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F1 24 review – playing your heroes

F1 24 - more real than ever (EA)
F1 24 – more real than ever (EA)

For the first time Codemasters’ F1 sim lets you pursue a Formula One career as any of the real drivers, in a significantly improved sequel.

No matter how much technical expertise developer Codemasters brings to bear on its officially licensed Formula One games, it can sometimes be tricky to justify buying one year’s iteration if you already own the previous one. Not so with F1 24, which brings something genuinely new and intriguing to the familiar format: the opportunity to pursue a career as any of the 20 real Formula One drivers on the current grid.

Previously, you could only play F1’s flagship Career mode as yourself – a rookie either coming through from F2 or pitched straight into F1 – but you can still do that. F1 24 is a fantastically flexible game when it comes to pursuing a vicarious career in the pinnacle of motorsport, so much so that you can also pursue a joint career with a friend who owns the game, in which the pair of you can play co-operatively or competitively. And if competing online is your bag, it’s easy to jump into various tiers of increasingly serious competition against real people.

We opted to play as Alex Albon, one of the nicest characters in Formula One, whose true talent has been hitherto obscured by uncompetitive machinery. We quickly gained him his first win, which led to secret meetings with Aston Martin about the possibility of driving for them. Then, once he was installed with a top team, we switched to Lando Norris, with the altogether trickier objective of helping the young Brit secure his first World Championship.

For a Formula One fan – and there are an awful lot of those, of vastly differing types – the ability to play all the way through an F1 career as a real driver is something of a game-changer, but beyond that F1 24 is demonstrably keen to increase the franchise’s appeal across the full spectrum of the F1 fanbase.

That desire is most clearly visible in the section of the game entitled F1 World, which is essentially Codemasters’ bid to introduce an arcade style, lootbox heavy element, to the game. 2024’s version of F1 World has been great improved compared to last year’s one. It still puts you in unbranded cars, for which you can win parts that improve all manner of technical aspects and hire staff who give you buffs. But it now also has a Fanzone area, for which you must pick your favourite driver and team.

All the short, frenetic F1 World races you take part in (against AI representatives of your gaming friends) earn points for your chosen driver and team, feeding into leaderboards against all the other drivers and teams and adding a bit more meaning to the exercise. F1 World’s use of lootboxes remains distasteful but it’s surprisingly fun to participate in and a notably improvement on last year.

In terms of the types of Formula One career you can pursue, there are more options than ever, thanks in part to another addition: the Challenge Career. Formula One Games have contained Challenges for decades – which might, for example, involve reenacting specific moments from old F1 races – but in F1 24, Codemasters has collated them into a structured Career mode. Every month, a new set of challenges will be uploaded to the game and within that period you can make as many attempts at them as you want.

The initial Challenge Career events see you playing as Max Verstappen, racing around his favourite tracks. Somewhat surprisingly, normal Career mode strictures, such as the ability to improve your driver rating (of which more later) and develop your car, still apply. As a result, Challenge Career feels like Career mode, but much more truncated and focused, and with added variety. It also encourages you to leave your comfort zone and compete against harder AI-controlled opponents than in the main Career mode, so it’s something of a gateway for those honing their skills before hitting the online side of the game.

Partly driven by the new focus on real drivers, Codemasters has had to put some serious thought into the revised structure of F1 24’s main Career mode. For instance, you now have an role-playing style driver rating, composed from various attributes (including speed, awareness, and focus), which responds to everything you do in the car, and which dictates what will happen to you throughout your career.

You begin that career by setting a goal for where you want that driver rating to be at the end of the season (something of a punt, since it rises or falls in a fairly glacial manner) and upping your overall rating by a point essentially feels like levelling up. In general, the way the Career mode works now feels more logical than ever, although it will still be mightily familiar to anyone who has played recent iterations of the game. It is set up to punish you more if you underperform though, which is just how it should be.

F1 24 - more real than ever (EA)
F1 24 – it’s a good year for Formula One fans (EA)

Codemasters has also introduced a new mechanism that aims to mirror the intrigue of Formula One secret meetings. If you catch the eye of another manager by, say, winning races in an uncompetitive Williams, you might receive an invite to a clandestine discussion. You can refuse to attend – there’s a certain amount of jeopardy involved if word of the meeting leaks out – and even though not much actually happens in the meetings they do give you a heightened sense of authenticity.

Never a company for resting on its laurels, Codemasters has taken the opportunity to update some of the underlying physics models for F1 24, most notably the tyre and suspension. Despite some reports of strange car behaviour in a very early closed beta, it has clearly got its sums right in time for launch.

The cars still have preternatural amounts of grip but when you play F1 24 you do notice subtle changes over previous versions of the game, all of which increase the aura of authenticity. If, for example, you have an excursion into grass or gravel, you now lose a lot of grip for the next few corners, until all debris has been burned off.

Previously, driving in the wet was way easier in an F1 game than it would have been in real life; now, you have to work much harder to get wet tyres up to their operating temperature and perform techniques like looking for cooling puddles if you’re using wet or intermediate tyres on a drying track.

In general, in F1 24, keeping your tyres in a precise temperature window is way more important than it was previously, just as it is with the real cars. And the way that grip drops off as tyres age is also noticeably more pronounced. In terms of sheer authenticity, F1 24 trumps its predecessors impressively but it’s still pretty accessible for those with limited skills who feel they need to avail themselves of driving aids.

It’s difficult to find fault with F1 24, which is a testament to Codemasters’ ability to think deeply about how best to improve its flagship racing game, and to employ the vast resources it now has, since it was bought by EA Sports. Even the (very EA Sports-style) part of the game designed to appeal to those raised on a diet of lootboxes is partitioned off, so purists can ignore it (although all the modes feed into Podium Pass, the game’s main currency, so you can’t ignore that).

It really does cater for all the vastly different shades of Formula One fans, from those who fancy themselves as potential F1 drivers, down to those who only became aware of the sport after watching Drive to Survive on Netflix. The chance to play as any of the drivers, through a brilliantly structured career format, really does offer a compelling reason to buy this year’s game.

With the sport itself finally (in the last few months) starting to emerge from the stultification of being dominated by Red Bull and Max Verstappen, things have never looked better for F1 – in real life and virtually.



F1 24 review summary

In Short: The ability to play as real drivers adds a raft of new possibilities, in what is the most enjoyable and authentic Formula One game of the modern era.

Pros: Playing as real drivers leads to a wide range of new features and play modes. Challenge Career is engaging and F1 World has seen improvements. Better tyre modelling increases authenticity. The whole game looks and feels great.

Cons: F1 World is very lootbox heavy. Main game may be slightly more intimidating for novices due to more realistic tyre performance and driver ratings.

Score: 9/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and PC
Price: £69.99
Publisher: EA
Developer: Codemasters
Release Date: 31st May 2024*
Age Rating: 3

*£89.99 Champions Edition due out on 28th May

F1 24 - more real than ever (EA)
F1 24 – the visuals are impressive too (EA)

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