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Posted: Jun 13, 2023 @ 06:10 pm GMT-0600
Updated: Jun 13, 2023 @ 07:46 pm GMT-0600
Sorting Tags: Article Review, Article Software, Articles, F1 2023,

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As I sat down to write this review I had to remind myself that F1 23 and its second installment of the Braking Point story might not be in digital stores for more than a couple of years. This means that, potentially for everyone, all multiplayer features, all features that rely on EA supporting login authentication, are also subject to shutdown whenever they feel like it. We saw F1 2021 de-listed in May less than two years after it’s initial release and Codemasters only advice for new players was that they find F1 2021 on EA Play. But the head doesn’t know what the tail is doing because F1 2021 is not currently on EA Play.

Why does this matter? Because what you’re buying in F1 23, potentially, is a time-limited two year experience for everything except single player. Waiting for a sale probably isn’t a good idea because F1 2021 remained full price for more than a year before its removal, so you really have to consider today whether F1 23 is worth the $69.99 standard or $89.99 purchase price of the Champions Edition.

EA want to lock you into buying these titles every year by effectively killing off fresh entry to the player base via ongoing sales and price reductions on older titles. Are you ok with that?

Retrospective on F1 22

F1 22 was okay, not good, not great. In my review I highlighted the fact that I didn’t like how the cars drove but during what I believe was a tactically short review period given, possibly attempting to not give reviewers adequate time to narrow down on where the problems came from, I could not pinpoint whether it was an issue with the physics engine or just how real-world 2022 F1 cars drove. We’ve all since discovered that, as stated in a recent interview I did with Codemasters former Handling Designer (who worked on both F1 22 and F1 23), the problem was the underlying physics present in F1 22. In that same interview he said they’ve been improved for the 2023 edition.

Software Setup & Accessibility Options

Installing the PC version via Steam is straightforward and my pre-release review build came in at 56.63GB. On first run F1 23 installed Microsoft Speech services and then launched into a series of EULA and legal acceptance screens, gamma setup and accessibility options. You then find yourself at the main screen.


Your welcome to F1 23.

I’ll fully admit that before having a disabled daughter I didn’t give an awful lot of thought to accessibility options in gaming. F1 23 seems to have a decent set of options including the expected things like subtitles through to tweaking options for tinnitus, colorblindness and options for text to voice. They’ve also put some significant work into controller support and this will obviously translate for adaptive controllers.

UI & Options

Firstly, not strictly part of the UI, but I miss the old intro movies created from gameplay. I much preferred them to the standard Formula One intros as-seen on TV. Why are all the drivers staring at me?

The F1 franchise still doesn’t support mouse input in menus and while some of the screens in older games that would, by default, require you to F5 and F6 your way back and forth through tabs are now navigated via the cursor keys, it’s still disappointing. They have cleaned up the UI quite a bit and gone back to a text based main selection menu, something I generally like, but this has led to some options that should be front and center on the main page requiring multiple steps to access.

Want to do a quick single player race? Here are the steps:

– Load F1 23
– Skip/watch multiple intros
– Press a key to get to the main menu
– Select F1 World
– Select Grand Prix
– Select F1 2023 (if that’s the selection of cars and opponents you want)
– Select track you want to race
– Select advance
– Select car/team
– Select advance
– Select driver
– Select advance
– Navigate menus to set weekend structure, weather and time of day and rules & flags (assists, difficulty, simulation settings, controls and force feedback, audio and accessibility can also be adjusted here)
– Click select on Start Event
– Skip/watch multiple intros (track intro, starting grid, race intro)
– Check car setup
– Select start race

While this isn’t more than two or three steps above what was needed in previous Codemasters F1 titles, it is perhaps right that I raise this issue because it simply shouldn’t be this hard to get a car on a track. I fully did not expect to find the Grand Prix option within F1 World and sat bewildered and annoyed on the main screen wondering where it went. Some sections of the UI are visually pleasing but the older horizontal block UI does creep into view occasionally. While things flow nicely from one layout to the other it is a little annoying how difficult it can be to get where I want to be and that’s perhaps why seeing that the general options are filtered by casual, standard and expert just made me even more disorientated. We now have an option for our options. Who is this for?


Filtered options are a thing.

Physics & Feel

We now know F1 22 wasn’t capable of adequately simulating 2022 Formula One racing cars. F1 23 does do a slightly better job of it and is a step in the right direction on physics. I still can’t feel the cars in the turns like I can on literally any other high-end simulation that features them either first-party or modded, but I do feel like progress was made within this franchise.

Slow speed acceleration is better, kerbs don’t ruin the balance of the car and generally things are more believable, but I still feel my enjoyment will be limited by a disconnection with the front end that probably connects to the floaty and weak force feedback.

Performance & Graphics

You won’t see anything groundbreaking from F1 23 in terms of graphical options, support and quality. The pre-release build I’m reviewing had acceptable default graphic options, only looked acceptable from the cockpit, but looked blurry from the trackside where in sunny or night time conditions under lights bloom overpowered the TV camera in motion. The review guide that EA provided stated that Lighting, VFX were not final and I’m really hoping that the screenshots below aren’t representative of what the general player will get on the official release date.


Old Spa features… Hopefully this blurry mess isn’t a part of the final release.

It really is disappointing that an officially licensed Formula One game doesn’t look spectacular right out of the box and well before time to review. Although I’m certain a day one patch is coming and perhaps a game ready driver for my video card I have no idea what it will or will not fix. While the general performance of the software was decent and a consistently high framerate was offered similar to F1 22 on my RTX 3090 I don’t even feel like I can be nice about VR because of the headache created by my eyes constantly trying to find focus in this blurry over-processed mess.

Controller support

While I absolutely recommend using a wheel and pedals I’m happy to report that with the default controller and difficulty options F1 23 is absolutely playable using a keyboard. Testing with an Xbox controller I struggled for consistency, but believe that those with more controller experience would be just as fast and consistent as those of us using a wheel.

I didn’t have any issues with wheel setup, but did suffer loss of force feedback mid-session multiple times. I expect this will require a patch. Wheel feedback is also very weak and I am certain that this is somehow related to the front of the car feeling a little floaty compared to the rear.

Sound

The music from the soundtrack is something I instantly turned off when first launching the game. It’s honestly just way too loud by default and I have zero interest in it anyway. I don’t know who this is for.

The engine sounds somehow seem a little more flat than last year and the throaty warbling sounds of current engines seem to have been lost somewhere. The engine sound that you hear on the menu (when the music is off) seems distinctly different to what you’ll hear when driving.

F1 World

F1 World gives you access to racing modes such as Grand Prix, a full career that incorporates all modes in the game, various character upgrades that connect to the season pass I despise so much and some quite interesting multiplayer options like ranked racing if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m not going to touch on the majority of this because if you’re reading this for my opinion, my opinion is that features like F1 Life and every similar feature in future F1 titles is something I can ignore.

Online

The ranked multiplayer, accessible via F1 World, now includes driver ratings and a ladder system for licenses that will hopefully improve opponent quality in multiplayer. This is a solid step forward and I’m genuinely happy to see this for those of you playing online.

Offline

Braking Point 2’s offline story mode, accessible right at the top of the main menu, is one of the major selling points of F1 23 and I highly recommend a playthrough. As with Braking Point 1 it features multiple characters winding their way through a slightly cringe-ridden storyline in-between cutscenes laying out the challenge ahead. Because it can get a little repetitive I actually recommend playing through this on an easier difficulty and just enjoying the storyline rather than potentially exposing yourself to retrying the scenarios.

Obviously F1 23 includes the 2023 Formula One World Championship and this content has been integrated into all the modes you’ll be familiar with from previous titles.

New (kinda) features

Promoting a 35% race distance as a new feature is a joke as it should (at most) have been a line in a changelog years ago. Red flags, a feature I would have loved to rave about because of the strategy choices and windows it opens up, don’t work. They were last-seen in F1 2014 so I’m not even sure it counts as a new feature anyway?

Maybe a day one patch will fix it so that your positions gained after the red flag are reflected in the final result, maybe it won’t.

Car and track content

The new track content of the Las Vegas Strip Circuit and Losail International Circuit both look to be of decent quality and are welcome additions, but as an exclusively licensed simulation of Formula One in 2023 that prevents others from creating a competing F1 product it is bare minimum that the tracks used in the 2023 season are included. The bonus tracks of Paul Ricard, Portimao and Shanghai, not used in real-life this year, are nice to have.

What lets us down, as with previous games in the franchise, is the lack of updates for older tracks. Spa-francorchamps still appears to be based on the original Codemasters model that has been outdated for a decade and it’s bewildering to me that the official F1 game isn’t using newer techniques like laser scanning on all tracks. While it’s possible to do a good job with standard CAD data or photogrammetry, a product of this status should be looking to do better.

Opinion: To buy or not to buy

As I consider whether I, as a consumer, would buy F1 23 I’m going to have to consider the current state of the sim racing community, my dislike for how exclusive licenses have affected it, and how little overall positive progression there has been in the F1 franchise in any area I think is important.

F1 23 includes all the cars, all the tracks, all the brands and relevant personalities of the 2023 Formula One World Championship because the publisher holds an exclusive license to do so. It offers a reasonable simulation experience of driving and allows you to play the part of ‘F1 driver’ each and every time you run it. It does the job, and while it doesn’t offer the best physics or even the best experience driving a current F1 car, it is your only choice right now. However, having the 2023 F1 content in your licensed 2023 F1 game isn’t a feature, it’s a requirement. So what else that matters to me remains?

There is a decent chance that F1 23 will be removed from stores in a couple of years and will not be replaced by a cheaper or budget title, it will be replaced by a new full-priced title. Your online rankings will perhaps transfer in some way to future titles, but your money won’t. Am I ok with that?

Ordinarily when I review something, even if the review itself carries a negative tone, I can still find a reason why I personally would still buy it. But the bugs and lack of development in my areas of interest aside, I just can’t find enough positive to say on why I would have bought F1 23. Not only this, but the moral issue of license exclusivity is on my mind lately. I lived through Electronic Arts before (and others – let’s be fair) licensing away content from others to push yearly updates, killing studios like Papyrus in the process, so as this franchise begins its slow and steady demise I’d like to remind the “give them the NASCAR license” crowd to take a look around before including EA in that.

Would I buy this if the bugs are fixed? For every reason other than the fact it has the content it is licensed to include: No.

Steam key supplied by Codemasters for review.

Test system used: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, RTX 3090, 64GB RAM.

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