F1 23 Review: A Varied And Velocious Racing Game

F1 23 improves upon the previous year’s entry with a fantastic variety of different game modes to keep players satisfied.

The F1 games from Codemasters have had a tremendous level of consistency over the years, with the developer providing a fantastic middle ground between simulation and more accessible forms of racing action. However, much like the rule changes within the sport itself, some of the changes have been less successful than others. This was typified with the speedy but greedy F1 22, the first game since Codemasters’ buyout from publisher EA, but F1 23 sees the studio with the opportunity to fully get back on track.

F1 23 does see Codemasters with a lot to do. The technical issues at F1 22‘s launch, which were never truly resolved, hampered the enjoyment of the title for long-term fans, while the pointless F1 Life feature only seemed to exist to sell microtransactions. Thankfully, F1 23 brings back the variety of experience and makes tentative steps towards a better future for the series as a whole.

Braking Through To New Players

With this year’s entry, the story-driven gameplay mode of Braking Point makes a return. First introduced in F1 2021, this sees the player go through a season of the sport with a selection of fictional characters, telling the story of a young team in trouble looking to cement its place in Formula One. It’s a good introduction to F1 overall, and takes the player through the various game mechanics that F1 23 incorporates, although this does mean that it’s very easy for those who are returning – even on the highest difficulties.

One interesting decision made for this season of Braking Point is that the story touches on some of the wider issues with Formula One as a whole, rather than the purely character-driven story of the last entry. Braking Point does shine a little bit of a light on some of the long-standing problems with accessing F1 and maintaining a fair and balanced sport, such as nepotism, the inherent requirement to have wealth to make it into motor racing in the first place, and the interference of financial backers in the day-to-day running of the team.

Braking Point does pull its punch in the end, and instead of going for the jugular it does shift back to interpersonal drama which is a little disappointing from a storytelling perspective. Nonetheless, it’s still an enjoyable, melodramatic yarn that does its job of selling the player on the intensity of the sport as a whole. At the very least there’s more time to be spent with long-time fictional antagonist Devon Butler, and that’s always something to look forward to.

The F1 World Is Your Oyster

The biggest change in F1 23 is the introduction of the F1 World gameplay mode. This is a challenge mode that sees the player travelling the world and taking part in various kinds of races, all the while upgrading their own customizable car and building their team to give them the best chance of success. Whether solo or multiplayer, there are all sorts of different race modes available for the player as they slowly unlock more and more options.

Although a lot of the talking points around F1 World compare it to the likes of FIFA in its approach to a gamified model, but in reality it almost feels like a microcosm version of Gran Turismo (without Gran Turismo 7‘s awful microtransaction grinding gameplay model) or Codemasters’ own GRID. It’s essentially a game within a game, stepping away from the traditional F1 racing format and into something more like a race driver’s buffet.

This could have been a misstep, but it’s been elegantly handled by Codemasters and provides an awful lot of fun. Those after a deeper racing experience will definitely be best placed to stick to the game’s career modes instead, but for those who don’t have the time to devote to those (or who want to take a little break for something simpler) it’s a good option to have. Once again, it’s a sign of gameplay variety that helped make these F1 games great in the first place – providing this doesn’t get prioritized in the long term over those traditional game modes.

Improving Sector By Sector

Those players who want other big changes other than F1 World may be left wanting by F1 23, but that’s not to say that there aren’t some good tweaks that have been made for this year’s entry. From a moment-to-moment gameplay perspective there’s been a noticeable improvement to handling in F1 23, while things like rumble strips and curbs do feel different from previous years. From a technical perspective, the game also does feel more stable than F1 22, which is a relief.

Something that once again gives players better choices this time around is the new 35% race length option. Slotting nicely in between the 25% and 50% race lengths, it’s a nice choice as a middle ground for those who find a quarter-length race too short and inauthentic but don’t have time to do the half race length. It can also prove useful on circuits that provide less strategic variety, as that tactical element is where the half-length race truly comes into its own.

Something that’s only really received a few cosmetic upgrades is the career mode, whether with the player creating their own team or joining an existing team. It remains the jewel in the crown from a sim gameplay perspective, and will likely still remain the place where players spend the bulk of their time, and is just as brilliant as in previous years. However, those little niggling complaints – such as the lack of real-world sponsors breaking immersion – still irk a little, and players will no doubt be hoping it will have an upgrade in future years to keep up with the likes of F1 World.

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Our Review Score & Final Thoughts

Strong return to form for Codemasters. F1 23 excels at providing a diverse and exciting racing experience for players of all kinds, and steers away from the predatory practices that were starting to seep in with F1 22. It’s well worth playing on its own, and is hopefully a sign of even greater things to come in the future.

Source: EA Sports F1 / YouTube

F1 23 is out now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Screen Rant was provided with a PS5 download code for the purposes of this review.

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