F1 2020 is in a strange situation right now. Although development of the game has continued through the dogged determination of Codemasters, the actual Formula One season for 2020 is yet to begin, with races postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, video game racing fans may well see their first comprehensive look at this year's season through the official video game.

Codemasters has been able to continue development on the title in spite of these disrupted times, with F1 2020 set for release on 10 July. The studio was reportedly quick to mobilize home working to continue development on the title, and it's a good thing too, because F1 2020 looks set to include some serious updates to shake up its traditional gameplay.

The most interesting of these is the My Team game mode. Available alongside the traditional F1 career mode, My Team will take a slightly different angle by allowing the player to create their own entry for the F1 grid, throwing an eleventh team into the mix. Acting as both team manager and lead driver, the player chooses everything from design to sponsors, and talent hiring through to research and development.

Although not available as part of the recent preview build of the game, Codemasters was able to give a detailed overview of what My Team will entail. The player is going to be able to build their team from the ground up, choosing their engine supplier from the existing providers of Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, and Honda, designing their livery and recruiting sponsors. The day-to-day management of the team will apparently play a serious role, with the player needing to balance their PR needs with ensuring that their fledgling project is progressing against those existing, secure teams.

Cost management and making tough decisions seem to be an important part of the My Team mode. At the team launch event the player will be able to give one aspect of the team, for example downforce, a boost through smart answers to press questions, while clever use of cashflow is vital to keep success coming. Getting lucrative deals with (admittedly fictional) sponsors can keep the team's progression going, while the team struggling may lead to the player needing to shutter research areas early to keep treading water.

Players will not be able to aim for the top immediately, either. Going for an esteemed driver like Lewis Hamilton right off the bat is unlikely to work, even if the player funnels all their funds into driver recruitment. Instead, My Team will be about the small steps, hiring in a F2 driver to start with and buffing them with improvements, before moving on to F1 drivers with potential to take that second spot.

My Team provides a level of fantasy that ties into some other aspects of F1 2020. In spite of the as-yet-to-be-confirmed schedule for the real 2020 season, F1 2020 will feature the full list of races had the COVID-19 pandemic not forced the start of the season to be postponed. In future, there apparently could be the potential for a true-to-life version of the season to be chosen as an option, depending on what happens in the real world, which could help keep those after an authentic mirror of the eventual 2020 season happy.

It's this binary of keeping as close to reality as possible and providing an optimized and streamlined experience that Codemasters has to be careful with. My Team, for instance, will still be racing-centric in spite of the management options, so F1 2020 will need to find a niche with this mode that separates it from clunky yet comprehensive competitors like Motorsport Manager. Failing to make it stand out will make it feel like a lesser version of peers, particularly with the mainline career mode still available for those that fail to gel with the multi-season focus of My Team.

Part of retaining player interest undoubtedly comes down to the pure racing gameplay, and here F1 2020 looks to make improvements too. The most noticeable of these in terms of on-the-grid racing is Energy Recovery System deployment, which has been updated to give the user more direct control. This is a double-edged sword, as the player will need to be even more mindful of when to give themselves a power boost via ERS deployment to maximize their chances of getting a top finish.

Aside from that, the general racing improvements for veteran players may feel nuanced to those used to the feel of the F1 game series. It's not quite at the level of intensity seen by DiRT Rally, yet a far cry from the arcade feel of titles like Gran Turismo or Forza. Where F1 2020 looks to change things is with giving more of a sense of power and traction behind the cars, leading to a more enjoyable experience that pushes players to take aggressive risks with late braking.

It's this determination that F1 2020 looks to cultivate, requiring sharp defending from opposing drivers and intuition for when to make a move. Purists may prefer direct simulators like iRacing, but for mere mortals who still want a thrilling and authentic racing experience then F1 2020 looks to fit the bill thus far. Given how video games have filled the void of real racing of late, that level of competition may well be needed to keep these virtual races going long into the year.

Rather than just focusing on keeping returning players involved, however, Codemasters has also made the choice to expand F1 2020 to accommodate new players as well. This year's game will introduce a wealth of accessibility options to open up the game, in an attempt to make the game less daunting to fresh faces while still trying to appeal to seasoned players.

Immediately, the use of a casual option removes some of the barriers of play to those not used to racing a more simulation-centric experience. Going off-track is easier on the players by increasing control to reduce spins, the stringent penalty system of Formula One is relaxed, and F1 2020's casual option also introduces an automatic reset to track as seen in other, more forgiving racing games.

Something that certainly helps with this is the reintroduction of split screen gameplay. Aside from the likes of Mario Kart and other family-friendly racing games, the genre has slowly lost its love of local multiplayer, with frame rate and fluidity put above the fun of racing alongside someone in person. It's refreshing to see it return, and potentially open up F1 racing to newcomers eager to play alongside someone more experienced.

That said, it's important to note that F1 2020 has not ignored the old players altogether, with clear updates to its mechanics to try and improve the overall experience. On top of this, the casual play is kept separate from more traditional sim racing, and so there is no possibility of a player bludgeoning their way into online multiplayer success by choosing casual options and cutting literal and metaphorical corners to come out on top. Because of this, hopefully F1 2020 will avoid the seemingly never-ending debate over easy modes in games, with players able to customize their own difficulty without hassle.

All of this paints a picture of an ambitious game, with Codemasters clearly looking to avoid the F1 games becoming a lethargic annual sports franchise. Whether or not it all lands is another matter entirely, with My Team clearly aimed at being the focus of the experience this year. Should Codemasters be able to capture a player base through this mode and the new accessibility options, and should the minor racing tweaks keep existing players happy enough, then F1 2020 could be another strong title in the F1 series.

F1 2020 releases 10 July, 2020, for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia.