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Hands-on: Why F1 23’s revised handling is a step in the right direction

When announcing the EA SPORTS F1 23 title 2023, it was announced that this new game, scheduled for release in mid-June, will have a “reworked handling” model for the Formula 1 racing machines.

We at Traxion.GG received an early preview version of the game for testing purposes. Please note that this is an early world-in-progress build of the game, just a small sample of what’s to come. It is therefore possible that the content we have tested will be adjusted before the title is delivered.

Regardless of what we’ve felt so far, this is definitely a step in the right direction. We tested handling in Time Trial mode, one of the few options available in this particular build. Therefore, this feeling only prevails in qualifying trim with low fuel consumption, new tires and maximum ERS boost.

Wheel Feel (Without Assist)

First we tested the handling on a real sim racing steering wheel. The models we use are from MOZA Racing and Fanatec. At first glance we can tell that it’s easier to drive than the previous version, F1 22. Our track of choice is the Hungaroring and first thing we did was take the Red Bull Racing RB19 for a spin.

In F1 23’s initial settings, the car feels much more stable than its predecessor at launch with default settings. For someone who may not be familiar with this type of race, it’s now much quicker to get used to it, which is encouraging for new players.

There is a feeling that cornering grip is generally higher and there is less understeer and oversteer. It seems everything is more forgiving while giving you more grip while you work. In short, the car feels stable – it corners nicely and is balanced, and compared to the F1 22 things are manageable and calm.

When we get to corner exit, the game will still bite if you throttle too early or too hard, which it is, but the biggest benefit is that you’ll be able to catch it much easier when the backend exits. Not every time, but it’s less unpredictable.

In the previous game, as soon as you lost the tail, you spun a lap. If you handle your entries quickly and sensibly in this game, you can save them. You’ll probably still lose some time, but if you make a mistake on this game, it’s because you did it wrong. It rarely comes out of nowhere and then surprises you when you least expect it.

Despite the better handling, the lap times aren’t necessarily faster, which is also a good sign. It’s just more fun and we expect more players to be able to set respectable times than last year’s model.

Someone who’s into it and isn’t a regular player might find it more entertaining, manageable and a little less alien than previous titles, and we’ve got some examples to back that up.

For example, my colleague Piers Prior hasn’t played a Formula 1 game in the last 10 years, mostly on the iRacing platform, but he really enjoyed driving this preview version and liked the feeling it gave him. Ditto for our Justin Melillo – he’s by no means a fan of F1 games but was at least able to turn laps with absolute ease.

When I over revved and pushed to the limit I found a little more lap time…well, that was before it started to go wrong. This type of handling encourages more confident and aggressive actions as long as players are not completely irresponsible with their inputs.

How different does force feedback feel?

With the new driving characteristics, the steering wheel’s peripheral force feedback has also changed and we have to say that it was significantly improved in this test as well.

Even with identical force feedback default settings from game to game, like us at Traxion Towers on the MOZA Racing R21 at 40 percent power, I had a far more comfortable feel behind the wheel. Justin also noticed on his Fanatec V2.5 between games that it just felt like a feeling he was more used to from other games.

There was a harder overall minimal feel that gave more control and made it feel a lot more connected to the car than it was in F1 22. It didn’t feel like it would snap in the completely wrong or right situation tear hands.

It worked well at the right time – there was less random fluctuation and guesswork than last year’s title with the same settings. Out of the Box feels a lot closer to driving a real-life single-seat racer than the previous game, Piers can attest, while also being easier to handle.

Overall the force feedback is a win with more detail, more accuracy, a really nice feel, and a more satisfying feel. Above all, driving in time trial mode is just plain fun, and that couldn’t be said of the previous game.

New curbs

When it comes to steering wheel force feedback, it’s also important to discuss where you’re likely to feel it most, which is over the curbs. Comparing the two games, there is now a distinctly different reaction, and in a positive way.

At first glance, it’s easier to ride the lower ones. Honestly, I’ve never seriously thought about riding any curbs at F1 22, so it’s a bit harder to compare.

In the middle of the corner, which in this run would be Turn 4 and Turn 5 in Hungary, for example, if I were to cross the inside curbs on those two corners in F1 22, I would immediately skid, there would be no rescue. In F1 23 I can use all curbs without any problems. There might be some oversteer there, but only if I’m too greedy with the throttle.

It’s about the same for the exits. You can trust these lower curbs. However, the larger curbs can still cause your car to bottom out and lose some time, but that’s pretty realistic.

If the underside of the car is resting on the curb and taking the weight of the car rather than the tires, you may be momentarily unable to steer, which can result in loss of time. Like a skateboarder grinding a rail. This is a realistic approach and also a logical way to punish curb abuse without destroying a player’s race.

points for braking

Braking can still be a touchy subject in the new F1 23 title. This will still be a game that will require most riders to use anti-lock brakes (ABS) unless you have very strong load cell pedals and sensitive foot control. For context, we used MOZA Racing’s mid-range load cell pedals (SRPs) and Fanatec’s V3 inverted pedals.

A skilled racer with advanced sim racing pedals or a gentle and delicate grip can properly control the brakes, avoid lock-ups and get the most out of every corner. It’s definitely possible and something we’d expect the best of the best to be able to maximize their lap times.

However, without ABS, the “Average Joe” will really have problems. Justin says he couldn’t do a lap without her. These brakes will often lock up and players will have a hard time finding the right balance. That’s why we recommend most beginners to try it with ABS. Plus ça change.

Having said that, once you’ve got things set right and found the right ‘feel’, going ABS-free is satisfying. It’s a big challenge, but in a good way once you figure it out.

Larger adjustment range

With the default settings and setup already proven, it was time to get even faster. I tried to play around with the setup a bit to add even more esports adjustments just to see how it felt and if I could get a better hot lap.

One of the first things I noticed was that the adjustment scale is larger and therefore finer. For example, instead of the setting options for the landing gear, there is no longer just 1 to 11, but now a range from 1 to 41.

I suspect it’s the same but with different scales, so for example 5 out of 11 on the older F1 22 title might be the same as 19 on the 41 scale. Again, this simply gives players more flexibility and finer customization options without adding any more complexity to the setup pages.

f1 23 Setup 2

I noticed that more aero definitely made me slower on the straights and faster on the corners like it should have been. Fully rearward brake bias, as well as an increased lean angle, which means a high rear ride height combined with a low front ride height, caused me to lose the rear wheel under braking. Again as it should be.

In essence, we achieve realistic results from realistic changes. It really highlights how planned, balanced and controllable the preset setups are, which is great for those looking for a fun and manageable time.

I was able to go faster with my esports setup, but it was a lot harder to drive and that’s how it should have been.

“Precision Drive” with a gamepad

First, let’s say this isn’t a game I typically play with a controller. It just always feels better with a wheel in many simulation games.

With that in mind, I understand that most people actually play the F1 games with a controller, and Codemasters takes great care in highlighting how this input method has changed from year to year.

On the track, the difference was immediately noticeable. I’ve tried both games back-to-back and the new game is, well, more accurate, and from what we’ve been told it should be.

F1 23 apparently features a new technology called “Precision Drive,” which sounds silly, but it works. The developers claim that thanks to a technical rewrite it will give you more control, confidence and finesse when using a controller and I don’t think they lie about that.

I found I had more control and the game smoothed my inputs nicely. It drove more naturally and less jerkily than trying it with a controller in F1 22. Even without assistance I could actually drive it and was even able to absorb oversteer when it happened. I could also drive on the curbs without panicking. If I had tried that in the previous game, I wouldn’t have made it through a round.

In essence, the positive progression we experience with a steering wheel carries over to the controller as well. It was even easier with low traction control and ABS on, and I honestly found it a comfortable experience. It’s still nowhere near as precise as using a steering wheel and changing direction will never be that easy, but it’s a noticeable step forward.

Overall, this preview build for F1 23 felt like a huge improvement over F1 22, and if we get that in the final version of F1 23 when it releases next month, we may have something very special in store.

F1 23 will be released on June 16, 2023 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and Steam via PC. Pre-orders are now possible.

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