F1 23 Review – Drive To Thrive

F1 23 grid with logo in the top right

F1 23 on PS5

In a world where video games seem to be slowly moving towards longer life cycles and seasonal content, annual sporting facilities could become a thing of the past. F1 23, I’m pleased to report, does more than enough to justify its existence. It builds on F1 22 in a solid if unspectacular manner and, most of all, dials up the stakes, immersion and Formula One racing experience.

Wax and Polish

It’s probably taken as a given at this point that an EA-led (Codemasters developed) title will be refined and detailed in its approach. It shouldn’t be taken for granted in general though, with plenty of recent releases finding their way into the public domain without being ready for it. I was reminded of EA Sports’ PGA Tour in the granular detail and wealth of options F1 23 threw my way before I even got close to a racetrack.

From selecting a difficulty to opting in or out of crossplay to tinkering entirely with my racing style and visual prompts, it’s more customizable and detailed than ever. As a colorblind gamer, I’ll always appreciate a title that lets me throw a colorblind filter on from the off.

F1 23 Accessibility Options screenshot
Image Credit: EA Sports via Twinfinite

The UI and UX are a sizeable and noticeable improvement over past titles. The official FIA and Formula One branding is so immersive I found myself zoning out from my surroundings and genuinely feeling as if I was building up to a race.

It’s certainly not why anyone will buy an F1 title, but I found the soundtrack was perfectly selected for high-octane racing. It added to my anticipation of upcoming races and the extent to which I was sucked in off the tracks – as well as on them.

It’s not all good, though. It wouldn’t be an EA game without an invasive store that pushes players to spend further money on in-game items and cosmetics. It’s a complaint I had with EA Sports PGA Tour and continue to have with the FIFA series, too. So long as they’re here and this prominent, I’ll continue to complain.

F1 Store EA Codemasters
Image Credit: EA Sports via Twinfinite

On The Track… It Tracks

So, I was suitably hyped and ready for races, but how are they? I’m delighted to say they live up to the pre-race anticipation. Not only do they look excellent – ​​the car model and circuit improvements Codemasters promised have certainly come to fruition – they feel equally responsive and refined. Having my team radio in as I drove added to the immersion, as did the official FIA warnings when I accidentally made contact with a fellow racer.

Elsewhere, Codemasters listed acceleration, braking and cornering as three areas they’ve reworked. The announcement had me slightly skeptical and wondering whether the improvements would be borne out or merely lip-service to progress. It’s certainly the former though, with cars gripping in a way that feels realistic. I felt as though I was rewarded for braking sensibly ahead of a corner before being able to tear away as I emerged onto a straight. It helped me stick with racing lines and, on the occasions when I messed up my cornering and spun off, the Flashback feature was a welcome reprieve. It granted me the ability to improve as I adjusted to the game’s new physics and handling without forcing me to restart the entire race.

F1 23 Race with Replay shown
Image Credit: EA Sports via Twinfinite

Precision Drive technology is similarly welcome. It’s a new addition for F1 23, designed to improve the intuition of steering for gamepad players. When I’ve played past F1 titles, even last year’s 22, I felt inherently disadvantaged if I wasn’t using a steering wheel to control my vehicle. Precision Drive has removed that feeling more or less entirely, ensuring I felt largely responsible for any mistakes made. If I was able to perfect a corner and hit my racing line it felt earned; if I spun off and lost my way I was left to reflect on the incorrect speed I approached the corner or the angle at which I adjusted my joystick to make the turn.

It’s not flawless though. There were still occasions where I felt my car understeer without explanation, or lose control when I sped away from a corner and tried to make up time on a straight. This happened fairly frequently across modes, so I think it’s something that can be investigated in a post-launch patch.

It is a tangible improvement over F1 22 though, which is probably what you wanted to read.

Loads of Modes

It’s probably unnecessary to d(r)ive into all the modes, with the majority carrying over from previous iterations. The noteworthy additions (or returnees) are Braking Point 2, a successor narrative mode to the one that debuted in F1 21, and F1 World, a de facto online career built around shaping your own vehicle and throwing it into races and challenges against other players .

On Braking Point 2, I found myself surprisingly immersed in the story as it played out. Players essentially follow the fate of the fictional Konnersport racing team across a couple of seasons, delving into the races, background and friction between characters. It’s broader than F1 21’s original Braking Point, as well as giving players freedoms they didn’t have previously. Some chapters put you in the shoes of the Konnersport Team Principal, Andreo Konner, and let you make decisions relating to the brand and its marketing, while other chapters put you in the shoes of Callie Mayer, a Formula 2 racing driver. While I found the drop down from Formula One slightly jarring at first, I grew to love the change of pace and environment offered by the F2 sections of the Braking Point story.

F1 23 Braking Point Screengrab Showing Konnersport Boss
Image Credit: EA Sports via Twinfinite

It’s also broader from a story telling and objective perspective. There’s plenty of decisions to make which ever cast member you’re controlling, from simple dialogue choices to broader decisions that impact the Konnersport team’s harmony and dynamics. While it’s nothing groundbreaking, it certainly resulted in the linear, narrative-driven mode feeling less restrictive. When playing other sports games’ narrative modes (the NBA2K My Career springs to mind) I’ve felt limited and pushed down a path I didn’t feel I’d chosen. There was none of that with Braking Point 2.

It can feel slightly soap-opera-y and predictable at times, though. Some moments of early drama felt contrived and abrupt, while I anticipated other story beats and developments long before they occurred. Regardless, I had a huge amount of fun with the mode across its 17 chapters. Most are centered around a race or situation that players have to overcome, like one that drops players into the Japanese Grand Prix after a lackluster pitstop has dropped your player down the grid. Each also offers a Primary and Bonus objective, giving skilled players another goal to aspire to and furthering the freedom you’re given within Braking Point 2’s narrative.

Braking Point Japanese Grand Prix Chapter
Image Credit: EA Sports via Twinfinite

It certainly develops as players progress and I found myself satisfied (if not stunned) by the way it wrapped up. I’d love to see a third chapter in a future F1 installment, provided it can be built upon the same way this version built on the original.

F1 World, meanwhile, is more of a centerpiece mode, designed to collate multiple threads all in one place. In the words of the developers: “it features solo and multiplayer experiences, a shared progression system, daily, weekly, and seasonal content, an overhauled License Level system, and many different ways to play.”

F1 World EA Sports 23
Image Credit: EA Sports via Twinfinite

It feels like, outside of the typically strong Career Mode and returning Braking Point, F1 World is where Codemasters have chosen to put the majority of its eggs. It’s a deep dive based around player freedom and choice and I constantly found myself with new things to do, races to race and challenges to explore.

The loot-based upgrades were certainly a bit of a head-scratcher to begin with, but I soon came to terms with how I could augment my vehicle and progress in the mode. I will be frank though: I’m not sure this loot box approach is really right for F1. There’s undoubtedly been success in other EA titles – like FIFA’s Ultimate Team – but it feels cynical and out of place within the F1 racing world.

I’m also not a fan of the way the mode was marketed. EA said: “These items [Car Parts and Team Members that upgrade your vehicle] can be acquired more quickly by purchasing XP boosts with PitCoin but outside of this, there are no ways to purchase individual upgrades with real-world money.” In short, there are no ways to purchase individual upgrades with real-world money, other than the way we just said.

Regardless, any mode that is big enough and robust enough to let players invest countless hours into should be welcomed – even if I found myself preferring the traditional Career Mode and Championship season format.

F1 23: Verdict

F1 23 is a case of evolution rather than revolution. It improves many aspects of its predecessor, most notably the feel of controller play and car physics that represent real-life Formula One as well as any game has. There’s still areas to improve, but only the most finicky F1 fan won’t be impressed by the exceptionally immersive racing experience Codemasters have created.

Twinfinite Editors Choice Award

F1 23 Critical Review

Reviewer: Joe Craven | Awards: Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by Publisher.

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