The F1 series of games has been the definitive experience of the world’s premier motorsport, with Codemasters having taken up the mantle in 2008. While there’s not much changed between F1 22 and F1 23, this year’s entry in the series still comes packed with plenty for F1 fans of all interest levels, from the die hard F1 fan to the car enthusiast to the casual racer.
A key feature returning to F1 is Braking Point, the story mode that was first introduced in F1 21. In Braking Point II, Aiden Jackson is now signed with Konnorsport Racing Team, the most recent team to join the F1 grid. Joining him is ex-rival Devon Butler. The two are constantly at odds with one another, and as the story unfolds, there will be no shortage of drama, both on and off the racetrack. We’ll keep the story spoilers to a minimum here, but I feel like these two need another lesson in accountability. We didn’t come here for the story though. Well, some may have, however I think most of us are more interested in getting right behind the wheel and onto the track.
Aside from the story, players have a couple more competitive modes they can jump into with F1 World and My Team & Career. There have been a number of updates to My Team, Career, and Two-Player Career modes, including updated driver ratings and facilities, stability improvements, and so much more. Career was one of the first places I decided to go upon launching the game. You get to customize your driver, sign with any of the 10 teams, and pick your teammate from the two available on the team you chose. I’ve been a little partial to McLaren so I’ve teamed up with Lando Norris for my Career. Other than the aforementioned changes, everything else is pretty much the same as you dive right into the season in a race to the podium.
F1 World is a new central hub that redefines how players will engage with different solo and multiplayer modes. Players can take part in Series races, taking them on a world tour of Formula 1, compete in solo and multiplayer events, including a revamped Ranked mode, and see how they rate in terms of clean racing with Licence Level. Participating in events and challenges in F1 World will increase your Tech Level and earn you upgrades for your F1 World car, opening up the doors to more difficult challenges and events down the road.
I decided to jump into an online race after spending time in both Braking Point II and career mode to see where I stacked up against other players. While the pool of available players is small leading up to launch, I was still able to find a race fairly easily, albeit with only two other players. I was quickly humbled as they both jumped ahead of me at the first turn, though I was able to regain a place when one of the two collided pretty hard with a wall. The other driver ended up so far ahead that the only chance I would have had of catching up would be if they crashed too. They even made a quick pit stop and still managed to not only catch back up and pass me again, but also get a 20 second lead on me. And then I ruined it all anyway by being disqualified for not making a mandatory pit stop before entering the final lap.
While I still have some work to do before I decide to go online again, I have to say that F1 23 handles like a dream. Incorporating actual F1 feedback, the vehicle handling and physics have been improved and fine-tuned for both players using racing wheels as well as those using a controller. Cars have better traction when braking, accelerating, and cornering, which quickly shot F1 23 up to the top of my list of racing games. I’ve always struggled with vehicle control, often swerving back and forth uncontrollably, overcorrecting after a turn, and losing control. I never had that issue in F1 23, which is probably also in part because of the new Precision Drive technology, which delivers more control and precision for controller players. As someone who is newer to racing simulation games, these updates in handling and control made the game much more inviting and easy to jump into.
The world around you, though it may pass in a blur as you’re speeding through the track, looks fantastic. The attention to detail on the cars, the tracks, the garage, the grandstands — even the kerb profiles — doesn’t go unchecked. They’ve used a new color encoding system as well as made some lighting improvements that result in a more true-to-life visual experience. The game runs on Ego Engine 4, which was developed by Codemasters to render more detailed damage and physics, primarily used in racing games, but also used in a few first-person shooters as well.
I wish there was a training grounds kind of mode for players who just want to get out on the track and practice. Not everyone who picks this game up is going to be an F1 pro, so having the option to pick a track and get introduced to the basics and complete challenge races would be very beneficial. However, the game does do a decent job of teaching you, particularly in Braking Point II since most of those races have particular objectives anyway, but being able to venture out freely with no strings attached (in Career, F1 World, or story) would give the player the ability to just learn at their own pace.
Lastly, F1 23 is accompanied by a banger soundtrack, consisting of 34 high-octane electronic tracks, with Swedish House Mafia, Skrillex, Tiësto, and The Chemical Brothers headlining the tracklist. While you don’t listen to the music while racing, which is probably a good thing when you’re driving that fast, between races your ears are blessed with stellar tunes that keep up the energy that comes with Formula 1 racing. You can check out the full tracklist on Spotify.
To VR or not to VR?
Once you’ve played a racing game in VR, there’s no going back. The immersive aspect of virtual reality takes the racing experience to a whole new level. It’s like playing with a steering wheel instead of a standard controller, as any experienced player knows that racing sims are not designed for a standard controller.
However, while there’s a lot to be said about the immersion of VR, there are also a lot of things that can go wrong. In the case of F1® 23, unfortunately, Codemasters missed an opportunity and failed to deliver a satisfying VR experience once again.
One of the significant issues with F1® 23 in VR is the game’s presentation. The game switches back and forth between “cinema mode,” a 2D enlarged version of the game, and “VR mode,” the native VR version. The continuous switching between these modes can be frustrating. It is evident that the game is rendered at a lower resolution in VR mode, regardless of the powerful hardware used (a 13th Gen Intel® Core™ i9 machine with an NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 4090, 32 GB DDR5 4800 MHz RAM and an NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD). Even with top-of-the-line specifications, the graphics in VR mode lack the realism of the cinema mode, which is disappointing.
Furthermore, the in-game menus in VR are ridiculously tiny and challenging to read, especially when you are driving an F1 car. The game’s presentation in VR feels like an afterthought, with inadequate effort put into adjusting it for the VR experience.
Another letdown is that the VR graphics lack the level of realism found in the cinema mode. This is not due to the limitations of the VR headset itself, as high-end hardware can handle the demanding graphics. Maintaining consistency across different VR headsets seems like a deliberate choice, which detracts from the immersive experience. This is where the PSVR2 games shine, allowing developers to provide a consistent and coherent experience, even if the headset may not match the highest specifications. Unfortunately, F1® 23 only supports PC VR, missing out on the opportunity to provide console VR support (PSVR2, we are looking at you!).
Despite these shortcomings, we still choose to play F1® 23 in VR because its immersive experience is the definitive way to enjoy the game. The in-game menus may be tiny, the continuous “cinema mode” switching may be frustrating, and the game’s performance may be compromised for compatibility reasons. Still, the overall VR experience enhances the thrill of racing.
Cassie Peterson is an Editor for Gaming Trend but also a sporadic content creator and exceedingly average Rainbow Six Siege player. She goes by MzPanik on Twitter and Twitch and all of the gaming platforms.
EA SPORTS F1 23
EA SPORTS F1 23 continues the series’ legacy of being the definitive F1 racing experience for gamers. With the updates made to braking, accelerating, and cornering, as well as Precision Drive technology for controller players, the game plays smoother than ever and can easily be enjoyed by players of all skill and interest levels. Braking Point also makes a return with another drama-filled story.