There is a lot of hope pinned to the new Formula 1 game both from its developers and fanbase, but can it possibly deliver on all of those dreams? It feels like F1 23 sits at a crossroads between the long-term vision of EA and the desires of those that have been playing the Codemasters F1 games for years.
Formula 1 continues to see strong growth as a sport, despite the championship being a one-horse race this year. Seemingly every city in the world wants to host a race, so the official video game of the sport should be growing in popularity too. But with the added eyes comes extra pressure. Does F1 provide the racing thrills of the sport? Are there enough innovations to warrant paying full price? Let's find out in our F1 23 review.
F1 23 review
RacingGames.GG has reviewed F1 23 on PC with a Fanatec CSL DD Pro wheel, Clubsport steering wheel Formula V2.5 X, and CSL Elite pedals V2.
As a result, we will not be discussing Precision Drive here.
This was promoted heavily in the pre-launch hype and in our own hands-on preview, but the new handling & physics changes are terrific. Cars feel more nimble (as long as you've got the right setup!) and the throttle in particular feels much more realistic and less likely to throw you into a spin.
You can still lose the rear of the car by getting too greedy with your inputs, but you won't be spinning out by trying to copy the gear choices of real-life drivers anymore.
As a result, we are likely to see some changes to style and lines at the top end of F1 Esports. Though for the mortals out there, it will just be about re-learning the brake & throttle balancing act.
Overall, it adds a lot to the game that will be a big refreshing boost to players burnt out on F1 22. Whether the goodwill from the handling changes can carry on through a year is unlikely. Which brings us to the only other meaningful change...
A whole new world
Outside of the handling, the biggest thing Codemasters is giving fans this year is F1 World. This new mode absorbs the underwhelming F1 Life of F1 22, along with Grand Prix and Time Trial, to create a new style of F1 play.
In F1 World you get your own car, but this is not like My Team. Instead, it is much more like Ultimate Team. You have four upgrade slots for your car, offering you the chance to add parts like rear wings for a downforce improvement or engine power boost. Then there are four more slots for your team that can provide more strategic, one-off, boosts in races.
Your car receives a "score", with higher being better, and there are a whole host of secondary items to collect. For want of a better word, they are in-game currencies. These are cash, insight, setup data, and more.
As you complete laps in time trial or finish quick-start Grands Prix you will accumulate these currencies, while upgrade items can be claimed by completing challenges and events.
All these currencies can be used to craft upgrades for your car, allowing you to create a dominant force on the track.
At the moment you can't purchase anything with real money in F1 World, but this feels like the inevitable end goal of the mode: Ultimate Team for Formula 1 games.
There's a lot to do, from some passive ways to earn currencies like selectable goals such as driving 75 miles at a certain track to a 57-lap Singapore challenge. But it's all aimed at you wanting to make your car better, wanting to get the rare & legendary upgrade to beat everyone else. It's the same drive that pushes so many pack sales in FIFA and Madden. It's just a matter of time until you can use PitCoins to buy packs in F1 too.
Copy & paste
While F1 World offers a new way to play the game, Career Mode and My Team offer exactly the same way to play as they did last year, and the year before that. There is no innovation or changes to the experience in F1 23.
Codemasters made it very clear that this would be the case in their total lack of pre-release hype for the traditional single-player modes, but it is still disappointing to see. The biggest change is that it is now Natalie Pinkham doing the introductory interview in My Team rather than Will Buxton.
Everything from the menus to the R&D and the layout of your livery & helmet design selections are the same. We’ve said this previously, and it is worth repeating here. The F1 career mode experience is a good one, perhaps even a great one when you look at its rivals. But a lack of any meaningful change year after year just grates.
If you are a career mode player then the only reason to move from F1 22 to F1 23 is a couple of new tracks and drivers and the new handling. Is that worth £70? For a lot of people, it won’t be.
The final part of F1 23’s big pitch to fans is the return of Braking Point. Aiden Jackson and Devon Butler are teammates at the newly entered Konnersport Racing team. Leaning heavily on Drive To Survive for some of its presentation and cut scenes, it’s definitely a welcome addition to the game. It is easy to fall into the same enjoyable rhythms with the cast of characters that we did in F1 2021.
However, the story, characters, and drama is a step up from F1 2021. The familiar beats of Jackson and Butler are easy to fall back into, but the new characters like Team Principal Andreo Konner and CEO of Butler Group Davidoff Butler are wonderful additions.
We won’t spoil the story for you, but there are plenty of twists and turns and you once again take on multiple perspectives within the story. One aspect that does let Braking Point down is its isolation. We get to know these characters but then can’t race as or against them in the rest of the game.
What made F1 2019’s Feeder Series so much fun was getting to then compete against Butler and Lukas Weber throughout career mode. While there are My Team icons you can use in F1 23, the Braking Point characters aren’t going to pop up in a Williams or McLaren. You can’t add Konnersport to your career mode grid and just have Jackson & Butler battling with you.
It’s a real shame. Codemasters has gone to the trouble of making an engaging and really well-executed story mode and then just boxed it in with very minimal options to include it elsewhere. You can run the Konnersport livery and look in My Team and F1 World, but that’s about it.
F1 23 is everything we have come to expect from Codemasters as well as EA. It has a fun and enjoyable addition in Braking Point, even if the difficulty settings are still a frustration.
For all their lack of new features, the single-player modes still deliver the same Formula 1 thrills as before and offer the best career mode experience around. The new handling provides a fresh challenge for players to adjust to and makes the cars more enjoyable to drive, while the new graphical direction adds to the differentiation from F1 22 and improves the whole aesthetic of the game.
The changes to ranked multiplayer, though obviously untested as of yet, should be an improvement but the deafening silence around hacks & cheats in the game will still be of concern to those looking to compete at the sharp end of leagues.
But for all that, the EA-ification of the series is truly looming now. F1 World feels like it will be an enjoyable addition to the game, but micro-transactions and packs feel just around the corner. The challenges and scenarios are great to do if you want to just hop on and race rather than go through your R&D choices and worry about making errors in your career mode save.
Ultimately it is your enjoyment of F1 World that will determine whether you put F1 23 among the best or worst titles that Codemasters has made.
For more articles like this, take a look at our F1 page.