F1 23 review: Racing never felt so good

Kurt Perry
F1 23 cinematic shot of Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps as seen in F1 World.

F1 23 arrives as the latest installment in Codemasters’ annual Formula 1 series. Despite its ups and downs, F1 has established itself as one of the premier racing games on the market. However, last year’s entry left many fans disappointed and wondering if F1 23 would offer a return to form.

F1 22 was the first entry in the F1 series to see a radical overhaul in design following EA’s acquisition of Codemasters. This saw the focus shift away from the core racing experience, and more toward appealing to casual fans, with the arrival of F1 Life and drivable supercars.

Throughout 22’s lifespan, it became increasingly obvious that issues with the AI, handling model, and net code had been neglected in favor of making sure players could drive supercars in a game that was supposed to be about Formula 1.

Thankfully, Codemasters has learned its lesson. This time around the racing experience has been the focal point, giving F1 23 the potential to be the strongest entry in years. Although that’ll depend on what matters most to you, with some game modes getting the short straw.

F1 23 – Key Details

  • Price: £59.99/$69.99
  • Developer: Codemasters
  • Release Date: June 16, 2023
  • Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

F1 23 – Trailer

Racing at its finest

By far the biggest innovation and reason to buy F1 23 is its staggering improvements to the racing itself. More specifically, the driving and the way Formula 1 cars behave across a wide range of conditions. Especially on a controller, where players have less precision than with a dedicated wheel setup.

Even though F1 cars are known for their ludicrous amount of downforce and freakish cornering speeds, F1 22 made its cars strangely prone to oversteer. A challenging handling model is one thing, but what we ended up with wasn’t satisfying and didn’t accurately represent what F1 cars are about.

F1 23 has completely revamped the driving with its cars feeling far nicer to drive. The biggest improvement is the increased traction on corner exits. Not only is it more satisfying to attack a corner aggressively in F1 23, but it’s also more consistent thanks to how planted the cars feel.

That’s not to say you can be reckless and full throttle out of every corner with assists disabled though. There’s still a significant skill gap but the best drivers will now be defined more so by their racecraft, rather than their ability to not spin out for seemingly no reason.

The superior AI help enhance the on-track experience too. Unlike in F1 22, the AI no longer cheats by having twice the traction as you through slow corners and inexplicable straight-line speed. Your car finally matches their car, making skill once again the primary factor behind where you finish.

Race at Monaco GP in F1 23 in Alonso's Aston Martin approaching the Hairpin.
The improved traction makes slower circuits like Monaco much more fun to drive in F1 23.

Goodbye F1 Life, hello F1 World

F1 World replaces F1 Life, offering a different take on what a racing game can be. This new game mode lets players upgrade their own cars by completing various events, series, and even developing new parts.

What differentiates it from existing modes like My Team is that the difficulty scaling revolves around a power level system called Tech Level. Car parts are assigned different Tech Levels and your overall Tech Level determines how difficult each event is. Entering a 100 Tech Level event at 150 will be extremely easy, while doing the same in a 200 event can offer a challenge.

Earned parts will have random traits and bonuses with some improving downforce, others increasing ERS efficiency in specific instances, and others boosting engine power. Different parts will be preferred on different tracks, with downforce prioritized on twisty circuits like the Hungaroring and power on fast tracks like Jeddah.

Interestingly, this creates an incentive to make builds and farm for the best rolls almost like the progression model seen in looter shooters like Destiny. It’s an interesting idea that offers something new, unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the F1 series and even the racing genre as a whole.

However, it’s best to not expect too much as the supporting content leaves something to be desired. Unlike in Destiny where there’s an end goal to work toward with the completion of raids, F1 23 offers nothing comparable. Also, the complexity of car builds isn’t overly in-depth as you either make your car faster or have more downforce, which was already possible with setups anyway.

Despite its flaws, I appreciate what Codemasters has tried to do with F1 World. This isn’t a perfect answer that everyone will be interested in, but it’s an intriguing idea with a ton of potential. At the very least, it’s a much better way of getting casual fans on board than lazily adding a few supercars.

F1 World game mode in F1 23 where players grind Tech Level to make their car faster.
There’s enjoyment to be found in grinding the best parts in F1 World, even if the mode has some flaws.

Konnersport rises

Braking Point, F1’s story mode returns in F1 23 continuing where F1 21’s campaign left off. This time around the returning Aiden Jackson and Devon Butler are teammates for Konnersport Racing, a fictional team funded by Butler’s dad and run by team principal Andero Konner.

The story covers both the 2022 and 2023 seasons following Konnersport’s troubled start and its eventual change of fortune. How that comes to be and the numerous twists throughout the story are something you won’t want to miss.

As sports-focused stories go, Braking Point 2 is probably the best out there. Its Drive to Survive-inspired narrative keeps things exciting and is just the right length to avoid getting dull. There’s zero replayability but that’s fine in such a well-structured linear story. After all, not every campaign has to be a 40-hour blockbuster.

I’m particularly fond of how grounded the narrative is. Sure it exaggerates certain aspects of running an F1 team for the sake of drama, but the way in which characters are antagonized and the individual storylines feel realistic. There isn’t some big plot point that ruins the immersion of Konnersport being a genuine F1 team trying to figure out how to survive in such an unforgiving industry.

Aidan Jackson speaking to Konnersport investor Davidoff Butler about his future.
Braking Point 2 is the sequel the original story deserved and one of F1 23’s best additions.

The curse of the annual release

When you release a new game every year there’s just not that much time for developers to both implement new ideas and innovate on existing ones. With the driving physics getting a much-needed overhaul and a new game mode being implemented something had to give.

The cost of those additions is that career mode remains virtually untouched outside of a few small quality-of-life improvements. That applies to My Team, the single-player driver career, and the co-op career.

To summarize the differences: A handful of new cutscenes have been added to improve immersion, teams have been updated to better reflect their real-world performance and facilities, and finances have been re-balanced to offer a more realistic experience.

Disappointingly, supporting features like practice programs remain broken. The qualifying Pace practice program put my pace at over two seconds off every car on the grid. Yet when I finished qualifying with the exact same time it was good enough to reach Q3 and an eventual top 6 finish on race day. This has been a known problem for years and F1 23 makes no effort to fix it.

Truthfully, those considering F1 23 for its career mode are better off waiting for the upcoming F1 Manager 2023. It all comes down to if you’re happy playing the same mode with improved driving physics, and an updated roster of teams.

Broken Qualifying Pace program in F1 23 claiming pace would leave me last even though it was good enough for Q3.
Several practice programs in F1 23 are still broken and frustrating to complete.

A beauty to behold

Unsurprisingly, F1 23 is a gorgeous racing game with some of the best car models and environments the genre has to offer. Most of the time you won’t get a chance to truly appreciate the visuals with how fast the racing is but the instances where you get to look around and take everything in are a real treat.

Its visuals aren’t necessarily a massive improvement over F1 22 but that was never a criticism of its predecessor in the first place. Slight improvements to an already beautiful game should be more than enough to satisfy fans who value graphics.

An area that has seen more substantial revisions is the menus. The new menu is simple, intuitive, and easy to navigate. Better menus may not seem like a big deal to some, but it’s one of the few features of F1 23 you will interact with every time you play. Getting it right matters and is something too many games are guilty of over-complicating.

Verdict 4/5

F1 23 is a strong entry that amends a lot of the damage done by its predecessor. The innovations to on-track racing are significant enough that franchise fans will be able to justify the price for that alone. Especially those that rack up most of their hours playing with friends or in competitive leagues.

For casual players, the arrival of F1 World and the return of Braking Point should offer enough to keep them entertained. Although, the total neglect of My Team and co-op career is hard to ignore and will be a deal breaker for some.

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About The Author

Kurt Perry is a British games writer who started at Dexerto in April 2023. He graduated from Staffordshire University in 2019 with a BA in Games Journalism and PR. Prior to joining Dexerto, Kurt contributed 900 articles for PC Invasion including over 350 guides. He's an all-rounder who is particularly knowledgeable about Call of Duty, Destiny, and Pokemon.