F1 23 screenshot, 2023

‘F1 23’ reviewed: Do new additions and return of story mode make it a must-buy?


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For those of us lacking the budget to compete in motorsport – and the talent to do so at a high level – Codemasters’ official Formula 1 game is the closest thing the vast majority of us will ever get to driving the fastest racing cars on the planet.

This year, players can get behind the virtual wheel sooner than ever before, with EA Sports giving F1 23 the earliest ever release date for a Codemasters F1 game. Are there signs they’ve rushed things by doing so, or does this latest version succeed in improving over F1 22, one of the less-heralded entries the series?

Three years into the official F1 franchise’s tenure on current generation consoles, F1 23 is not a major ground-up reinvention and it hasn’t been migrated to an entirely new engine either. No, F1 23 is very much just this year’s version of the same game you’ve been playing for many years now – for better or worse.

Refined gameplay

So what, other than fresh menus and an updated rosters of cars and drivers, does F1 23 offer for its hefty £70 asking price? For now, let’s set aside the two major ‘back of the box’ features for this year – F1 World and the return of Braking Point – and focus on what matters most to hardcore players and veterans of the series, which is how the cars handle.

The handling is noticeably more forgiving than before
After last year’s game was heavily criticised by players and esports racers alike for its finickity handling, which saw cars breaking traction and spinning out under throttle even out of fifth gear corners, Codemasters have made some heavy revisions to the physics of F1 23’s cars. Using the default set-ups, cars will no longer snap away under throttle in places that you would never expect them to, such as the exit of turn four at the Circuit de Catalunya. Cars also have noticeably stronger turn-in than last year, making it more satisfying to chuck them into corners, particularly through fast sequences such as the Esses at Suzuka.

If you turn the assists off, you’ll find the cars are easier to drive than last year. It’s most noticeable in time trial mode: Fire up an RB19 in perfect track conditions and you’ll find cars are much more glued to the road in F1 23 than last year. However, that’s not to say the physics have been neutered. Jump into a Williams in career mode or start at the back of the grid in MyTeam and you’ll be fighting the car far more often. This requires you to drive with enough margin to avoid skidding out until you upgrade your car enough to increase its grip.

The 35% race distance is a welcome addition
Aside from physics, there are some decent new additions to the gameplay side of things this year. Perhaps the most welcome is the introduction of the 35% race distance. Previously only available to esports professionals, this setting offers races of around 30-35 minutes in length which is the perfect intermediary for players who find 50% distance are too much of a slog, but 25% not long enough to get truly immersed. Car set-ups have also evolved. Now each parameter you can adjust has been made more granular, allowing greater freedom than ever before, instead of limiting you to a one-to-ten scale.

After an absence of nearly ten years, red flags have also finally returned to the F1 game – an appropriate addition, given how red flags are now used far more liberally in the real sport than they were when last included in F1 2014. They work much like the existing Safety Car mechanism, in that they kick in when the game detects a major obstruction on the circuit. However, rather than allowing you to slow down and manually drive to the pit lane, red flags immediately pause the action and reset you onto the grid where you can then take advantage of the freedom to change tyres before resuming the remainder of the race from a standing start.

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As well as the two new tracks, three extras are thrown in
As to be expected, red flags only happen very rarely. Over all the races RaceFans ran during the review period (which has lasted several days), not a single red flag occurred during organic gameplay. This in itself is not that remarkable. You’re far more likely to trigger a red flag if you deliberately block the circuit, which does defeat the point somewhat. However, red flags are available online. There, they could add a whole new dynamic to multiplayer races like league racing, where accidents are more likely to happen – especially around street circuits like Monaco or Jeddah.

Speaking of circuits, there are plenty to choose from this year – 26, in fact. Both the Las Vegas Strip Circuit and the Losail International Circuit are fully rendered and playable from launch – there will be no waiting for them to be added to the game months after launch. On top of that, three bonus circuits – Paul Ricard, Shanghai and Algarve – are also included from day one. It’s not the first time that EA has featured circuits not on the F1 calendar in that year’s game, but still a very welcome inclusion.

Computer-controlled cars still behave unrealistically at times
Anyone hoping for a drastic revamp of the ‘AI’ behaviour is likely to be disappointed. The computer-controlled opponents were particularly aggressive last year to the point where many found them to be volatile and unpredictable to race against. While they seem to have been slightly tuned down in their aggressiveness when racing side-by-side, which is welcome, it is a little frustrating to still be facing the same frustrations with AI behaviour. For example, faster cars will kindly move out of your way in practice or qualifying, but then fail to make any space to your car for their push laps, meaning they’ll spend the entirety of your practice programme breathing down your neck – something that is as unrealistic as it is irritating.

If you play the F1 game mainly for the single player modes it offers, you’re also likely to be disappointed with the lack of innovation F1 23 offers. As good as the driver career and MyTeam modes have been in recent years, they remain virtually identical to how they were last year. There are some small tweaks, such as additional MyTeam icons to hire as your team-mates such as Jacques Villeneuve, Kamui Kobayashi, Pastor Maldonado or even three-times W Series champion and Williams junior Jamie Chadwick, but firing up career mode only to see the exact same menus, emails and general structure as three years ago, only with Natalie Pinkham now hosting interviews in place of Will Buxton, is bound to leave many disappointed at the lack of innovation.

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Braking Point and F1 World

Instead, it is clear where the focus for development has been for this year – that is, on both the return of Braking Point and the introduction of the new F1 World mode. After offering a novel piece of popcorn entertainment in F1 2021, Braking Point returns this year to continue the story of fictional F1 drivers Aiden Jackson and Devon Butler. After developing a rivalry in the original, the pair have joined as team-mates for the all-new Konnersport team, with predictable results.

‘Braking Point 2’ features familiar faces…
…as well as several new characters

If you played the original Braking Point, you know exactly what to expect here as it’s simply more of the same. The story is woven together through cut scenes while the drivers’ motorhome serves as the hub where characters receive emails and phone calls and browse news clippings reacting to the latest drama. On-track, you’re tasked with simple challenges such as ‘reach 13th place before the end of the race’ with bonus objectives to earn more reputation for your characters.

It’s obvious that a lot of effort has gone into Braking Point, with the tech used for capturing actor performances in the sequel a clear step up over the first, but all of the criticisms RaceFans had for the first Braking Point remain equally applicable to this second version. Considering how Braking Point has total freedom to tell whichever story it wants, it’s surprising how many of the story beats are virtually copied directly from the original.

The game is more customisable than ever
The addition of the tenacious Callie Mayer character is a refreshing change from the mopey Jackson and detestable Butler, but once again it’s hard to get fully immersed in the story of Braking Point when everything is focused on the fictionalised characters with minimal crossover with any real-life drivers or team principals. It’s a very slick and well-produced mode and certainly succeeds at being a cinematic motorsport story far better than Sylvester Stallone’s infamous IndyCar-based 2001 film ‘Driven’ did, but once the credits roll, it’s hard not to be left wondering how F1 23 would have been improved if the effort put into Braking Point had been spent in other areas of the game instead.

But while most players will likely be done with Braking Point in a weekend, F1 World is designed to become the central mode around which your time in F1 23 will be centred. It took three years, but EA have finally added an ‘Ultimate Team’-inspired feature to their acquired F1 franchise – although, thankfully, there is not a single pack of cards in sight.

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Much like in FIFA or Madden’s Ultimate Team, F1 World sees players assume control of their own team and car with a set performance level that they must try to upgrade and improve to compete in both online and offline contests. Both your car and your team are segmented into different aspects – such as power unit and brakes for your car and your head of R&D and strategist for your team – with the performance level of all combining to determine your ‘tech level’, which is the ultimate metric of your performance. The higher your tech level, the faster you should potentially be able to go.

New F1 World mode has an ‘Ultimate Team’ feel
Using your F1 World car and team, you compete in challenges – such as races against the AI or online against other players or time trials – earning money and resources depending on your success which you can use to unlock better parts and staff. Like in Ultimate Team, each staff member must have a contract applied to them which activates them for a set number of races, which means you may have to invest resources to ensure you can retain the services of your highest-rated staff.

If it sounds like a breeding ground for predatory microtransactions, you have a right to be wary. However, there is no direct way to buy high level staff or resources using real money. Instead, F1 World resources now form the bulk of the Podium Pass items, giving an advantage to those who buy the VIP tier each season. You do earn money and resources for every lap you complete in all modes that comprise F1 World – including the standard Grand Prix or time trial modes – and you can spend your Pit Coin to buy XP boosts for a period of time to speed up the process.

While F1 World is exactly the kind of game mode that offers just enough incentive for ‘just one more race’ that could easily lead to some players becoming obsessed, the good news is that it is easy to ignore it if it does not sound appealing to you in the slightest. Thankfully, Codemasters haven’t forgotten the competitive side of online play and have added an entirely new divisions system to provide a new focus for players who love racing seriously against real people in equal machinery. Much like in WRC Generations, players will be placed into one of seven tiers, from ‘Bronze’ all the way up to ‘Elite’, with weekly promotions and demotions to reward high achievers and punish those at the bottom of the ranks each week.

The driver licence system has also been revised this year and you can now set it to be active during offline play if you wish, to allow you to build up your safety rating before you venture into the wild world of online multiplayer. When you do, a novel option allows you to turn collisions between players off only for the first lap – almost a necessity for any races around Monza. Whether its serious competitive or league racing, or getting engrossed in building up your car in F1 World, it feels like there are more options than ever before to find the form of multiplayer action that is right for you.

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Worth a £70 price tag?

As ever, Formula 2 is present in the game, with the supercars introduced in F1 22 surviving a cull after just a single year. However, given they have been reduced to a mere sideshow, it’s easy to forget the supercars are even in the game.

Graphical improvements are most noticeable in wet conditions
Graphically, there are some slight enhancements – even if this version of the Ego engine is showing its age by now. Sunny weather has been given a much warmer lighting tone, making the likes of Miami feel more balmy than before. Cars also seem to have noticeable channels of spray through bodywork in wet weather. While the game is again playable in VR on PC-based headsets, it’s very disappointing that PSVR2 owners are not offered the ability to race in VR on PlayStation 5, especially after Gran Turismo 7 demonstrated the potential in the system.

There were, inevitably, some bugs experienced during the review period. At one point the game kept throwing red flags seconds after a restart, triggering an almost endless loop – an inconsequential problem in a single grand prix, but race-destroying if it occurred in career mode or in a league race. Alex Jacques also has a peculiar habit of sounding a lot like David Croft at times when reading through the grid order. Most entertainingly, one F1 World race saw the entire field make the aggressive strategy choice of full wet weather tyres for the bone-dry track – which would have made for an interesting challenge scenario had it been by design.

With some decent additions to a game that otherwise still feels completely familiar to the series many have been playing for years, it’s difficult to say whether F1 23 justifies a £70 upgrade for those who bought last year’s game. There is no doubt F1 23 is a superior title at launch to what F1 22 was, but it is also hard to say whether players will hail this new title as Codemasters’ best F1 product yet once the new game sheen has worn off.

F1 23 is not the Formula 1 game many hardcore fans wish it was, but this year more than ever, it manages to offer the most malleable and customisable F1 experience that any Codemasters F1 game has. If Braking Point and F1 World don’t appeal to you, it’s probably best to be cautious before investing your hard-earned money straight away. But at its heart, F1 23 is a game rich with content that offers one of the best pure racing experiences of any game on the market.

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Video: F1 23 reviewed by RaceFans

Pictures: F1 23

RaceFans rating

Rating three out of five

Game title

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Steam, Epic Games Store
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: EA Sports
Released: June 2023
Price: £69.99


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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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27 comments on “‘F1 23’ reviewed: Do new additions and return of story mode make it a must-buy?”

  1. As ever, if anyone has any specific questions about the game I’ll do my best to answer!

    1. @willwood you mentioned that setups are more detailed than before. But does it affect the car baheaviour? In ’21 I noticed that, while the option was there to change a lot of parameters, sometimes they didnt really alter the car behaviour much. Is it more sensitive in this year’s game?

      1. I’m not really the best person to ask, because I’ve never been very sensitive to set up changes! I have very little feel like that sadly.

        I’d say definitely yes when it comes to things like brake bias. I would say that when it comes to suspension settings or tyre alignment stuff, you should notice it more if you push the settings more to extremes.

    2. SHR Modding
      13th June 2023, 20:25

      Have they updated the awful old track meshes or is spa still using the same mesh from 2010?

      1. Some have changed, like Silverstone. Spa felt the same to me.

  2. RandomMallard
    13th June 2023, 16:09

    Last year’s game was the first one I didn’t buy on or before day 1 since 2017. And looking at this year’s so far, I have no intention of changing that again. I eventually did pick up F1 22, but months later at a heavily reduced price. I expect this year’s game will be the same. While the updated physics are very welcome, as are the new tracks, the lack of any changes to career mode (as a regular FIFA player, I know exactly how this feels!) and the increasing monetisation of everything possible, just doesn’t make me excited for this one.

  3. Tim (@tsgoodchild)
    13th June 2023, 16:17

    I’ve been playing F1 games for every year that I can recall being a gamer, from the halcyon days of Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix. I am not buying this one on release day – whilst I can afford £70, I simply cannot justify it. I’ll wait until the summer has passed, the days are cooler, the game has been patched 20 times and it’s a third of todays price. I’ll be down the pub for now.

    1. Hear, Hear! Excellent plan!

    2. Thumbs up! That is why i do normal but i sinned and bought Diablo IV (But i was pressured by my friend Officer really…)

  4. I would love if, instead of being fictional, Braking Point could be replaying iconic years. Re-play the 1992 championship with those cars and drivers etc, and you get to pick who you drive as. Or 1988, or 89, or 2007, or 08, or 2005. They could pick one season for the game and thats what it would be, using other years in subsequent releases. Instead of spending all their time developing fictional characters that no one cares about, they could work on the physics and graphics of iconic cars and tracks. I would probably buy the game just for that feature.

    1. That’s an excellent idea! But unfortunately that’s too much effort and too interesting a feature for EA to consider. Must be as bland and be made as cheaply as possible.

    2. God, that’d be a lot more interesting! Imagine the alternative timelines you could create… joining different teams etc

  5. Did you manage to try VR? If so how was the experience and did you need a powerhouse to get it going?

    1. You need a really good videocard for that like RTX 3070 or beter to enjoy it ! ( it works on a GTX1070/GTX1080 but you notice the difference quit a lot)

  6. I’ll probably get the game on Thursday, i.e., the day before the official release, & I expected more or less a similar driving experience as all other CM/EA-era games.
    I only play single-player custom mode & time trial anyway, so I consider online features are indifferent.

    1. @jerejj What platform do you play on?

  7. Nah. the only real improvements mentioned here (in regards to handling) should’ve been included in a free patch for the last game, as it’s just a correction of an awful mechanism. I can’t imagine this is worthy of spending 70 bucks. Story modes are something specific, not really for everyone, especially that simple and linear, definitely not something I’d ever try (I didn’t even try the last one). How can people ever expect to see a better F1 game, if they continue buying this half-product?

  8. Just want to say I’ve had my first organic red flag in a career mode race.

    Have no idea what triggered it as there were no retirements, but came out of the blue and changed the course of the race.

    1. Raymond Pang
      14th June 2023, 10:33

      Extremely realistic then.

  9. Updated handling to correct for the previous game’s car handling being absolutely terrible should not be put behind a 70$ sequel. F1 22 was the first F1 game I bought, mostly because of the VR mode addition, and probably the last because I feel completely burned by Codemasters/EA. I got a chance to play F1 2020 and it was substantially more enjoyable to drive the cars. Maybe in the future I’ll play them through Game Pass.

  10. Does it work with VR like F1 22?

    Does it work with thrustmaster wheels and loadcell pedals. Unlike F1 22?

    1. Raymond Pang
      14th June 2023, 10:34

      F1 22 works fine with Thrustmaster wheels and the T-LCM pedals, at least on PC.

      1. Not always, they were not recognised while all other games have no problem using them. Without the pedals the wheel didnt have forcefeedback

  11. Thanks for the video review. I used to play these games fairly religiously until 2018 but got tired of how feeble the AI behaved in side-by-side racing with each other, particularly at the starts and into turn one where it was far too easy to divebomb and make up a handful of positions. AI cars constantly getting in the way of hotlaps was also frustrating. Bit disappointing to see that these still look like ongoing issues today judging by this video.

    Alongside that, it’s a shame that years later the cars still look like they’re hovering above the road, the damage model remains tame, and even little gripes such as the start lights going on too quick compared to IRL are still there. Minor issues for others perhaps but they take away the immersion for me.

    Could just about justify the cost back in the £40 days – not a chance I’m paying almost double that now.

  12. Call me a simp all you like, but I’m buying it for the inclusion of Pinkham alone!

  13. So how this compares to GP4? the last F1 game i played…

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