The world of Formula 1 is bigger than ever, with its popularity steadily increasing thanks to the likes of the Drive to Survive series. So it feels fitting that F1 23 is speeding onto PS5 with the biggest offering the series has seen to date. These yearly EA Sports releases can often feel too iterative to warrant full pricing, but F1 23 giddily fills the grid with as much as it possibly can. That’s not to say it all works out, but Codemasters has certainly gone for pole position.
There's a little something for everyone in F1 23. For those looking for a tailored, linear experience, there's the story campaign. Want to build up your team on your own? Then you have the returning Careers mode. And for a FIFA-like Ultimate Team experience, there is the new F1 World.
Let’s start with the campaign, which makes its return after last year’s absence. Titled 'Braking Point 2', it continues the story of Aiden Jackson, while introducing a new up-and-comer Callie Mayer. Don’t worry if you haven’t played through the first story, as a handy recap will get you up to speed. Spanning the 2022 and 2023 Formula 1 seasons, you'll race for and manage the new Konnorsports team as it tries to find its footing amid the giants of the sport.
If you have played its predecessor, then there isn’t anything too new in Braking Point 2. You’ll get into the rhythm of racing, taking part in trackside interviews, and sitting back for the odd high-budget cinematic. In between races you will occasionally be asked to make decisions as the team principal, with these choices typically involving letting down one set of people in favour of another. Mixing in with interview answers, it's nice to see news stories and social media react to the choices we make, the things we say, and the races we win. It isn't quite as reactive as we would have liked, as sometimes the responses didn’t exactly line up with our first place wins, as an example. However, for the most part we were happy to scroll through news stories, social media feeds, and emails after each race, discovering new perspectives on the story.
The narrative itself isn’t too dissimilar from the first instalment, with egos clashing on and off the track, which is very F1. However, this time around we struggled to get behind the characters. You aren’t really supposed to like Aiden or the returning Devon Butler through most of Braking Point 2’s eight-or-so hours, but when you are, we'd had enough of them. The exception to this is Callie Mayer, the fresh face who has the right balance of likeability and brash confidence.
Come credits, though, we were feeling a little dissatisfied narratively, as many issues felt like they were resolved because time was up, rather than coming to a natural conclusion. While we can only imagine the legal minefield, we’d love to see future stories bring in other teams to really solidify its place among the world of F1. For now, Braking Point feels too insular, where names like Verstappen and Hamilton are only tags above the drivers you're passing.
Narrative issues aside, one thing the game gets right from the very start is its driving. Introducing Precision Drive Technology with F1 23, this is a marked improvement over what came before, with a more natural feel to the handling, acceleration, and braking. While we aren’t personally big on simulation, upping the driving to 'Experienced' — removing many assist options — makes each race all the more entertaining, even more so if you bump the difficulty too. Every corner and straight is an opportunity to refine and improve, and with the game’s AI, racing becomes addictively entertaining and leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat. Whereas other racing titles are about slamming down on that accelerator, F1 23 is about showing restraint, and the newly improved feel to racing makes getting behind the wheel a delight.
While F1 22 was marred by some visual and performance related issues, we were happy to see a smoother and far more polished experience in F1 23. The game runs at a solid 60 frames-per-second and looks fantastic in motion. It isn’t by any means the best-looking racer out there, and certainly some of the tracks could do with a spice up of their colour palette, but it was often impressive as you whipped past crowds of fans at 200mph.
It's certainly made all the better with DualSense integration on the PS5, which is simply fantastic. Every chicane, gear shift, and bump is felt in the palm of your hands, and you can really feel the speed of these vehicles through the adaptive triggers.
Once the campaign is done, many will likely turn to the Careers mode, which hasn't changed much at all since last year. However, the thing that caught our eye was F1 World, which is really the big seller for those looking for a meatier experience. Here, racing will earn you XP and components which you’ll use to upgrade everything from your car's performance to the sponsorships your driver will attain. Each upgrade element will come with its own on-track perks, so similar to a Destiny or, even more recently, Diablo IV, you will be able to create a faster and more powerful build for your driver and car, which as hilarious as it sounds, gives you plenty to aspire towards besides just driving faster.
Upgrading your driver’s licence will also grant you access to higher tier ranked races, which will steadily become more immersive and closer to the real experience with longer and more hardcore races. There is even a 35% race distance option for those that don’t quite want to sink half an hour into a singular race. Pre-release, the online races never quite filled up with real players, with many places being taken over by AI, but races could be tough, which we're sure will please the enthusiasts out there. And for those looking for more from this experience, a revolving onslaught of challenges and events inspired by the real F1 calendar are promised, ensuring that there's always a reason to log on.
If you want to add a little style to your driving experience, then you'll be able to customise not just the look of your car, but your driver. With various options for outfits and decals, and even the ability to customise your living space, there are plenty of ways to personalise your profile. The expected catch to these customisation options is that a lot of them are tied up in the game's battle pass, or Podium Pass as it’s coined here. There is a free track, which can offer in-game buffs, but for the customisable elements like helmets and gloves, you’ll need to shell out for the VIP edition of the pass. Of course, for those that don’t want to do that there are still in-game options, and in our experience we never really felt all too bothered by what we were missing out on.
F1 23 is a solidly packed racing experience that improves upon its predecessor in almost every way. With a little something for everyone, on top of an immersive and impressive experience on PS5, it's a worthwhile addition to the libraries of enthusiasts and casuals alike. We loved how tailormade the game could become, whether that was a heavily assisted racing experience, or a brutally immersive one. The campaign doesn’t always hit the mark, and F1 World while expansive isn’t exactly revolutionary, but at the very least, it’s nice to see Formula 1 get the same care and attention that many other popular sports games have been receiving for years.