F1 24 Appraised: Does Transformed Handling Elevate or Diminish the New F1 Title?

F1 24 Appraised: Does Transformed Handling Elevate or Diminish the New F1 Title?

F1 24 codemasters

Much like many of you, RaceFans has meticulously monitored the evolution of Codemasters’ official F1 game series across three console generations and fourteen primary installments.

Throughout this journey, there have been significant advancements and missteps—akin to the real-world experiences of Formula 1 teams. The most fervent simracers might deride the notion that the sport’s official game series offers an authentic blend of realism and accessibility, especially in today’s prime era for hardcore PC simulators.

Yet, there’s a reason the series frequently garners nominations for ‘best sports/racing game’ at the annual Game Awards: when the elements align perfectly, Codemasters’ series provides an exceptionally enjoyable and immersive racing experience.

With each successive edition, players anticipate enhancements and justifiable reasons to transition from the previous title. They seek an evolution where developers assimilate past critiques and deliver a product worth their increasingly limited disposable income, particularly amidst a crowded market of racing games lacking the official F1 endorsement.

Having invested considerable time with F1 24, it’s dishearteningly challenging to argue why fans should eagerly spend £70 on the latest iteration of this long-standing series.

A Polarizing Shift

In a racing game, the driving model, physics, and handling are paramount. Thus, when EA announced that the marquee feature of F1 24 was the most extensive overhaul of the game’s physics to date, it was exhilarating news for many seasoned players.

While the handling and feel of F1 23 were generally well-received compared to its predecessor, numerous intricacies could vastly improve the game if addressed. Codemasters sought to rectify these with the latest game, introducing revamped tire, suspension, and downforce models to deliver the “most authentic and immersive driving experience ever in an F1 title.”

However, after extensive play with both wheel and controller, it’s disheartening to corroborate what many in the simracing and content creation communities have observed: the new handling model seems a step back rather than forward.

On the track, F1 24 feels easier to drive in almost every scenario. Cars appear immune to understeer, providing ample mid-corner grip even on default setups. Oversteer slides are more easily controlled but only tend to occur when losing traction out of slower corners.

Handling feels simplified – even in adverse conditions

Cars feel lighter and unnaturally responsive, with the front axle appearing overpowered, yet the rear accommodating extreme angles. It quickly becomes evident that the fastest way through many mid- and high-speed corners is to aggressively steer into them, as the tires almost always hold firm. This results in a driving model that is far more forgiving than any since the transition to the current Ego engine in 2015. Driving without assists feels significantly less challenging, even with a controller, and the reduced sense of weight and momentum allows for more precise car positioning.

While some may see this as an improvement, those who crave authenticity and a challenge will find the new handling hollow and unsatisfying, especially when excessive steering at high speeds outperforms delicate balancing between downforce and tire grip.

If you primarily play with a controller and seek a casual experience, you might appreciate the new handling model. However, those desiring immersion in driving a modern Formula 1 car and a true test of skills will likely find it a major regression.

The most vexing aspect is that there have been genuine improvements to the tire model with the new physics. Your driving style and setup now significantly affect tire wear, more so than in previous titles. Running a five-lap race simulation flat out, then repeating it with a focus on conserving tires, reveals a stark and believable difference in tire condition.

Tire temperatures now fluctuate realistically

If you’re not careful in fast corners, you may find your tire temperatures spiking, leading to increased wear. This feels natural and means you will likely approach a qualifying lap differently than a race lap, which is as it should be. Unfortunately, this is paired with unsatisfying handling, where driving in an unrealistic manner achieves the best lap times.

Securing That Contract

F1 24 codemasters

Despite the handling feeling inferior to last year, F1 24 remains perfectly playable. For those who can overlook the driving physics and just want to race, there’s a significantly revised driver career mode.

You can race as real F1 or F2 drivers in career mode

Surprisingly, the core single-player mode of the franchise hasn’t received a major refresh in years. However, there are substantial changes in 2024, most of which are improvements.

Players can now create their own character or choose from the current 2024 F1 drivers or the 2023 F2 roster. You can embody Lewis Hamilton and chase an eighth world championship or step into Ferrari prospect Oliver Bearman’s shoes and guide him through his rookie F2 campaign before stepping up to F1 in 2024. Additionally, you can resurrect icons like Michael Schumacher, Nigel Mansell, or newcomers James Hunt and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Driver ratings are crucial in career mode, dynamically reflecting your on-track performance. Consistently outperform in qualifying, and your pace rating increases. Frequent crashes or penalties lower your awareness rating. This affects your standing within the team and the broader paddock, impacting contract negotiations and team directives.

Your relative standing to your teammate is also tracked. If you become the clear standout, like Max Verstappen or Alexander Albon, you gain more perks and influence within the team. Teammates can initiate upgrades, benefitting both of you.

New technical specialists offer varying benefits, such as increased development points from practice programs if you meet certain targets. This gamified addition incentivizes completing specific tasks over race weekends you might otherwise skip.

Your driver rating changes based on performance

A more intriguing new feature is in-race goals. Race engineer Marc Priestley occasionally issues short-term goals during races, such as overtaking a car within three laps or managing power unit temperatures. These emulate real driver instructions and add intrigue to longer races. However, they’re not perfect; goals to pass a car within a timeframe are achieved as soon as you get ahead, even if the car re-passes you or pits.

As your career progresses, you can conduct ‘secret meetings’ with rival teams to gauge their interest in signing you, adding a touch of the silly season and practical decision-making to your career.

Together, these elements make career mode feel more involved and immersive. For those unable to commit to a full career, the new ‘challenge career’ feature offers a truncated experience, guiding real drivers through a series of races with rewards like helmet and suit designs for success.

While driver career mode has seen significant changes, MyTeam remains largely unchanged, lacking many new features.

Additional Content

Beyond career mode and handling changes, F1 24 includes other updates. Four tracks—Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone, Jeddah, and Losail—have undergone extensive revamps for accuracy and visual enhancements.

Spa has received a major update

Authenticity extends to real drivers’ team radios, with actual clips playing during races. Players now have more ERS deployment modes for strategic energy use, though energy recovery feels more generous than last season.

VR play returns for PCVR headsets, though performance improvements over F1 23 remain unclear. PSVR2 players are still excluded, with the prospect of a port feeling increasingly unlikely despite ongoing discussions.

Formula 2 weekends in career mode no longer suffer from a recurring tire bug. Weather updates from engineers have also improved, providing forecasts first rather than vague advice.

Omissions and Drawbacks

Despite these additions, F1 24 feels lighter at launch compared to recent titles. Paul Ricard is absent, likely due to licensing issues, leaving only the Algarve circuit as an extra track. The absence of Paul Ricard might not be a major loss, but having fewer options than last year is disappointing.

There’s no Braking Point story mode this year, as expected. While not the primary draw, it provided substantial content that’s missing in this full-priced release. Similarly, the five Braking Point drivers and the Konnersport livery from last year are absent.

Supercars have also been removed, though this might not concern many players. The customizable apartment feature is gone, and while you can still buy clothes for your avatar, the overall customization options have regressed.

Customization options are more limited than ever

During the review, there was only one default customizable livery. Designing your emblem offers just three standard options, with more unlockable through the Podium Pass or purchasable with Pitcoin. The options are more limited than ever, frustrating players who enjoy personalizing their cars and drivers.

Diminishing Returns

F1 24, in isolation, is a satisfactory light-simulation F1 game with an enjoyable career mode and fun AI racing, albeit with a peculiar handling model. However, comparing it to its predecessors makes it hard to justify the £70 price for series veterans.

The game feels ‘samey’, with unchanged menus, customization options, MFD screens, driver models, and MyTeam format as four years ago. While change for its own sake isn’t necessary, F1 24’s lack of freshness diminishes the excitement of a new F1 game. Codemasters’ reliance on the tried and tested Ego engine and EA’s reluctance to reboot a successful series are understandable, but it feels like something needs to change to rejuvenate the series.

It’s hard to ignore that sense of déjà vu at times

Given the superior details that make it the best official console game in the sport, F1 24 will likely remain popular. Yet, the title feels like the culmination of diminishing returns. While hard-core fans may consider the purchase, mainstream gamers will find it difficult to justify buying a game that feels like last year’s at a higher cost.

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