There’s a lot riding on F1 23 as EA’s influence over Codemasters’ long-running F1 game series becomes more and more apparent and led to last year’s title receiving a mixed reception from fans.
That reception was clearly noticed by the developers as F1 23 has shifted focus slightly and addressed one of the biggest issues with F1 22 – but is it enough of a step forward to appease those who were disappointed with last year’s release?
One major change, and one that was universally praised when the preview build of the game was available, is the adjusted physics and car handling.
It was extremely difficult to catch your car if the rear went loose in F1 22, and it wasn’t intuitive to know where the limit of grip was and when the car was likely to break traction. That has been addressed for F1 23 and it makes driving – regardless of if it’s in a serious career mode playthrough or a casual online race – far less frustrating than it was last year.
Speaking of career mode, that’s one area of the game which has been neglected this year. Other than Natalie Pinkham presenting the opening of the my team career instead of Will Buxton, and the re-worked car livery reveal video with different music and camera angles – there aren’t any immediately noticeable changes to career mode.
Long-term there may be some differences in how a career mode plays out. For example the team development in F1 22 meant the pecking order of teams rarely deviated too much from real-life. We haven’t played far enough through F1 23’s to know if that’s any different in this game.
Regardless, if you poured hours into either driver or my team career mode in F1 22, you’ll be very familiar with it in this year’s title.
Instead the game mode that has received attention is F1 World, which is an expansion of the F1 Life area of F1 22 albeit with tailor-made events integrated into one connected experience.
The initial reveal of F1 World in a deep dive video released by EA and Codemasters prompted a lot of comparisons to the ultimate team modes seen in EA’s other sports games. That’s because F1 World is centred around you improving your own car and team by earning car upgrades and team members.
There’s a lot to drill into with F1 World, so much so we’ll soon have a separate article dissecting all of it and how well all the different elements of it fit together.
In summary though, it’s not as fresh of a game mode as you may have thought. Fortunately it’s also slightly unfair to compare it to ultimate team modes in the sense that F1 World is not pay-to-win.
Car upgrades and personnel members have to be unlocked by completing events, and even doing laps in time trial and races in the separate grand prix mode all give you resources to use in F1 World.
In fact there are seven different forms of currency; cash, three different levels of ‘insight’ and three different types of ‘data’. Those can all be exchanged for each other and that’s before you factor in stickers for your virtual sticker book. Filling that out is the second overarching goal alongside building the fastest F1 car.
As you can imagine, there’s a lot to take in and learn within F1 World which really calls into question – who is the mode aimed at?
It’s complicated enough to put off newcomers to the F1 games and the focus on fictional F1 cars racing against each other driven by fictional drivers would be a detraction to die-hard F1 fans who just want to play out the sport they love.
But F1 World is unlikely to appeal to the dedicated F1 gaming community either as many of the events are far too easy, the first three introductory races don’t even have any track limit rules enabled. The difficulty for a lot of events is almost patronisingly easy for those players that they’ll get bored and move over to one of the more engaging areas of the game.
Even Braking Point, whilst not designed to be a challenge for experienced F1 players, at least has a narrative to carry you through from start to finish.
Technically this is Braking Point 2, the sequel to the story seen in F1 2021. That said there’s no need to have played through the original story as it starts off with a video recapping the events that lead up to where F1 23’s begins.
We’ll refrain from giving away any major spoilers but it’s great to see an expanded roster of characters compared to the first Braking Point. Alongside the returning characters of Aiden Jackson and Devon Butler, there’s also Callie Mayer who starts the story as a driver for Trident in Formula 2.
Her manager is Casper Akkerman, who was Jackson’s team-mate in F1 2021’s story but retired from racing at the end of it. Akkerman plays more than just a cameo role and Mayer’s time in Formula 2 means there’s some more variety in the challenges you playthrough as you have to drive both F1 and F2 cars during Braking Point 2.
Also the benefit of the story being centred around a fictional team, namely Konnersport, allows for more freedom with the narrative. That’s because there’s now a team boss character, Andreo Konner, and Devon Butler’s dad Davidoff who funds the team through his company which is the title sponsor.
Whilst not a massive step up from F1 2021’s Braking Point, the fact there are more characters and a fictional team allows for more creative freedom in the storytelling and makes the plot more engaging and not quite as predictable as the first iteration was. As an introduction to F1 23, particularly for newcomers to the F1 games, Braking Point 2 is much more enticing than F1 World.
Another positive change is that the first six chapters put you in tailor-made scenarios rather than just generic 25% races. In F1 2021 resorted to that, less exciting, style of challenge as soon as chapter three.
The final major change is the reintroduction of red flags to the F1 games for the first time since F1 2014. The likelihood of their deployment can be altered, just as you can with the safety cars, and on the surface they work exactly as you would expect.
It’s worth commending the fact that the time a race has been red flagged for is simulated. So if it just started raining and then the race is red flagged, the track will be considerably wetter for the restart and you’ll be advised by the game to fit either intermediates or full wet tyres.
However currently there are a number of glitches with the red flags. These will almost certainly be fixed with a patch at a later date, but for now we’d advise turning off red flags completely.
Firstly even if the track is completely soaked at the restart, some drivers will be on unsuitable intermediate tyres and others even on the slicks! That’s despite the fact the game advises you as the player to start on full wets and that all those on the wrong tyres will pit for full wets as soon as possible anyway.
Also any time gaps that existed between drivers when the race was red flagged seemingly don’t get reset when the race is red flagged.
So if you won the race by 10 seconds but were 30 seconds behind someone before the red flags were waved, then you’ll be listed as 20 seconds behind them in the final race results. Obviously that’s completely incorrect and is more in keeping with the rules of rallying.
Never mind the fact that one race at Baku saw Stroll retire just as the red flag was waved but his car was still stranded past Turn 1, albeit ghosted, when the race restarted. But his presence on track caused an immediate safety car after the restart.
And the race at Canada was red-flagged a further two times immediately after the restart for seemingly no reason. On the final restart the starting grid was completely incorrect for numerous reasons including the fact that Alex Albon was inexplicably promoted to pole position.
As you would expect for a brand new F1 game, there’s the full circuit roster including the returning Losail International Circuit in Qatar and the brand-new Las Vegas Strip circuit.
Similarly, Catalunya has had its layout updated to remove the final chicane and Austria has been remodelled to include the chicane after Turn 1, which isn’t used for F1 but is for MotoGP, bringing the circuit up to date visually.
Portimao, Shanghai and Paul Ricard are also included despite not featuring on the 2023 F1 calendar.
There’s no question that F1 23 is a step up from F1 22, especially when the red flags are fixed which hopefully is imminent. Braking Point coming back adds back in some variety that F1 22 lacked and it cannot be overstated how much nicer the driving experience is thanks to the revised handling model.
But a lack of changes to career mode or for organised league racing, arguably the two most important areas of the F1 games, means F1 23 won’t be a big enough step forward for anyone looking for those areas to be improved and expanded on.