F1 23 review: the 200mph soap opera returns
New Las Vegas track arrives alongside the next chapter in the series' story mode
If you want a clear example of how F1 has transformed from a sport into a global entertainment megabrand, you only have to look at the ludicrous new Las Vegas circuit in F1 23, which you get the opportunity to drive in the game long before the real F1 stars turn a wheel there. With its 200mph blast along the famous Las Vegas Strip, subject to a constant high-wattage animated light show, this is less a racing circuit and more a tool for diagnosing Attention Deficit Disorder. If you can make it for an entire lap without getting distracted by the neon sensory overload and ploughing into a concrete wall, you probably don't need the Ritalin.
The official F1 game, out now on Xbox, Playstation and PC, returns not just with Las Vegas, but also with its 200mph soap opera mode Braking Point, inspired heavily by Netflix's Drive to Survive. It's more complex this time around, with more mid-race objectives, including bonus ones for outperforming your goals. There's a narrative that's more reactive to your actions and there's more depth to the off-track decision-making too, as you'll be stepping into the team principal's shoes as well as the drivers. It's a slower burn than before, with a greater number of races between major plot points, but ultimately better for it. And yes, there's still plenty of histrionic paddock bickering. It simply wouldn't be realistic otherwise.
F1 World, meanwhile, is the game's tilt at a FIFA Ultimate Team money spinner. This new mode sees you building your own F1 car with a unique performance profile by unlocking upgrades or buying them by opening your real-life wallet, similar to FIFA 'packs'. These improvements range from more general performance increases to more esoteric videogamey perks, such as extra engine power for a minute after pitting. It's a little more Mario Kart than Monte Carlo.
The benefit of F1 World mode is it offers more reasons to race once you've exhausted Braking Point, and if you can bear to compete online against people who have built a faster car because they spent more real-world cash, it could become a serious time sink.
Elsewhere, there's the usual bumper package of modes and options that ensures that the F1 series remains one of the best value offerings in racing games, regardless of whether you follow the season or not. The road-going supercars from the Pirelli Hot Laps mode haven't made the cut after their appearance last year, but given that they tended to handle like a grand piano falling down some stairs, we doubt we'll find you weeping into your hanky. More likely you'll be having plenty of fun getting to grips with the new, slightly more hustle-able handling while lapping that spectacular new Las Vegas circuit. Three day hangover optional...
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