F1 2021’s first line of Podium Pass cosmetics is unacceptably weak

Let me preface this petty grievance by saying that I’ve about 12 hours of on-track time in F1 2021’s profession mode alone, about two weeks after the sport launched. I adore this game, and it’ll devour a whole bunch of my waking hours over the following 12 months. However it’s for that motive I’m elevating this stink: The customization unlocks and choices, to this point, are weak. Unacceptably weak.

The primary eight-week season of the sport’s Podium Move presents simply 5 car liveries — and the colours can’t be altered for 2 of them, together with an “epic” all-black livery known as Shadow. A 3rd livery on this assortment, like many others provided within the each day retailer (six in my assortment to this point), has main options which can be locked to a black shade solely.

Why is that this an issue? F1 2021’s deepest mode of play is My Group, the place you create your individual two-car Components One workforce, race one in all them your self, and handle the car’s improvement and different off-the-track crises and intrigues over a multiseason pursuit of the championship. It’s a mode that screams “emergent narrative,” and after sinking 120 hours into it in F1 2020, I can provide you a backstory for my workforce colours, the badge, and the stripes on its livery. If that’s not half my enjoyable of the mode, it’s not less than one-third. And in F1 2021, I’ve to start out it throughout, with some very rinky-dink newbie outfits.

Screen showing eight cosmetics available in F1 2021’s Daily Item Store

Within the Day by day Merchandise Retailer right now are three car liveries, two of that are animal print, in case you need your racing workforce to appear to be your eccentric aunt residing on the Higher East Aspect.
Picture: Codemasters/Digital Arts through Polygon

The bigger problem — larger than my aesthetic disappointment — is the uncomfortable query it raises about sports activities video video games as they begin to resemble Fortnite and different video games that provide tiered loot and season passes of unlockable content material.

And that query is: Completely, I would like the Centaur emblem from F1 2020 for my workforce badge in F1 2021 (suppose gun appeal in Rainbow Six Siege). However do I actually need to purchase it once more? God, it’s agonizing. You see, the Centaur represents the truth that my fictitious automaker makes use of Ferrari engines beneath an unique chassis, and …

Anyway, Codemasters appears to acknowledge the unhealthy optics of reacquiring previous cosmetics, since many of the automobile, firesuit, and helmet designs to this point are all new. (The Galaxy livery, whose colours can’t be modified, is a straight raise of a design from final 12 months; so are among the base designs everybody will get firstly.) The studio has additionally added three extra forms of unlockables — radio calls on your created driver’s victory; new (fictional) sponsor decals; and a private decal ringing the inside of the cockpit’s protecting halo. However that additionally means fewer areas within the Podium Move’s 30 ranges to reward gamers with a car pores and skin or badge icon.

In any case, Fortnite’s and Apex Legends’ communities would revolt if Epic Video games or Digital Arts, respectively, vaulted all the things and made everybody reacquire their wardrobe after a 12 months rolled over. However for a sports activities online game … it’s … assumed to be kosher? Because of a decade of Ultimate Teams, sports activities video players have develop into conditioned to a full reset of a mode that might simply be as persistent as For Honor, a recreation Ubisoft launched in 2017.

screen showing items that are unlocked at levels 19, 20, and 21 of F1 2021’s podium pass

At stage 21 of F1 2021’s inaugural Podium Move, one unlocks the so-called “epic” Shadow livery. It’s simply an all-black design. That’s it. Not even a matte end.
Picture: Codemasters/Digital Arts through Polygon

As for why the annual launch mannequin persists, that’s as a result of a $60 or $70 buy yearly is the spine of the assured minimal funds that publishers make to sports activities leagues and their gamers associations. Per-copy gross sales are the idea for royalties above that. I do not know what, if any, minimize the NFL or the NFL Gamers Affiliation will get from Madden Final Group income, however I’d level out that what individuals are truly spending cash on there isn’t an merchandise with a participant’s or workforce’s likeness on it; it’s the alternate, in-game forex that acquires such issues.

However there’s a distinction between increase groups of latest gamers, who could carry out in another way in an iterated, improved online game, and straight beauty objects that don’t have any useful function. The entire content material provided in F1 2021’s Podium Move, or the Day by day Merchandise Retailer, is beauty. None of it improves a automobile, doubles XP acquire, or provides your driver an attribute perk in multiplayer or another mode. I’m undecided if that’s higher or worse, truly. Saying bye to nice designs that I bought for a buck or two is irritating as hell, however I additionally rebuild my Diamond Dynasty workforce and my Street to the Present participant yearly in MLB The Show.

F1 2021’s neighborhood is not any extra restive than Madden’s or NBA 2K’s — however it’s no much less vocal, both. And Codemasters seems to have painted itself right into a nook. The choices appear to be providing final 12 months’s designs within the Day by day Retailer (microtransaction solely) or within the subsequent eight-week Podium Move, and listening to individuals howl about shopping for one thing they already paid cash for. Or, proceed to pump out new designs, run out of concepts (the Shadow livery actually is only a shameful give-up), and listen to followers clamor for the nice stuff they obtained final 12 months.

Sure, a greater livery editor — akin to what you get in a Gran Turismo or Forza recreation — would resolve all the things. It’d additionally kill a product line for Codemasters and new proprietor EA, so I doubt that’s coming to console gamers anytime quickly. (F1 PC modders have been taking part in with customized designs for years.) Whereas most everybody who races in F1 has a RaceNet account with Codemasters — and due to this fact, one assumes, some report of the content material they owned final 12 months — I doubt {that a} studio nonetheless crunching to ship three new race programs as free downloadable content material can be working to provide us again a few of final 12 months’s best hits.

Probably the most affordable make-good I can fathom would come subsequent 12 months, if Codemasters let people carry over one or two designs to start out their careers in F1 2022. (Sony San Diego Studio did one thing like this when it advised customers to upload custom logos and other designs to MLB The Present’s vault by the tip of February in the event that they needed to make use of them on this 12 months’s new recreation. However these customized cosmetics are all free user-generated content material.) Regardless of the case, we nonetheless want higher designs than the stuff I’ve seen to this point. I’ve purchased half a dozen fits and liveries, and but I’ve been racing my profession with stuff included on the disc.

That doesn’t embrace the Centaur, which, goddammit, sure, I will re-buy. Grudgingly. However I’ll. I guess a number of other people would, too. That’s the issue.

Roster File is Polygon’s information and opinion column on the intersection of sports activities and video video games. | F1 2021’s first line of Podium Move cosmetics is unacceptably weak


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