F1 23’s best new mode isn’t Braking Point 2, it’s F1 World

Ordinarily, when I start playing the newest edition of Codemasters’ F1 series, it takes a couple of hours before I actually hit the track in one of its main modes of play. I dither on the livery for my multiplayer and career-mode cars; I mess around repositioning things in the HUD and setting my preferences; I tune the car to each of the game’s 23 tracks, over lap after lap in Time Trial, then I set the AI difficulty in Grand Prix.

But not this year. Oh, sure, I still fussed over my car’s aesthetics. But ever since I took it into F1 23’s new F1 World just to try the new mode’s onboarding series of events, I haven’t played anything else — not team career, not single-driver career — and I haven’t even touched the Braking Point 2 narrative after more than a week with the game. Somehow, Codemasters has managed to develop another vortex that will swallow a couple hundred more hours of my time.

F1 World is, basically, the hub where one finds the old Time Trials, Grand Prix, and online multiplayer modes, plus a new series of challenges. But there’s a huge change: The car that you used in the multiplayer modes in years past is now your “F1 World Car,” and it’s something that can be improved. With every race, you’re upgrading its performance with the parts and shop personnel you earn each time you race, no matter the mode.

The sponsor goals screen in F1 23, showing additional bonuses and how far the player has progressed in earning them.
Don’t forget the Sponsor Goals; they deliver easy cash for stuff you’re already doing in F1 World.
Image: Codemasters/Electronic Arts via Polygon

The F1 World single-player races that unlock these parts and personnel are very simple — pick-up-and-play brilliant. There’s no need to worry about the vehicle setup; in many of them, you’re locked to one of the standard configurations (for example, top speed, more downforce, or balanced). There’s no wasted time — just jump right in and you’re racing, usually in five-lap events. A series will terminate with a grand prix that includes at least one pit stop and about 15 laps.

The car upgrades and unlocks, however, are what really feed the just-one-more gameplay loop that has me gobbling down F1 World events like potato chips. You’re bringing back a new part or a new team member from just about every event, and at least considering whether to add them to your lineup — or “dismantle” them for resources, a hell of a thing to do to that poor team principal. And if you’re not earning these resources from the races themselves, chances are, you’ve leveled up in the Podium Pass (F1 23’s season-based battle pass) and drawn something from there.

Players aren’t just rotating parts and personnel in and out, either. There are choices within the choices. For example, I earned an engine that had a higher gear score than the one that was in my car, but it delivered a negligible engine power bonus, where the one I was using was +15 for engine power. My response? Junk the power unit I just unlocked and upgrade the one I was using, using the resource pool I had built up from earlier races and parts.

Screen from F1 World showing a new part (an engine) its rating and other specifications Image: Codemasters/Electronic Arts via Polygon

In the same vein, team personnel must be assigned to a contract, which runs for a certain number of events. Higher-grade contracts last for a longer term (and deliver bigger bonuses). So just because I brought back a Legendary-class team principal from Belgium, it doesn’t automatically mean I’m going to rotate him in when the Epic-class, and lower-rated, guy I have is only three races into a 15-race contract.

The point to all of this is that the player is constantly progressing and managing their car and garage. They’re also marching through the Podium Pass as well ranking up their Super License grade, which is used for online multiplayer matchmaking (and also gates some multiplayer events). Players may choose to race a single-player event at a lower license level, simply to farm it for lower-level rewards, or at the highest grade they’ve earned for a bigger challenge.

If I have any complaint about F1 World, it’s that it’s very easy to completely out-gear some of the single-player events. Ostensibly, these events are gated by your car’s Tech Level, which is the overall score of the components and personnel you have acquired. But only in the earliest goings of F1 World did I find myself really challenged by the rest of the field; since then, I’ve won several races against AI fields by 10 seconds, such that the whole thing seems to be a set of practice laps.

My car’s Tech Level right now is 276, and I have three events on my schedule whose Tech Level requirement is under 200, meaning I’ll blow those away whenever I get around to them. It would be nice if they could somehow scale up to meet my ability, but I’ll probably complete them anyway.

The “garage” screen of F1 23, showing the car, and its eight upgradeable and customizable components — four are parts, four are personnel Image: Codemasters/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Multiplayer, and its ranked version, is an altogether different challenge, just one I didn’t see a lot of in the pre-release review and early access periods. Now that F1 23 has formally launched on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X — with cross-platform multiplayer — I expect this will present the bulk of the real challenge in F1 World.

Finally, probably the biggest benefit conferred by F1 World’s system of unlocks and constant progression is how much more consumer-friendly the game has become with the premium cosmetics. Though there is a VIP series of unlocks in the Podium Pass, players can no longer pay to skip to the end of it and scoop up all of the loot it has, just to get that one helmet or livery that they really want. The FOMO daily and weekly offerings of suits, gloves, and the like are now just discounted sales of stock items always available in the F1 Store. So, with these items being always available, players can go in and select, à la carte, the design they want, rather than being pressured to scarf up a bunch of cosmetics they may never use.

The series window/menu of F1 World, showing the events the player is qualified for and their “Tech Score” rating. Image: Codemasters/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Most of all, I’m impressed not only by how fun and infinitely playable F1 World is, I’m also impressed that the developers of a very mature sports series came up with a new way to break hardcore career-mode drivers like me out of that pattern — and without sticking their hands in my pockets. I don’t know when I will get around to the new narrative mode, Braking Point 2, or the multiseason career pursuit of My Team, which has taken so many hours from me over the past six years; I’m having too much fun in F1 World. But knowing those two deep modes are still there means I’ll probably be playing F1 23 from now until F1 24 arrives.

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