Since acquiring the F1 licence in 2010, Codemasters, now aligned with Electronic Arts, have steadily pushed the envelope in terms of what the official F1 video game has to offer.
F1 23 is no different as it builds on the success of its predecessor, while a number of standout changes and tweaks should give many players - casuals or professionals - optimism for the future.
Inevitably with a yearly release, there is a ‘samey’ feel to the game - FIFA fans can surely relate.
However, significant changes to make it more realistic - including a revised handling system - combined with much-needed track modifications are very welcome.
While on the surface the aforementioned points are not revolutionary, they are key in making any sports game authentic and ones that the developers have arguably been blasé towards.
This combined with their already immersive ‘My Team’ and career mode, F1 23 should whet the appetite of many.
After playing F1 23 on PlayStation 5 for over a week, here’s what we liked the most…
The biggest area of improvement relative to last year’s release is the handling model.
The F1 22 handling was heavily criticised for its ridiculously difficult traction, particularly in the lower gears, meaning players would often have to shift from first to fourth gear to aid their exits out of corners.
Traction is noticeably easier, and while that perhaps has made it too easy, it’s more aligned with how real F1 cars handle.
It’s a long overdue adjustment given that drivers such as George Russell complained that traction was too difficult, even suggesting that the game’s previous ‘medium traction control’ setting was more realistic.
In addition to that, changes have been made to braking.
While a tweak has been made through the various builds of F1 23, players will have to be more wary of locking the rears under braking. Too aggressive on the brakes or setting your brake balance too rearwards and you’re going to be spinning into Turn 1 at Monza.
It does seem that highly-skilled players will be most-rewarded if they can utilise 50 brake bias but avoid losing control of their cars into braking zones.
It was a similar story on F1 2021 but was later changed as part of a handling patch due to concerns drivers were unrealistically exploiting it by sliding under braking and thus gaining crucial lap time.
Whether EA decides to make a handling change further down the line remains to be seen, but for now, it’s in a good place.
Finally, for those who detested the understeer-y nature of the 2022 cars should be pleased that the general handling of the cars at low-speed, and high-speed on F1 23 is much more enjoyable and rewarding.
UI / HUD changes
EA have made significant modifications to the user interface on F1 23, aligning it with F1’s real-life graphics that you see on TV during race weekends.
Visually, the game is stunning, particularly the UI - the bits that show the position you're in, whether there’s a yellow flag or Safety Car etc.
EA deserves credit with how the game has taken a step forward in this area compared to many of the old titles.
New circuits aren’t always a given particularly when the game’s release date is the earliest it has ever been.
Las Vegas and Qatar feature on F1 23 for the first time giving players a unique opportunity to race on the iconic ‘Strip’ before the likes of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton do so later this year.
When designing Las Vegas for F1 23, EA used “thousands of reference photos and substantial photogrammetry data to offer the authentic experience, even before it’s raced in the real-world.”
While for Qatar’s Losail circuit “official FOM computer-aided design combined with ArcGIS World Atlas aerial imagery, height data, and photogrammetry of the circuit were all used to create the most accurate representation of this circuit.”
One criticism of the F1 games in the past is how inaccurate a number of tracks are, Spa-Francorchamps being the main offender.
Given the level of detail and attention EA are showing to new circuits, they are important steps in improving the game’s authenticity.
Besides the new circuits, Spain has been updated ahead of release to be in line with the changes made to the final chicane, while Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, Austria and Azerbaijan have enjoyed significant kerb profile tweaks.
EA and Codemasters have often been guilty of putting too much of their focus on single-player and the casual player.
As part of the heavily-revised ‘F1 World’ section, there are a number of interesting multiplayer options.
Players can take part in ‘Ranked Multiplayer’ - a competitive mode which will allow drivers to race and progress through the divisions, starting in bronze before making your way into the elite division.
Inspired by iRacing’s incredible rating system, this is a clear step in the right direction.
Players can also dip into a number of multiplayer events as well as the usual custom lobbies to dictate which tracks and settings are used in a less competitive setting.
Now, here’s what we don’t like as much…
Braking Point 2
After a year’s absence, ‘Braking Point’ makes a return - the F1 game’s story mode expands on the protagonist, Aiden Jackson, and villain, Devon Butler.
Without giving too much away, this time, Jackson and Butler are racing as teammates for Konnersport Racing - a fictional racing team new for F1 23.
Along with Jackson and Butler, there’s a number of new characters which you will meet as you progress into the story.
There’s certainly more layers to the second season of Braking Point, with the drama Drive To Survive-like at times, it’s still a mode that you’d only want to play once.
The challenges and races still remain easy, even on the hardest mode, while there is still not enough opportunity for the player to truly dictate the storyline.
‘Braking Point’ is F1 23’s key selling point given the amount of advertisement and effort put into the marketing of Konnersport Racing prior to release.
It will no doubt entertain a lot of people who delve into it so perhaps as an experienced F1 player, I am simply not their target demographic.
‘My Team’ has undergone very few changes with the addition of new icons such as Nigel Mansell, Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado now available.
Given how much focus has gone into ‘My Team’ and career mode over the years, it’s not too surprising the game mode has remained effectively the same.
Perhaps it’s a sign of EA’s influence because their major other title - FIFA - career mode gets very little love and attention.
While France, China and Portugal remain in the game despite not featuring on the F1 2023 calendar, fans are still crying out for classic tracks - something we’ve not seen in a decade.
Finally, after the topic of cheating dominated the aftermath of F1 Esports (F1’s official sim racing championship) and established community leagues such as PSGL, there’s been no official line from EA about an anti-cheat for PC players.
Cheating and grip hacks was a common issue throughout the F1 22 game cycle, with EA or Codemasters never addressing it publicly.
Multiplayer will continue to be full of cheaters until it’s firmly addressed.
Nevertheless, F1 23 has breathed new optimism and life to the F1 video game community.
While it is early days, the impressive handling tweaks combined with circuit changes should make it a much more enjoyable experience for players.
Fans of multiplayer have more options than ever, while a more immersive ‘Braking Point’ storyline alongside the tried and tested ‘My Team’ mode means there’s plenty to do offline as well.