The new Formula 1 season has seen a revolution in technical regulations: Compared to the 2021 cars, the current crop of single seaters look and handle a lot different – and in the official F1 game, things are very different as well: For the first time since acquiring Codemasters, the new title has been fully created with EA being involved. The result is F1 22. Spoiler alert: Porpoising not included.
Changes on and off the track – the new F1 game is sure to look and feel different compared to its predecessors. The sleeker cars use ground effect aerodynamics and are more lively than the generation before them, meaning they can be quite a handful to drive. Yet, they are still high-tech machines – ERS and DRS are still on board, just like in the real cars.
Returning SimRacers will find more familiar elements, however: The menu is structured similarly compared to last year’s edition, and somewhat annoyingly, still does not support mouse controls – figuring out which button does what on a wheel can be a chore, but should be easy enough to remember once it has been figured out.
Meanwhile, the much-acclaimed Braking Point story mode of F1 2021 is gone. Instead, a new mode called F1 Life makes its debut: In a virtual home, SimRacers can show off accolades they have won, change the appearance of their custom driver both for race and casual wear, and decide which supercar they want parked on their living room tiles.
The addition of road-going supercars had been communicated well in advance, but they are not just expensive ornaments: In the game’s career mode, the player comes across Pirelli Hot Lap events from time to time. For these, they can choose two options: an average speed zone, in which they have to achieve a certain average speed on a part of the track, and drift mode, where they score points for drifting their expensive machinery. To get access to the cars, the player needs to unlock them with supercar tokens, which are granted for achievements like driving a certain total distance in the game. The supercars are drivable outside of career mode as well.
Speaking of career mode: Not much has changed relative to F1 2021 there. It is still THE way to experience your very own F1 career just the way you like it: Full or shortened calendars, owner-driver mode, handling R&D yourself or focusing purely on the driving side of things – all of this is possible. There are new starting points, however: At the beginning of their career, SimRacers get to choose whether they want to start as a newcomer, challenger or front runner. The established single and multiplayer modes are back, save for the already mentioned absence of Braking Point.
Of course, not adding any new content would be a step back. Obviously, the 2022 F1 cars are in the game, with the current season’s F2 cars scheduled to follow suit at some point. In the Miami Grand Prix, the calendar sees an all-new track added, and the schedules carried out at Catalunya, Yas Marina and Melbourne before the season are reflected in F1 22 as well.
Following their introduction in the 2021 season, sprint races are now a part of the game as well, making weekend formats accurately reflect the real-life season. Another interesting feature that can change the pace of the races is the Broadcast style of presentation for formation laps, pit stops and safety car periods. If switched on, players will not have to drive themselves but get a break in the action by being able to watch the respective phases of the race as if it was on TV. The mode can be activated separately for each phase.
A neat new feature for single player races is the adaptive AI: Instead of fiddling with the difficulty slider to find the perfect level of competition, this setting makes it possible for the opposition to adjust their performance according to the players’, which should be a big help for beginners.
One of the most-requested features over the last few years is Virtual Reality integration. With F1 22, the wait is over: The title officially features compatibility for the first time in series history. At launch, the Valve Index, Oculus Quest 2 + Link Cable, Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive and HTC Vive Cosmos are supported.
On the audio side of things, a new EDM-based soundtrack freshens things up in the menus and the background of some scenarios like the drivers’ workstation during race weekends. Additionally, commentary has been re-recorded and commentary teams expanded, giving players an opportunity for more variety.
Ambient audio has been made more immersive as well – as an example, it is possible to hear music from fans’ campgrounds on certain parts of some tracks, like the Tosa corner at Imola. This makes the track feel very much alive and creates a great atmosphere.
F1 22 once again looks fantastic, and while F1 2021 was already a looker, its successor takes another step in the right direction. Even without the likes of ray tracing, the game delivers pretty graphics, adding to the immersion – be it during the day or in night races.
Performance-wise, the game is well-optimized, and systems that are not fitted with the latest and greatest in hardware can deliver a smooth experience as well with some adjustments to the graphics – all without making F1 22 look terrible.
At the core of the experience are, of course, the driving physics. Considering the changes to the real-life cars, differences in handling are to be expected in F1 22 as well. The cars do handle differently, are more lively than their predecessors and tend to have a more nervous rear end which can sometimes step out seemingly out of nowhere. It is imperative to be careful with the throttle pedal as well, as the cars will display some serious wheelspin, especially in the lower gears, when traction control has been switched off.
The force feedback does a good job of communicating what the cars are doing most of the time, although spins are sometimes hard to impossible to feel coming and thus cannot be avoided. In general, there seems to be a slight lack of road detail even on bumpier tracks like Melbourne. The tracks feel mostly super smooth, which may be true for a lot of the modern tracks on the F1 calendar, but not for all of them. It is possible that this is a result of the F1 series still not using laser-scanned circuits.
First Impressions & Verdict
The F1 game series has a tough task to fulfill: One one hand, it needs to be fun and accessible to more casual F1 fans and gamers, on the other, it wants to grab the attention of SimRacers as well. With the enormous possibilities of adjusting settings to the players’ liking, this is a balance act that F1 22, like its predecessors, manages well.
Without any driving aids, the game is quite a challenge, especially in cars that are at home at the back of the grid. To extract maximum performance from them, practice is absolutely necessary. This is helped very much by the already well-known practice programmes, which motivate and push the player to improve and complete the objectives.
The AI is very racy in F1 22 as well, but still prone to errant behavior from time to time, especially when following them closely. Approaching situations like these with enough caution not to rear-end them when they suddenly feel the need to brake way harder than they should go a long way, however. On the flip side, side-by-side battles that stretch for entire sectors are just as possible to pull off with the computer-controlled competition, leading to a sense of accomplishment once an overtake is actually completed.
F1 22 can be what you want it to be, whether you are a racing game beginner or an experienced SimRacer. With the new era of F1 kicking off, the game follows suit and lays the foundation for a possible much more individualized career mode in the future in F1 life. The addition of supercars might be a hint at expanding the franchise in the direction of the GRID series as well.
With VR now implemented, many SimRacers that have missed the feature before might be swayed to giving the series a proper chance now. But even on a monitor-only setup, F1 22 is as close as you can get to feeling like actually being at an F1 race weekend as a driver. The immersion department certainly is the strong suit of the series – but do not let yourself be fooled into thinking that F1 22 is a casual game that any SimRacer with years of experience will be able to dominate in without a problem – it is more of a challenge than it may seem at first.