After three years of refining the F1 franchise on the current generation of consoles, F1 23 refrains from undergoing a complete metamorphosis or migrating to an entirely novel engine. Instead, it emerges as a captivating embodiment of this year's rendition, akin to a familiar friend whose essence you've come to cherish throughout the passing years—for better or worse.
Following the torrent of criticism unleashed upon last year's game by players and esports racers alike, decrying its capricious handling where cars lost traction and spun out even in seemingly innocuous situations like gentle bends in fifth gear, Codemasters responded with a sweeping overhaul of F1 23's physics. By utilizing the default settings, you'll no longer witness cars unpredictably careening away under throttle at inexplicable moments, such as the exit of turn four at the revered Circuit de Catalunya. Moreover, the cars now exhibit a discernibly enhanced turn-in, bestowing a heightened sense of satisfaction as you hurl them into corners, particularly during high-speed sequences like the exhilarating Esses at Suzuka.
If you dare to turn off the assists, you'll discover that the cars in F1 23 have become more forgiving than their predecessors. This transformation becomes most pronounced when you engage in time trial mode: Fire up an RB19 under ideal track conditions, and you'll revel in the fact that cars now cling to the asphalt with a newfound tenacity, surpassing the grip limitations of the previous year. However, let it be known that these physics haven't been rendered feeble or ineffectual. Plunge into the depths of career mode with a Williams machine, or assume your position at the tail end of the grid in MyTeam, and you'll find yourself engaged in a constant battle against your unruly vehicle. Navigating with a sufficient safety margin becomes imperative, evading precarious skids until you can amass enough upgrades to amplify your car's grip and control.
After a decade-long hiatus, red flags have finally unfurled their presence in the F1 game—a fitting inclusion considering their increased employment in the actual sport compared to their last appearance in F1 2014. Functioning akin to the existing Safety Car mechanism, red flags materialize when the game detects a significant obstruction on the track. However, rather than simply decelerating and driving to the pit lane, these crimson emblems instantaneously halt the action, repositioning you onto the starting grid. This respite grants you the freedom to change tires before recommencing the race from a static launch. Notably, red flags occur sparingly during organic gameplay.
Regarding circuits, F1 23 boasts an expansive selection—26 in total. From the vibrant Las Vegas Strip Circuit to the beautiful expanse of the Losail International Circuit, these tracks are fully rendered and readily accessible from the game's launch, sparing players the agonizing wait for subsequent additions. As an additional treat, three bonus circuits—Paul Ricard, Shanghai, and Algarve—are included right from day one. While featuring non-calendar tracks in the F1 game isn't an unprecedented move for EA, it remains a warmly embraced inclusion. However, those yearning for a comprehensive revamp of AI behavior might be met with disappointment.
The computer-controlled opponents, notorious for their aggressive nature in the previous iteration, have undergone slight tuning in their aggression during side-by-side racing—an appreciated adjustment. Nevertheless, it remains disheartening to encounter persistent frustrations with AI behavior. For instance, rival cars courteously yield during practice or qualifying, only to stubbornly obstruct your progress during their own flying laps, leaving you to endure their constant pressure throughout your practice program—an unrealistic and vexing predicament.
Rather than focusing on other areas of development, it's evident that this year's efforts were primarily channeled into the revival of Braking Point and the introduction of the new F1 World mode. Returning after its debut in F1 2021, Braking Point continues the saga of fictional drivers Aiden Jackson and Devon Butler, who have now become teammates for the new Konnersport team, with predictable outcomes. If you played the original Braking Point, you'll find more of the same here. The story unfolds through cut scenes, while the drivers' motorhome serves as a hub where characters receive emails, phone calls, and peruse news clippings that react to the latest dramatic developments. On the track, you're assigned straightforward challenges like reaching 13th place before the race concludes, with bonus objectives to earn an additional reputation for your characters.
It's clear that considerable effort went into Braking Point, with notable advancements in capturing actor performances compared to its predecessor. However, the criticisms levied against the first installment of Braking Point remain just as relevant in this second version. Given the unrestricted creative freedom to craft any narrative, it's surprising how many story beats are directly replicated from the original. The introduction of the determined Callie Mayer character offers a refreshing change from the sad Jackson and detestable Butler. Yet, it remains challenging to fully immerse oneself in the story of Braking Point when the focus revolves around fictionalized characters with minimal overlap with real-life drivers or team principals. While it succeeds admirably as a cinematic motorsport tale, it leaves one wondering how F1 23 could have benefited from allocating the effort invested in Braking Point to other areas of the game.
However, while many players may swiftly complete Braking Point within a weekend, F1 World is designed to become the central mode around which your F1 23 experience revolves. After three years, EA has finally incorporated an 'Ultimate Team'-inspired feature into their F1 franchise, though, thankfully, there is no sign of packs of cards. Like FIFA or Madden's Ultimate Team, F1 World allows players to take control of their team and car, with a predetermined performance level that they must enhance and upgrade to compete in online and offline contests. Both the car and team are divided into different aspects, such as the power unit and brakes for the car, and the head of R&D and strategist for the team, with their combined performance determining the 'tech level,' the ultimate metric of your performance.
Although F1 World entices players with the promise of "just one more race," potentially leading to obsession, the good news is that it can be easily ignored if it doesn't pique your interest. Fortunately, Codemasters hasn't neglected the competitive aspect of online play and has introduced a completely new divisions system to provide a fresh focus for players who relish serious racing against real people with equal machinery. Similar to WRC Generations, players are ranked into one of seven tiers, ranging from 'Bronze' to 'Elite,' with weekly promotions and demotions to reward high achievers and penalize those at the bottom.
The driver's license system has also been overhauled this year, and you now have the option to activate it during offline play, allowing you to build up your safety rating before venturing into the wild world of online multiplayer. An interesting feature enables you to disable collisions between players for only the first lap, almost a necessity for races around Monza. Whether you prefer competitive or league racing or immersing yourself in building up your car in F1 World, there are more options than ever to find the multiplayer experience that suits your preferences.
In the realm of Formula 2, the supercars introduced in F1 22 managed to survive the annual evaluation but have now been relegated to a mere sideshow. It's easy to overlook their presence in the game altogether. Graphically, there are subtle enhancements, even though this iteration of the aging Ego engine shows signs of its age. Sunny weather now bathes the circuits in a warmer, more inviting light, giving places like Miami a balmy and vibrant atmosphere.
ConclusionF1 23 undeniably surpasses its predecessor, F1 22, upon release. However, it remains uncertain whether players will deem this the pinnacle of Codemasters' F1 offerings once the novelty of the new game fades away.
While F1 23 may not fulfill the desires of ardent Formula 1 fans, it excels in providing the most flexible and adaptable F1 experience ever witnessed in a Codemasters game. This year, more than ever, players have the power to shape and personalize their F1 journey to a remarkable extent.