With F1 23 racing onto consoles and PC this week, we've been testing the game out, and we're pleased to report that it really is a drive worth taking, largely thanks to the gripping Braking Point story mode.
Returning fans will remember that Braking Point was first introduced in F1 21, letting players experience the high octane life of fictional drivers Aiden Jackson (played by Aiden Felgate) and Casper Akkerman (Christopher Dane), with thrills and spills both on and off the track, and a brilliantly hate-worthy villain in the shape of rival racer Devon Butler (Daniel Ben Zenou).
Much like FIFA's long-lost story mode, The Journey, Braking Point was hugely celebrated by fans of solo play. And when the mode took a year off, skipping F1 22 altogether as EA and Codemasters focused their attention in other areas, we really did miss it. Visually stunning racing is all well and good, but tying it up in a rich story is even better.
Thankfully, there's a whole new Braking Point campaign in F1 23, and we had a really great time with it. One of our only complaints with the original Braking Point was that some of the on-track objectives felt overly difficult with very little leeway, forcing you to replay the same segments over and over again beyond the point of having a good time.
With the new Braking Point, however, we'd say that the difficulty is pitched at a much more lenient level. We haven't felt stuck or frustrated in the same way at all. On top of your basic, very doable objectives, there are additional targets to hit if you're able, but you won't be penalised if you miss them. In fact, the in-game social media feed will react accordingly whatever you do.
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In terms of the story, there are some really fun twists and turns this time (even Devon gets a strong arc), which we won't spoil for you here. The campaign goes to great lengths to show a more progressive version of the sport than we're currently seeing in real life. At times, it does veer over the top into soapy melodrama, but for the most part it's a very fun experience that really makes you care about what's happening on the track.
It's also worth giving a special shoutout to EastEnders alum Emer Kenny, who joins the Braking Point cast as a new character named Callie Mayer, making such a profound impact on the story – and being so continuously watchable – that original protagonist Aiden almost becomes a background character at points. All the actors put in strong performances, but Kenny's Callie steals the show as a strong-willed, outspoken new addition.
Beyond Braking Point, Codemasters has made a number of changes. Echoing real life, the developers have added the Las Vegas Grand Prix to the mix. A street race in iconic surroundings, it really is a rather striking place to drive. The other new track is Qatar, adding even more variety to your available environs.
Wherever you're racing, the cars and the locations look visually impressive, with this series continuing to provide examples of just how good current-gen graphics can look. Some of the character models in Braking Point, too, look almost entirely photo-real in certain scenes. At other points, however, they really don't. (For example, in a sit-down solo interview, the characters look amazingly real; but when they're on the podium surrounded by other characters, the cracks start to show).
We'd also say that cracks are somewhat visible in the menus that look noticeably bland (but who plays a racing game for the menus), and oddly enough in the box art, where it's painfully obvious they couldn't get all three of their famous cover stars in the same room.
On the track is where it really counts, though, and F1 23 really delivers in that regard. The addition of a 35 per cent race distance will be welcomed by players who want to deploy a proper strategy without being stuck in the same race all day, while the F1 World hub pulls together a lot of cosmetics and challenges if battle passes are your thing (you can largely ignore it if they're not).
All in all, the Braking Point comeback makes this a far better game than last year's entry. Come for the scintillating story, and stay for the on-track action that will challenge you and push your concentration skills to the limit. It's definitely a drive worth taking.
F1 23 launches Friday 16th June on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. We reviewed on Xbox Series X and S.
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