► This year’s F1 game is out now
► All ten teams, plus F1 cars and supercars – and 26 tracks in total
► Our initial verdict
Another year, another F1 game, but this time it’ll be different won’t it? In some ways that goes without saying: like 2022, this year’s game models the new era of Formula One ground-effect regulations. Simply put, that means cars tend to generate more downforce from their floors and diffusers than ever. The result? They’re skittish at low speeds and more planted at higher speeds, as more airflow through the diffuser sucks them down to the tarmac.
Right, we’re getting ahead of ourselves; here’s our review of F1 23. On this page we’ll analyze the graphics of the new game, along with the gameplay, handling, AI, and anything else. Keep reading for the full CAR verdict on F1 2023.
On the PS5 at least, F1 looks a lot like F1 22 – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As you’d expect from a next-gen release, the F1 23 is nice to look at; there’s stunning particle effects when cars bottom out on the tarmac, and all the tracks are sharp and lit superbly. What’s more, night tracks such as Singapore especially also look breathtaking – Marina Bay’s lighting is rendered perfectly, especially in the rain.
As in reality, there are ten Formula One teams in total, and thanks to F1’s ever-growing calendar EA there are 23 official tracks here as per the 2023 calendar. There are three bonus tracks too, including Shanghai, Paul Ricard and ‘Catalunya-but-evil’ track in Portugal’s Portimão.
But despite all pixels, it’s fair to say F1 23 still doesn’t look as polished as something like Gran Turismo 7 or Forza Motorsport, for example. Like so many other F1 games, F1 23’s graphics are competitive but slightly out of touch from the competition; F1 fans, think of Alpine in 2023 and you’re pretty much there.
What’s more, even in the current build there’s a significant amount of glitching; with damage on, we experienced some very interesting looking crashes – many of which reminded us of the PS2 days.
When talking about presentation, we’re talking about things like menus, on-screen graphics and all the trimmings – and it’s here that F1 23 really excels. Load up a race weekend for example, and you’re immediately in the hands of the Sky F1 team you’ve heard so many times on the TV. The graphics, track analysis and overall race build-up is everything you’d expect to see from a current broadcast of F1. It’s probably more appealing to Drive To Survive fans and more casual followers of F1, but even this hardcore F1 fan found it pretty cool.
Of course, the humans in this game remain utterly terrifying. Despite EA’s motion capture tech and experience in FIFA, NBA , NFL games – every human face in F1 23 is the stuff of nightmares – or memes.
V10s aren’t coming back any time soon, but that’s fine for this writer because in-person V6s have their own gruff and uncompromisingly efficient tone. That tone is portrayed relatively well in F1 23 – although it’s a bit ‘cleaner’ and less gritty than you’d hope for. It’s better in the in-car modes, and it’s possible to tell the difference between powertrains; the Renault sounds very different to the Mercedes or the RBPT, for instance.
Handling on a controller
We’ve primarily tested F1 23 at the two ends of the spectrum it needs to perform most: casual gamers and hardcore sim racers. With that in mind, we tested the game with the majority of assists on and used a controller, and also tried it with a full racing setup including a Playseat Trophy and Fanatec Podium steering wheel and pedals. All assists (apart from ABS to begin with) were off for the latter configuration; obviously. So how did F1 23 fare on either end of the spectrum?
With a controller, F1 23 wasn’t bad at all. With automatic gearing on, we were able to concentrate on the helpfully provided racing line and brake when the game told us to. The PS5’s analogue sticks will initially have you scrambling across the road like Max Verstappen defending – but give it time and you’ll soon hone your inputs. They’re perfectly tuned in our experience, though you can tweak them in the settings menus if needed.
The PS5’s controllers also give F1 23 access to high-definition vibration characteristics, and we found these also to be good in practice. Hit a sausage kerb at the wrong angle and you feel it through your hands, hit a few high speed apexes perfectly and you’ll feel them buzz by. Whack another player and you’ll find the collision transported through your arms.
And on a steering wheel?
Things are a little more complex. With all the assists off, F1 23 can be quite a handful to begin with: but some things get better with time and others take longer. First the good bits: force feedback through our Podium Fanatec steering wheel was bang on. Steering is relatively light at slower speed, and it gets heavier as you pick up speed and the downforce sticks your car to the road.
At Silverstone you can really feel the difference in grip between slower stuff and the Maggots and Becketts corners for example. Just make sure you’ve attached your wheel to a solid rig like the Playseat Trophy – use anything less sturdy and you’ll hear the creaking of twisting metal.
Braking is fine, though we had to up the sensitivity on our Fanatec pedals. Traction however, is a challenge. Even with pedals, working out the amount of throttle you can get away with on corner exits isn’t easy to begin with – and in the wet it’ll have you reaching for the game’s rewind button. It’s still not easy, though more seat time is probably needed.
F1 23 is great at making you feel busy – even when you’re driving in a straight line. On the more advanced modes, you’ll need to constantly tinker with your ERS settings to be competitive – and you’ll also want to reach for DRS if you’re within one second of the car in front. Sometimes you’ll be on the attack, and you’ll use ERS to get within the DRS range. Or you’ll need to use some ERS to defend from those with DRS behind. F1 23 will have you legitimately using all those knobs and switches you’ve seen on your steering wheel, and it’s very satisfying.
One thing is clear after an hour or so with both inputs; the handling model for F1 23 is predictable if nothing else, and that’s already an improvement from before. The cars feel heavier than previous games – because they are – but when you spin you want to learn from your mistakes – not throw the game in the bin.
The cars don’t want to be driven at low speeds – tracks like Monaco involve tiptoeing around as fast as possible – but that’s exactly what you want from 1000bhp machines. In contrast, in faster corners, F1 23’s cars deliver the rollercoaster-like performance and direction change you’ll hear drivers talk about. At most tracks you’ll need to look through corners and well ahead of you to post competitive times.
There’s a notable difference between the performance of the cars too. On faster tracks without assists, the Red Bull feels stuck to the track and invites you to pin the throttle as soon as you see an exit kerb. Do the same in an Alpha Tauri, and the back end of the car will eventually capitulate at high speed. Time to rewind again.
How’s the AI?
If you’re not playing online (we haven’t yet) you’ll face the AI and it’s another mixed bag. It’s hard to know what the AI is like on lower difficulties as you’re usually clear of them on within two corners but crank it up and you’ll have more encounters with the CPU field. Overall they’re respectful enough, but will often try moves that are risky at best. For example, in one race with the difficulty set to hard, Carlos Sainz (above) tried to overtake on the kerbs… of Eau Rouge.
What about Braking Point and F1 World?
Braking Point can be seen as the campaign of F1 23, but it’s not something we’ve tried yet. Simply put, some people are more about time trials and single races – while others are more about the story. It’s a bit like how some gamers jump to the Call of Duty zombie mode and never touch the campaign.
F1 World is where you can set up single races and time trials – but it also involves taking on challenges and earning points for an F1 World car – and it’s another mode that’ll have more casual fans coming back. We’ve not tried it either at this point (we’ll update this article when we do) but it’s clearly aimed at keeping more casual gamers immersed in the F1 world. And from our brief look around the menus, it could well do just that.
We’ve not delved into every aspect of F1 23 yet (there are still supercars, F2 cars and Braking Point to assess) but it’s safe to say the basics have been done well and they’re better than before. The graphics are there or thereabouts – minus the glitchy crashes – but most importantly the feeling and handling of the cars is solid too. There are modes for casual fans, and if you choose to untick all the boxes, there’s a challenge for more serious racers too. Unlike other games such as GT7 or iRacing, F1 has the tricky need to cater for both audiences – and after several hours of play with both a wheel and a pad, we can say it does both well enough. We’ll update this article when we’ve played even more.