clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Close-up of a driver cockpit, overhead, in F1 23, showing the driver’s helmet and the protective halo around the cockpit.

Filed under:

F1 23’s Braking Point sequel gets top billing, but F1 World could steal the show

A new mode with progression and car development could be even bigger than what fans have seen so far

Image: Codemasters/Electronic Arts
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

F1 23 simply looks like one of those games that is going to inhale all of my summer, for all of the deep and immersive modes it offers to racing fans who want to live the glamorous and exciting life of the most elite motorsport, on top of the singular challenge of driving its cars on the limit.

Codemasters and Electronic Arts are making a big push with the second (some might say third) chapter of the F1 series’ story mode — Braking Point — but a discussion with creative director Lee Mather reveals there will be so much more available in F1 23 to serve the emergent narratives that sports video gamers crave.

Once they’re done with the story of rivals Devon Butler and Aiden Jackson — now teammates who earlier fought it out on different mid-pack teams in F1 2021fans will have the open-ended, all-new realm of F1 World, which combines traditional single-player progression with multiplayer events in a way that takes inspiration from modes like NBA 2K’s MyCareer, and even season-based loot-shooters like Destiny 2, Mather said.

“The thinking was, people will play My Team,” the deep, multi-season car-and-career management mode, Mather said. “They’ll play driver career, they’ll come to kind of a natural endpoint where you become world champion, and maybe you don’t want to continue playing after that.

“But there’s so much great content in the game,” Mather argued, “we wanted to find a way to give players a reason to engage with that over the full 12 months of a Formula 1 season. And we wanted to find ways to tie those moments to what was happening in the [real-life] season more effectively.”

F1 World, then, will be a means of progressing through a set of challenges (with unlockable rewards) that are season-based and themed to current events, which can be either single-player or multiplayer challenges. Previous versions of the F1 series have been very siloed as far as the multiplayer experience goes; there’s always ranked racing, with the leaderboard as well as private racing leagues, or the open-ended pursuit of fastest laps in the Time Trials mode.

F1 World will try to bring all of that together with the goal of improving the player’s vehicle. This is an important distinction as the F1 series’ multiplayer to date has involved, basically, a spec car — that is, one whose characteristics and performance are standard across all competitors. Formula 1 fans know this is not how it works in real life; F1 World will give them the chance to compete in cars that they are developing and upgrading, distinct from their competitors but still in a fair fight.

“As you’re playing the mode, you’ll gain resources, which allow you to upgrade the car, the F1 World car,” Mather explained. So it’s not just the cosmetics players unlock with the Podium Pass that has been in the game for three years now. “And with the F1 World car, you’ll have a ‘tech level’ which opens your ability to compete in more challenging events.”

Basically, it will gate F1 World’s tiers of competition so that, again, players are building out their car, but still fairly matched. “It opens up the opportunity for players with different skill levels to compete by building up their car,” Mather said — as opposed to the old model, where the handling, aerodynamics, powertrain, and other characteristics of a multiplayer car were standard across all competitors.

Given these balancing concerns, F1 World is not something that could come together in a year; Mather said the mode has been in various stages of development since F1 2021 shipped two years ago. F1 22’s introduction of supercars and a limited, lifestyle-like hub world were a toe dipped into the larger pool that F1 World seeks to be.

Similarly, Braking Point’s second chapter is an iterative stage, building off earlier works in F1 2019 and F1 2021. It still uses characters developed in the earlier career modes, most notably Devon Butler, the sneering heel who is, somehow, just understandable and relatable enough to remain the biggest and most compelling star of the show.

The fan response to Butler’s character has long impressed Mather, and Codemasters’ writing staff leaned hard into him with Braking Point 2, finding Butler to be the perfect fulcrum for the soap opera storylines that make Formula 1 in real life so delicious. Here, he’s the top driver for a fictional team called Konnersport — but it’s obvious that he’s in that seat because he brings the money (Butler’s management organization is a livery sponsor on the vehicle). Those drivers are deeply resented in the ongoing narrative of real-life Formula 1 racing.

“You look at the exposure we get through [the Netflix documentary] Drive to Survive, and the things that go on, you think, Wow, I never realized there was that kind of a soap opera behind the scenes,” Mather said. “There are so many things we can feed off. The sport really does feed that narrative that we’re trying to build, by filling it with moments where people will go, Well, that’s very familiar.”

But Braking Point 2 will push the edges of F1’s ongoing narrative, not only in the delightful what-if of having two blood enemies racing for the same team, but also in the introduction of Callie Mayer, a fictional Formula 2 driver tearing up that division and threatening Butler and his teammate’s jobs. Mayer’s experience in Braking Point 2 is informed by Jamie Chadwick, the real-life grand prix driver who was the first Series W champion in 2019 and is currently a test driver for the Williams F1 team.

“We were already in discussions with Jamie about a number of things; we’d already kind of set out, as well, in our minds, that this was the story option,” Mather said, meaning the introduction of a woman driver to F1 (who would be the first to start a Formula 1 race since Lella Lombardi in 1976). “And then it was just a natural interaction to have; it was a case of, ‘Look, we were already in discussion about a number of things. Would you be interested in advising or contributing to this story?’”

The result, Mather says, is the kind of delightful what-if story that F1 fans blue-sky in forums and social media all the time: What if this guy went to this team? What if that F2 driver made a run? Would this team take so-and-so’s money and give a real SOB the first seat? How do team orders work in that situation? Mather said the Codemasters staff, tasked to other parts of the game, had delightful meetings with the writers hired to script out Braking Point 2 and build that mode.

“It still comes back to Devon for me,” Mather said, with a very wide smile. “He still makes me laugh, and I think that’s really quite impressive, when you consider this is a racing game about pressure and what’s happening in the world of Formula 1. It’s the writing, those flippant, off-the-cuff remarks and baiters. ‘Chin up!’ and simple things like that. The things he says are so damning, you come away from it like, That really hurts, but the way he says it, it’s so innocent.”

F1 23 launches June 16 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon