F1 24’s revamped career mode finally makes you feel like a real driver

By Mike Stubbs, Contributor
F1 24 is finally delivering the first major overhaul of its career mode since 2016, and the headline new addition is that you can finally play as your favorite real-world driver.

F1 games have all been about mirroring the real sport as closely as possible while still being fun and exciting. The developers have (almost) always added real-world changes to the game, from regulation and rule changes to team rebrands and yearly track rotations. The goal was to give players the feeling of being an F1 driver from the comfort of their own home without the incredible physical stress it puts on their body.

All the on-track action in previous series entries was as realistic as the rest of the game, but off the track was a different story. Strangely, the career mode—where you can play through multiple seasons of the sport either alone or with a friend in online co-op—felt like it missed the realism memo. There was no option to play as one of the 20 real-world drivers; instead, you were forced to play as a created character who would replace a driver on the team you ended up choosing. Personalities and rivalries were distilled down to stats on a screen.

“The biggest change we've made is that now, for the first time ever, you can actually race as a Formula One driver,” said Lee Mather, senior creative director at F1 24 studio Codemasters. “Previously you could only race yourself, as a driver avatar, but we wanted to expand that to give the player the opportunity to race as one of their heroes. So if you want to race as Lewis [Hamilton], Max [Verstappen], or any of the Formula One drivers, or a Formula Two driver, [you can].”
F1 24 S Revamped Career Mode Finally Makes You Feel Like A Real Driver Track
This is more than just changing the look of the driver you play as, as you will inherit the stats of the driver you choose to play, as well as their career goals. So if you decide to drive as current world champion Max Verstappen, your in-game base stats are going to be better than if you started out as a custom driver who is new to the sport. However, by fiddling with the AI opponent settings, you can make sure it’s still a challenge for you, unlike the boring one-man domination of this year’s real F1 season.

There are also new career goals to target for the drivers who have already achieved the initial objective of completing the basics when they are new to the sport. For the greats, these can be things that will cement their legacy, whereas younger drivers will simply try to get that first win, giving fans a chance to complete the goals they have been hoping the real-world drivers will achieve for years.

“If I'd started as myself, I've got nothing, so [I’d have] simple goals, simple targets like attending your first practice session, attending the first qualifying session, completing a race,” said Mather. “If it's Lewis Hamilton, for example, it could be taking your eighth world championship. For Nico Hulkenberg, [it could be] take your first race win. So we really wanted to connect the player closer to the actual sport and the drivers themselves.”

In another first for the F1 series, real audio from actual races will play in certain situations when playing as one of the 20 drivers. F1 and Codemasters have combed through the radio messages from real races and selected the best PG-rated ones to include when you replicate something in the game. If you place first in a race as a regular real-life race winner, you might hear their celebration message, or a good result at an iconic track like Monaco might play that driver's excited reaction back to the team on the pit wall.
F1 24 S Revamped Career Mode Finally Makes You Feel Like A Real Driver Podium
The other big addition designed to make the career mode mirror the real world of F1 is secret meetings. When it's time to start thinking about your next contact and if you should move to another team, instead of just being thrown offers from teams interested in you, they will come to you in a more subtle way by inviting you to a series of secret meetings.

In real life, these meetings often leak out and send the rumor mill wild with talk of which drivers will be moving teams at the end of the season, and that also happens in the game. If you take too many meetings, there is the risk that your current team might find out you are looking at other options and end up making the decision for you by signing someone else.

“We've decided to create a system which kind of mirrors the sort of cloak-and-dagger that goes on in the background in Formula One,” said Mather. “The player will be approached by another team and that will be classed as a secret meeting. You can choose to accept or decline, if you decline, you move on, nothing changes and you stay with your current team. But if you accept, you run the risk of other teams finding out that you're talking to another team. It can also impact your relationship with your current team because obviously, they get a little bit unnerved that you're now having conversations with other teams.”

The drive to mimic real life in career mode isn’t just limited to the character you play—it also applies to your car. This year, the unique characteristics of each of the 10 cars on the grid have been replicated in the game, so the strengths and weaknesses of each team can be felt throughout the course of a season. With the improved research and development systems, you can make sure to focus on your weaknesses, or really lean into your strengths if you so choose. But you can only do this if you are performing and classed as the lead driver in the team.

“Williams is well-known for its straight-line performance, but it may be that you feel that that isn't as beneficial as it could be to you as a driver and that you want to work on some of the other deficiencies,” said Mather. “So you want to maybe work on aero performance so that you've got a car that's got better downforce through the corners. But because you're not the number one driver, your teammates concentrated on something else. That direction will still be beneficial, it's still a positive improvement to the car, but it might not be the area that you identify as being the most beneficial to help you win races.”

All of this is designed to bring a new level of realism to the F1 24 career mode. We all want to be able to play as our favorite drivers and prove that Lewis Hamilton doesn’t need to go to Ferrari to win another world championship. With F1 24, we can do exactly that.

F1 24 will release on the Epic Games Store on May 31, 2024.