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F1 24 review: Breaking the DRS train a little, but not a huge amount

EA and Codemasters’ latest offering does include some interesting changes, but the main one feels like it’d ideally just be a solid foundation.

Some F1 cars in F1 24.
Image credit: VG247

As a racing series, F1’s in a bit of a weird place at the moment. PR-wise things are arguably going better than they ever have before, with plenty of new fans being pulled in to watch an on-track product that’s been, well… just okay-ish a lot of the time over the past few years. So, where does its latest official video game adaptation sit? Well, in a similarly mid-pack sort of position.

I’m gonna start off by saying that, if you’re coming into this year’s edition of this annual sports series expecting a huge paradigm shift - much like with its brethren EA FC and NBA 2K - you may well be left a bit disappointed. There’s plenty of furniture that’ll be familiar to veterans, from the Podium Pass and Pitcoins that serve as the F1 series versions of similar mechanics every AAA sports game has had to have for a while now, to on-track action that’s desperately trying to satisfy both casual and hardcore players.

That said, we’re here to focus on what’s new or revamped, so let’s get down to that; starting with the mode that’s undergone the most comprehensive shift. A number of recent versions of Driver Career - which, as you might expect, allows you to inject yourself into F1 racing - have revolved around Braking Point, a very Drive to Survive-style story mode a bit like FIFA’s The Journey.

This year, the focus has switched away from having lots of cutscenes and using the on-track action to tell a scripted tale, with F1 24’s career mode instead running with the main draw of letting you take control of an established driver midway through their career, rather than starting one with a created driver - though the latter is still an option. The result is an experience that’s more heavily focused around things like increasing your driver’s overall rating by improving their skills through racing, influencing how the car is developed R&D-wise through the season, and establishing yourself as the dominant force in your team.

I’ll be honest, I prefer it as an approach compared to its more narrative-heavy predecessors, even if it does feel a bit more robotic, for lack of a better word. There’s some dynamic fun and storytelling to be had via the rivalries you’ll grow to have with your team mate and drivers of similar rating or championship position, but they do feel like they’re missing some of the human element that something which lets you interact with them off the track might facilitate. Yes, stuff like being given the option to poke fun at or try to provoke virtual people on social media in sports games is beyond corny most of the time, but it’s hard to feel like a rivalry’s actually intense just because the game tells you it’s “heated” and your stats’ll go down if you lose.

Starting this year, there is a bit of radio VO from the real drivers in the game, so maybe that’s something that could be leveraged to help out a bit in this regard going forwards, without veering into DTS territory.

Searching for the Bernie Eccelstone types

Lewis Hamilton's accolades in F1 24.
It's hammer time to earn a seventh world title. | Image credit: EA

Meanwhile, the new contract system - which sees you challenge yourself to improve your driver rating by a certain amount each year and compete to have more say in car development by becoming the team’s number one - and its secret meetings sadly suffer from something similar to the rest.

There’s the simulation of the notoriously cut-throat and Machiavellian nature of the F1 paddock and all that entails, without the bit of colour I feel like you’d need to properly re-create that, even if you’re doing it in a more down-to-earth fashion than Braking Point’s OTT drama. There are end-of-season R&D scenarios that’ll let you switch up how that side of things’ll work for that year too, and they’re at least a good idea, even if you aren’t allowed to really do anything that’ll instantly upset the established pecking order until about season three.

It all feels like a solid foundation on which EA could build a very good career mode in this mould over the next few years, though giving people more power to become both an on-track and behind-the-scenes politicking powerhouse would be a tough ask when it comes to pleasing everyone; I appreciate them just choosing to avoid brushing the silliness barrier a little too hard if that's the case. As of right now, building on the legacy of your favourite driver by earning accolades that just equate to a boatload of skill points is pretty fun, even if it makes you feel a bit like a cog in the machine who can’t directly influence whether people blab about their clandestine dealings than I think I’d like.

Dealing with the rest of the pack

Some drivers celebrating on the podium in F1 24.
He's done it again (shakes fist) | Image credit: EA

To keep us on a similar track, Challenge Career is the other big new addition to the group that also includes the established my Team Career mode and a two player career mode that basically allows you and a friend to take on a Driver Career playthrough that features both of you as members of the grid. While only the first two races of the first season were available during the review period, the gist of Challenge Career is that you’re given a set scenario and play through a truncated version of Driver Career’s ‘develop the car, then race’ loop.

The big goal is to score more points through the results you earn than other online players who’ve attempted their own version of the current challenge, with the option to select a difficulty at the start in order to ensure you’ll be compared to people of a similar skill level. It’s an interesting concept for those who don’t mind a bit of blurring of the single player/multiplayer lines, and EA’s suggested that the community’ll have some input on what future scenarios look like, so we’ll have to see how much it really takes off once the game’s out.

For those looking to hop into a more traditional single or multiplayer race, the F1 world system those’re all tied into now comes with new fan zones this year, which basically means that each bit of driving you do rewards a group of folks who’re fans of the same driver or team as you with some points. That’s on top of the slew of other bits and bobs that’ll be thrown at you unlockable-wise, some of which do things you might actually care about, like helping add stickers to your sticker book. No, you don’t have to beg your mum to buy you a pack of them from the corner shop.

Moaning about tyres to Bonno

Some F1 cars driving next to the Vegas sphere.
Just a lil sphere enjoying a race. | Image credit: EA

Finally, let's do a thing that F1 does still occasionally lend itself to nowadays - chat about the actual on-track racing. A qualifier here - as someone who doesn’t don a pair of actual racing gloves whenever I plug in my wheel, I’m not as bothered about the game providing a painfully accurate simulation as others, especially if that were to come at the cost of the driving being a bit less intuitive or fun.

My main criticism of how the cars handle this time around encapsulates this perfectly. It feels like you can hit about 90% of the kerbs and apexes in game a lot harder than would probably be realistic, but being able to just chuck a car into, say, the first chicane at Imola is quite a blast. Similarly, the steering might be a little too oversteery or understeery in places to mimic the real thing, but I didn’t encounter much - if any - of the mid-corner drifting some previews of the game cited, so I was fine with it. I also found the new tyre wear model just fine.

The ERS battery, on the other hand, does feel a lot more powerful than DRS to an unnatural degree, so that might need tweaking to to stop cheeky folks like me from dumping a bunch of it and braking thirty metres too late in order to negate DRS zones that should be overpowering, like the one of Las Vegas’ longest straight. Finally, one big issue I did run into was the game crashing a lot specifically during driver career practice sessions, usually just after I’d started whatever my second practice program was. Since you need the R&D points from these sessions, I’d hope that’ll be sorted sharpish.

So, there you go. Like real world F1 at the moment, F1 24’s a bit of a mixed bag, but it feels like, if it can be built on going forwards, it could be the starting point for something you won’t feel quite as much like you can skip out on and not miss much.

F1 24 releases May 31 on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One, with early acess starting on May 28 for those who bought the Champions Edition. It was reviewed on PC using a copy provided by the publisher.

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