a drivable “F1 2019” game configuration, I hit the track. In a matter of 2+ hours of game play, I progressed up to the top #400 spot in the fastest laps table, racing a Formula 2 in Spain. I still did not try the F1 cars.
Here is a video replay of a 01:31:919 lap. The game tells me that this lap is top #400 material.