F1 23 review - Finally shifting into top gear

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Screenshot of Aston Martin F1 car driven by Fernando Alonso in F1 23 game
Credit: Codemasters

Every year, Codemasters attempts to refine the virtual Formula One racing experience. With the sport's popularity skyrocketing in recent years, interest in virtual F1 and sim racing has been on the up too and given that F1 23 promised widespread changes to core features of the game, I couldn’t wait for the lights to go out on its starting grid.

To me, F1 22 missed the mark due to an inconsistent handling model and innovations only a select few could experience. Now, Codemasters has overhauled various mechanics, ranging from the handling model to the controller settings, in order to give more players a taste of what it’s like to drive at the pinnacle of motorsport.

Heading onto the grid after a disappointing experience with its predecessor, I was expecting better from F1 23 and, after a few attempts at trying to dethrone Max Verstappen, I ended up pleasantly surprised by Codemasters’ latest entry into the series.

Screenshot of AlphaTauri F1 car in F1 23 with Williams and Alfa Romeo in the background
click to enlarge
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Credit: Codemasters

Handling overhaul has paid off

Constantly lighting up the rear tyres in fourth gear in F1 22 was the bane of my existence for the majority of my time with that game. No matter how careful I was in applying the throttle, the car would almost always end up with its front wing missing or wedged into a nearby barrier. With F1 23, the handling improvements have paid off massively. Cars feel glued to the ground, thanks to the new ground-effect aerodynamics which meant that every high-speed corner felt amazing to drive using a wheel or a controller.

The days of randomly losing traction are a thing of the past. I even found myself utilising the lower end of the gearbox to grab some extra rotation in the tighter sections of the new Las Vegas track, meaning I could corner with ease and was able to plant my foot flat to the floor out of the bends without any fear of losing the rear end.

Having increased my involvement in sim racing over the past few years, I forked out for a new Fanatec wheel and pedals to try out with the game and the feedback generated by its handling overhaul seemed like a noticeable improvement. Props to Codemasters for delivering a fundamental change in how their F1 game feels without having to build an entirely new engine.

It’s also good news if you’re playing with a controller. For F1 23, Codemasters has introduced a mechanic called Precision Drive. This overhaul in controller technology provides you with a better command over your car’s movements, which is especially noticeable when attempting Daniel Ricciardo-esque dive bombs down the inside of opponents. Having tried both a wheel and controller, I can definitely say that the game feels very satisfying to drive, regardless of your input selection.

Screenshot of F1 23 Mercedes driving around Miami Autodrome
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Credit: Codemasters

Braking Point is back with a bang

Braking Point, Codemasters F1-focused single-player storyline, is back with a second episode and continues the journeys of Aiden Jackson and his arch-nemesis Devon Butler. Now racing alongside each other as part of the Konnersport Racing team, the story wouldn’t look out of place on an episode of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, containing all the dramatic twists and turns you’d expect from a team battling for those all-important constructors championship points. Additions such as performance and reputation management add a neat layer of further engagement, meaning that your racecraft and how you act in the media pen can influence some of the decisions you need to make throughout the story.

Alongside the driving, you also get a chance to act as the team principal, making important decisions that can either gain or lose you experience points. For example, I showed a bit of attitude at one post-race press conference and instantly saw a drop in reputation, along with several emails from frustrated members of the team.

Braking point is a welcome returning feature in F1 23 but constant crashes at a certain point in it meant I was unable to advance past chapter 11. I’m looking forward to finishing the story once a patch is released. Despite this issue, the single-player campaign is a lot of fun and allows you to determine the fate of Konnersport Racing and whether Aiden Jackson and co end up looking like a bunch of legends or a bunch of Guenther Steiner-style expletives.

Mediocre MyTeam and career mode

F1 23 also sees the return of the popular MyTeam and career modes, which allow you to create your very own team or start your quest to become a world champion alongside the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

While there are plenty of innovations across Braking Point and F1 World, the lack of new features in the MyTeam and career modes is noticeable. Codemasters says numerous stability changes have arrived, but I feel that they could’ve appeared as part of a post-launch update, rather than being branded as the draw for aspects of the game that are nowhere near as exciting as the other modes available.

Still, the near copy-paste of F1 22’s MyTeam and career modes are pretty solid if you’re looking for ways to prevent further Red Bull domination on the track.

Screenshot of F1 23 Alpine driving around Monaco
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Credit: Codemasters

Is F1 World EA's answer to ultimate team?

Following EA’s takeover of Codemasters, many F1 fans wondered if the series would come to feature some form of pay-to-win Ultimate Team equivalent. Instead of FIFA’s online universe, F1 World acts as a new hub where you can participate in numerous solo and multiplayer races, in order to obtain items to upgrade your F1 World car and tech level. The higher your tech level, the better your car will perform over the course of a race.

Just like in Ultimate Team, you can choose to spend real-world money on PitCoin and XP boosts, but there’s no way of getting your hands on individual engine upgrades using them, which helps to limit any pay-to-win potential.

Screenshot showing F1 23 F1 World menu
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Credit: Codemasters

After completing a few single-player series, I could see the appeal of taking up the grind to improve my car, but as someone who prefers the more traditional forms of racing on offer, F1 World never really clicked with me. However, it’s great to see Codemasters and EA innovating and trying to engage their player base in different ways.

A new ranked system

Having dabbled in F1 league racing during the F1 22’s lifespan, I was hoping Codemasters and EA had found a way to resurrect their online system, which was riddled with hackers and desyncing problems that caused more chaos than Michael Masi did in Abu Dhabi a few years ago.


F1 23’s ranked play now comes with a division-based system, designed to test your mettle against 99 other players. Each division features its own leaderboard and, depending on how you perform during races, you’ll climb up or plummet down the ladder and, if you’re good, earn a range of Podium Pass boosts.

This new system is all well and good, but there’s no evidence of any improvements to anti-cheating measures. In previous F1 ranked races, I saw people using some kind of grip hacks giving them incredible levels of traction while the rest of the lobby and I were skidding around the wet streets of Monte-Carlo. I hope EA has something in store in that regard, so hackers don’t dominate the elite division for the next 12 months.

Screenshot of F1 23 cars driving around Bahrain circuit at dusk
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Credit: Codemasters

Is F1 23 worth buying?

After several hours of testing all of what F1 23 has to offer, I think it’s a solid racing game with vastly improved handling, that’s immensely satisfying to master regardless of whether you’re playing on a wheel or a controller. The additions of Qatar’s Losail circuit and the Las Vegas street track inject a breath of fresh air into the pool of circuits, while adjustments to the Red Bull Ring and Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya , designed to reflect real-world changes to those facilities, help fully immerse you in the 2023 F1 season.

The handling changes alone make this the best F1 game in years and I’m looking forward to playing a lot more of it.

F1 23
F1 23 is a major step forward from its predecessor. The handling overhaul combined with new modes make this entry the best F1 game there's been in years.

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