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F1 24

F1 24

It's time once again to put the pedal to the metal and set some lap times in some of the world's fastest cars.

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This year's edition of the official F1 game is here, which of course means it's once again time to get behind the wheel and speed around some of the world's most recognisable tracks. From the French Riviera and the sparkling waters of Monaco to the blazing sun of Bahrain and the rain-soaked Spa in Belgium, it's all here, and alongside the stars of the sport, there's plenty to recognise from previous years.

For returning enthusiasts, it's more about the small improvements. Something that clearly defines this year's F1 venture whose motto is to refine rather than reinvent the wheel. Most of what we have come to expect is included with minor adjustments and, as before, there are plenty of activities to do. The question is, are the changes enough and does it justify investing in this year's edition of F1?

After all, last year's game gave us one of the better and more tangible upgrades in a long time, with Codemasters and EA seemingly having really listened to much of the criticism levelled at previous games. The feel of the cars was spot on and managed to balance perfectly between arcade and simulator, even for those who only played with a controller in hand rather than a steering wheel and pedals. It was livelier, more fun and a big step in the right direction.

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F1 24
At its best, F1 24 is absolutely beautiful.

Likewise, we fans finally got the opportunity to delve into the career mode Braking Point, which made a fond reappearance, complete with the egotistical diva Devon Butler we all loved to hate. Over-the-top and dramatic, right in line with what Drive to Survive has come to produce in recent years, but also really entertaining. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it brought a little more life and accessibility to an otherwise notoriously rigid sport where gatekeeping has long been the de facto standard.

It's a shame, then, that they chose not to include a new season of Braking Point in this year's version of F1. Instead, we're offered a brand new career mode that, for the first time, actually lets you play as one of the 20 existing drivers in a way that's more narrative-driven. Of course, you can also create your own character if you wish, or even start from the lower F2 division.

Obviously, your circumstances will vary based on which team or driver you choose to play with during the campaign, but the ultimate goal is the same for everyone. To collect as much Driver Recognition as possible, and to become the driver to beat in the paddock, rather than your teammate, as much as possible. This allows you to control how the car is upgraded and developed throughout the year, meaning you can fine-tune it to suit your own abilities.

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F1 24
Shanghai is back, Trump cheers.

If you want to be really selfish, you can even make sure that your own car is prioritised with new and even secret parts, all to give you an upper hand against your teammate. But as they say, all's fair in love and war, because in F1, more than in many other sports, it's win or lose, and that dynamic is pretty well represented with this particular system, which also creates some interesting game moments where during the races you are assigned specific challenges to increase your Driver Recognition. Yes, in addition to winning or at least getting ahead of your teammate.

However, I would be lying if I said that this new career mode is more engaging or interesting than Braking Point. Instead, it's an acceptable stopgap measure to give those of us gamers who don't want to war online with others something more purposeful to do. Also new this year is what they have chosen to call Challenge Career, a game mode that shrinks the season into a shorter and more intense experience spread over just six races.

In this mode, the conditions are randomised and both drivers and teams as well as tracks vary from time-to-time. In addition, the six races are split into three episodes where you are given clear goals to strive for, both short-term and long-term, which can range from making a certain number of laps during a race, to regaining the world championship title or winning your first race as one of the greener drivers.

F1 24
It's important to stay on top of things, otherwise the development of the F1 car may take unexpected and unwanted turns.

It may not sound like anything spectacular or earth-shattering, but I have to say that the significantly shortened season still added a little fun twist to an otherwise elaborate format. In short, yet another of many activities to engage with in the game, which can hardly be seen as a negative, and if anything, a clever use of the assets the game already has at its disposal. As icing on the cake, it is now also possible for the first time to play through the career mode together with a friend in co-op mode, which is highly anticipated, to say the least, so thumbs up there.

But what most F1 enthusiasts are probably interested in, after all, is the driving experience, which there has been some gossip about beforehand and how the new model used has been developed hand-in-hand with the reigning, multiple world champion Max Verstappen. How much truth there is in those words and how close the collaboration was is not something I'm going to speculate on. I was very happy with how the cars felt already last year, even if it was hardly a hugely deep simulation. It was simply good enough but above all had a brilliant balance, even if you just used a regular game controller.

So, is the new driving experience really as good as Codemasters and EA claim. The answer to that question is not quite simple but the fact that the cars now feel different thanks to the new dynamic model implemented by the developers is clear. Whether it's better or worse compared to before is largely a matter of what conditions you have, and if you are among the lucky ones with both steering wheel and pedals, as then this will probably feel like a step in the right direction.

F1 24F1 24
Some of the tracks have been given a facelift, too bad it only applies to a total of four of the 25 in the game.

For us more everyday players, we who may be content with a controller, the experience is not quite as convincing and the cars felt a bit too lively and frisky in my opinion. Likewise, it wasn't quite as easy to get an even touch on the accelerator, and I had to (again, with a controller) struggle more to maintain a good grip, not least out of the corners. In short, yours truly is not completely sold or convinced that the new driving feel is a step in the right direction. Especially when you consider that F1 games are aimed at a wide audience, not necessarily just simulator nerds.

When it comes to the audio-visual presentation, much is the same. Small tweaks have been made and F1 24 still runs on the now rather dated Ego engine, with relatively marginal improvements to lighting, reflections and shadows. Last year's game already looked very good, at least on PC with the settings turned up as far as they could go, and F1 24 sets the bar a notch higher. The small but not insignificant changes create a better overall impression and make the tracks feel a little more faithful to their real-life counterparts.

In addition, four of the game's tracks have been completely redesigned from scratch, including Qatar, Silverstone, Spa and Jeddah. A welcome facelift, not least for the two European tracks, which are among the most beloved on the F1 calendar. In addition, the Shanghai International Circuit has also returned, which means that F1 24 now offers a total of 25 tracks to play around on, with more promised as future downloadable material.

F1 24
Max wages war on the streets of Monaco.

Alongside a continued exquisite presentation, F1 24 also maintains a brilliant soundstage with a glorious engine roar that you'll happily drown in, although of course it's certainly no match for the howling V10s of old. Pumped out of a good sound system or good headphones, it sounds just as fantastic as we have become accustomed to. But a fun novelty for this year is that they have also baked in authentic sound clips from the various drivers taken from previous seasons. A small and seemingly insignificant detail but which actually enhances the immersive feeling unexpectedly.

So, with all that said, and to return to the initial question - is F1 24 worth upgrading to if you already own last year's game? Again, the answer is not entirely obvious and much is based on how much you follow the sport and your level of interest. If you're a regular F1 maniac like yours truly, then by all means go for it. This year's edition is an improvement on most fronts although perhaps specifically the driving experience is the one that will represent the biggest conflict among gamers.

There's definitely no shortage of content here and despite the rather hefty price tag of at least £60 (£80 if you want the Champions Edition), it's a lot of game for the money. If, on the other hand, you're just keen to play F1 and don't care quite as much about having the latest updates, stick to last year's title. It's more than enough and especially if you're playing on console. On paper, F1 24 may offer an almost avalanche of improvements, but many of them are relatively marginal, or just represent pure PR fluff.

F1 24
Career mode challenges with long-term and short-term milestones.

Finally, I would also like to raise a cautionary finger. The PC version comes with Denuvo, by far the most hated of DRM systems that EA unfortunately seems to see as a necessary evil, but also something that has a negative impact on your computer's performance. It's no surprise, though, given that last year's title also used the same, and in return you also get by far the best version of the game. So, that's something.

Ultimately, though, it's fair to say that F1 24 builds on the tradition and offers the most complete and bold representation of the sport you can find on console or PC. Both online and offline, there's plenty to do and the racing is just as absorbing as ever. I struggle to see how there's a need for a new game every year, and in all honesty one every other year would be more than enough, but it is what it is. You've just got to enjoy it, get on with it and be happy. F1 is here to stay, and is just as good, or better than ever.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
Massive amounts of content. Fun campaign mode. Audio-visually striking (on PC).
-
Some questionable AI. Less accessible driving experience. DRM.
overall score
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F1 24

REVIEW. Written by Marcus Persson

It's time once again to put the pedal to the metal and set some lap times in some of the world's fastest cars.



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