Five things Braking Point needs for a successful F1 2022 inclusion
The story mode works, sort of. But needs a big lift if it is to stay in the series.
F1 2021 was marketed almost entirely on Braking Point, a brand-new story mode. Bringing narrative to the Formula 1 game was a risk for Codemasters, and they were able to pull it off, but only just.
Braking Point is a fun mode, but it lacks a lot of substance and there will be plenty of racers who completely ignored the mode or left it after just a few chapters.
As an entirely linear mode that just needs you to achieve some targets in a race it doesn’t offer a lot to keep players coming back. We don’t yet know if Braking Point, or something like it, will be making a re-appearance in future F1 titles, but it probably will.
If Codemasters adds these changes it can be a triumphant mode, rather than just existing.
The full range of AI difficulty
One of the F1 games’ biggest strengths is its 0-110 range for AI, each point you move up takes about 0.1 seconds off the AI lap times, and that sliding scale means that everyone can find the right level for them.
With Braking Point that is thrown out of the window for three difficulties, Easy, Challenging, and Hard. If you fall somewhere between these, which most players will, then the races either become a cake-walk or impossibly hard.
Allowing us to slide the AI difficulty around will let players enjoy the races far more.
The key thing for any RPG is to make player decisions matter. In Braking Point, your decisions really don’t matter. Like, at all. It doesn’t matter what team you pick to race in, the only thing that changes is the liveries and race suits. It doesn’t matter what answers you give Claire the reporter, nothing changes.
As a result, you feel like a passenger to the story rather than a part of it. Just to have three or four meaningful decisions, where we can end up working as a well-functioning team or descend into Multi-21, Senna-Prost levels of problems would be amazing.
Career Mode inclusion
One of the reasons F1 2019’s Feeder Series worked so well is that it bled into Career Mode. Bringing Devon Butler and Lukas Weber with you into your career made them permanent fixtures of your races. You could battle them for the title, end up on the same team as them, or watch as they get ditched from the sport.
Aiden Jackson and Devon Butler are completely isolated this year. We can’t dive into a Career Mode where Jackson gets that 2022 Mercedes seat next to Lewis Hamilton, or where Butler is causing chaos in the midfield. We can’t even hire them in My Team.
As a result, the characters will fade into the background and that’s a real shame. We’ve all felt Jackson’s desire to prove ourselves and Casper Akkerman’s self-doubt, to be able to play as ourselves within their universe would help make them a bigger part of the F1 world, like Devon Butler became in 2019.
One of the best things about F1 is that anything can happen. From a sudden downpour that only hits a part of the track to a loose wheel nut ending your race or a safety car coming out at just the worst moment in your strategy, there are hundreds of things that can go wrong in an F1 race.
Most of these have been documented by Netflix’s Drive To Survive, but outside of a puncture recovery and a fairly inconsequential loss of 7th gear the scenarios in Braking Point are pretty basic. Just catch someone in however many laps. That’s not the nail-biting recovery drive we all want. And what about trying to hold onto a spot on fading tyres? It feels like Codemasters missed a trick with some of the racing scenarios, especially given their ones for esports qualification are so intense.
Real driver interactions
Finally, this mode needs some help from the real drivers to keep it firmly in the F1 world rather than making it feel like an off-shoot. The wooden models of Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon sitting awkwardly next to Jackson is just bizarre. They both look and feel like they are from a different game.
Of course, access to drivers was extremely limited this year, so doing a day of motion capture and voice-over with them wasn’t exactly possible. But getting some interaction with them, even if it’s just a cutscene rather than branching conversation, would be an awesome addition to the Braking Point world.