F1 24 to Deliver the Biggest Career Mode Innovation Since 2016

The 2023 Formula One season yielded a grand total of three winning drivers over 22 Grands Prix. Just six rounds into the 2024 season and we’ve already seen three different GP winners, across three different teams to boot. Has this season just threatened to become interesting?

Well, it’s almost certainly too early to be hopeful of that. However, even if we are ultimately destined for yet another season of single car dominance, at least F1 24’s updated career mode will give us all a place where we can watch (and hear) the championship unfold a little differently.

F1 24’s key new hook is the ability to “be one of the 20.” That is, we can now take one of F1’s superstar drivers and play as them in a complete, multi-season career mode experience called Driver Career. Driver Career appears to be drilling down on an experience specific to the drivers themselves. This means the focus is on gaining recognition and improving your driver ratings over multiple seasons, dealing with the driver contract market with secret meetings, and completing a variety of short- and long-term goals. Senior creative director Lee Mather confirms the focus on revamping the career mode has been a “huge fan requested feature.”

“It still sees huge numbers of people playing it, but obviously we were starting to feel each year the build-up of players saying, ‘I love Driver Career, it’s one of my favourite areas of the game, but you’ve not done anything with it. Why haven’t you done anything with it? Why haven’t you moved it on? Why haven’t you changed it?’” says Mather. “So we definitely had that in mind.”

We were starting to feel each year the build-up of players saying, ‘I love Driver Career, it’s one of my favourite areas of the game, but you’ve not done anything with it.

“The tipping point was we wanted to bring in the ability for the player to play as a Formula One driver because that’s now such a prominent thing; those drivers have now become super celebrities. They now want to be those drivers. That was less a thing back in 2010. It was more about the world of Formula One and driving Formula One cars.”

Described as the biggest career mode innovation since 2016, Mather is aware that such a change to the career approach is likely to land with more weight with fans than usual.

“So, as a team, it always feels like we have a lot going on,” explains Mather. “I think it just depends on where the focus comes from the players, really.”

“There are some things that always land with more weight than others, but the scale of the work that goes into it is always just as significant. Something like Braking Point, for example, is a massive body of work. Things like F1 World last year; big body of work. But when it’s on something like career mode, which is an absolute pillar of the game and has been since 2010, I think that lands with a lot more weight.

“They’re the areas of the game that have the most complexity because there are so many intertwined systems, and not only are we trying to obviously replicate the sport, but we’re trying to present it in a way that’s super compelling in a video game as well.”

Not only are we trying to obviously replicate the sport, but we’re trying to present it in a way that’s super compelling in a video game as well.

Driver Career isn’t a replacement for My Team mode, which will still exist within F1 24. You can also create custom drivers to race as yourself in Driver Career, or choose an F2 driver or past icon of the sport. However, Driver Career does very much seem geared around encouraging players to enjoy racing as one of this season’s current F1 superstars – especially considering all the driver-specific audio the team has now included. Yes, they’re not just sound bites tossed into the trailer for a little atmosphere – they’re now in the game itself.

“It’s something that we started a conversation with Formula One on a few years ago, and there was an opportunity for us to do that for quite a while,” confirms Mather. “But we didn’t really feel it fit with what we were doing with the title. It didn’t really gel and make sense.”

“But as soon as we opened up the opportunity to race as the real Formula One drivers [in Career Mode], it just made perfect sense to have that VO.”

The question here, of course, is just how exhaustive is that pool of audio, on the back of a season where one bloke won 19 out of 22 Grands Prix? Does that narrow the selection somewhat? For instance, what happens when a driver from a minnow team jags a virtual GP win in F1 24?

“It is a challenge,” says Mather. “Obviously, the front runners who’ve had wins, or close to wins, will have those moments of pure elation. The exciting ones. But then there are drivers who won’t have been in those positions, and we’ve had to be creative with the lines to ensure that they’d be fitting of the scenario as best as possible.”

“Thankfully there’s a lot that the viewers never see. Formula One obviously have everything and they’ve really taken the time to go through and trawl the archives. The good thing is, obviously, there are multiple years. A lot of the drivers in the sport now have been in for several years. Even the rookies have now been in for a couple of years, so there is a good amount.

“It definitely is challenging for the audio team to pick out ones that are relevant for drivers who you might play as and get a win, who’ve never actually had a win. There was definitely a challenge there, but we found ones.

It definitely is challenging for the audio team to pick out [quotes] that are relevant for drivers who you might play as and get a win, who’ve never actually had a win.

“There’ll be some that players recognise, because they’ll remember them from real life. I think obviously some of the Max ones stand out; they’re fairly recognisable. But Lando’s got some nice ones as well. I think Lando has got a really nice one for Monaco, which is really cool.”

There’s much more to the new career experience, too. Expect rivalries that now come in three different levels of intensity (from ones that last a few races to ones that will define parts of your entire career), and a new two-player driver career mode with all the same features that can be played co-operatively, or on different teams (or both, from season to season). There’s even a spin-off of the new Driver Career called Challenge Career, which will be a curated, episodic version with which players can compete asynchronously for leaderboard placement.

F1 24’s handling is again promising further refinement, with the goal being to make the cars more realistically compliant.

“It’s a drum we’ve been banging for years, really, which is realism doesn’t necessarily mean difficult,” says Mather. “That isn’t generally always the case.”

“There’s a perception from some parts of the community that a sim has to be difficult. And as we’ve said, we’ve got a really in-depth sim at the core of this game. And then how we build out the handling model is through the numbers. We simulate everything authentically, only this year we’ve taken that to the next level.

“We knew where we’d got some big holes in the sim and there were things that were achieving the end result, but we knew we could do it better and add more depth to it. One of the prime examples is the weight transfer that you get now in the cars due to the revised centre of mass, but also the suspension behaviour – the anti-dive and the anti-squat behaviour – gives a better feeling of movement in the car and weight transfer to the player.

Realism doesn’t necessarily mean difficult. That isn’t generally always the case.

“So that’s another thing that adds to that, ‘Well, I now know what my car’s doing.’ So before we would’ve accentuated that maybe with additional camera movement, so you got the feel that the car was doing something. Now you get that through the body of the car.

“The real depth in a racing game is in the handling model, isn’t it? You should able to instantly pick up and play, but give yourself a few weeks and you should be absolutely nailing those lines, playing with the car setups, and feeling the intricacies of it all.”

F1 24 arrives on May 31 for Xbox, PlayStation, and PC – just in time to rewrite the results of this year’s Monaco Grand Prix if you feel it’s necessary.

Luke is a Senior Editor on the IGN reviews team. You can chat to him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.





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