It’s been a tumultuous year for Codemasters. After being acquired by Electronic Arts last year, its Cheshire studio merged with Criterion to work on Need for Speed. GRID Legends, a more story-focused iteration in the series – not unlike last year’s F1 2021 with Braking Point – didn’t quite set the charts on fire. With all of that in mind, and this being a year of significant change for Formula One, we arrive at F1 22. The bedrock of Codemasters’ racing library, its flagship, and what’s considered the most accurate simulation of the sport on the market.
Thanks to the new rules, which see Formula One cars redesigned and having larger tires while riding lower, the overall handling has seen some major changes. However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. In F1 22’s case, as compelling and involving as MyTeam and MyDriver Career can be, or as fun, as the actual racing is, it feels like an interlude.
“Speaking of new features, one of the biggest – F1 Life – is also one of the more strangely unnecessary additions yet.”
It isn’t the worst thing, especially given how solid the series’ foundation has become over the years. Based on the 2022 Formula One World Championship season, all ten teams that you know and probably love are here, from Oracle Red Bull Racing to Scuderia Ferrari, are all here. Key drivers like Max Verstappen, cover star Charles LeClerc, Sergio Perez, and Lewis Hamilton are all accounted for. Famous tracks like Bahrain International Circuit, Baku City Circuit, Monaco, and more also return.
Three of the tracks – Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Yas Marina Circuit, and Albert Park Circuit – have received changes over last year’s edition to reflect their real-world conditions. Miami International Autodrome is the only new track this year, which is a shame given the lack of alternate track layouts. Nevertheless, each one feels great to drive on. There’s a comfortable mix of the familiar tinged with several new features and experiences, and the shifting times of day and weather help them shine in different ways.
Speaking of new features, one of the biggest – F1 Life – is also one of the more strangely unnecessary additions yet. It sounds simple – you have a crib which can be decorated with different flooring, wall art, lights, couches, etc. along with earning Supercars that can be displayed in key places. Furthermore, this acts as a lobby where other players can hang out when playing online. There’s also a Trophy room for showing off your accolades. At first, it seems like a big deal – this is the first thing that F1 22 introduces you to. You customize an avatar and then have them awkwardly hang out in their virtual home every time the game is loaded up.
“Thankfully, Codemasters hasn’t messed about with its bread and butter – Career mode, namely MyDriver and MyTeam.”
But that’s more or less it. You earn SC Tokens which can be used to purchase additional Supercars – of which there are 10 in total – and use PitCoin to purchase branded shirts, hats, sunglasses, pants and whatnot. PitCoin, of course, can be purchased with real money and suddenly, it makes a lot more sense why F1 Life is so front and center. Even if you don’t care for cosmetics or interior decoration in a Formula One game (not that there’s much to care about), it’s funny that your crib is little more than a series of background screens that can be scrolled through. You can’t walk through them in real-time or check out any cool little extras. The whole exercise seems important at first but quickly falls to the wayside.
Thankfully, Codemasters hasn’t messed about with its bread and butter – Career mode, namely MyDriver and MyTeam. The former has you starting in either Formula 2 or going straight ahead to Formula 1. From there, you choose a team – with each having different requirements like winning the championship or placing – to offer more flexibility in how you want to race.
MyTeam sees you racing and building up a team, selecting a primary sponsor, power unit supplier and teammate (with icons like Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher up for grabs if you have the scratch). What’s particularly great about this year’s mode are the different entry points. You can go with a Championship tier team that possesses extensive resources, enter as a brand new team and fight even harder to make it to the top or opt for a middle approach.
Throughout the season, you’ll decide what to focus on, what R&D should produce, manage Team Morale and decide which events to fit into your schedule. When you’re on the track, different Race Programmes can be completed to boost development for different Departments, on top of netting Research Points. Even better, if there’s a specific part you’ve been eyeing, then you could complete the adjoining Race Programme to have it cost less Research Points to develop.
“The controls are on point throughout, and the DualSense implementation on PS5 feels solid with different force feedback and responses making one feel immersed.”
Race Programmes have a fairly diverse set of objectives, whether it’s staying near the racing line, managing tyre wear and power, running a clean lap, or staying on the track. Alternatively, you can be hands-off and let the AI handle some things, or even direct your teammate to try and complete certain objectives in a Race Programme at the risk of failing and using up your practice time. Keeping their Focus in mind and developing their skills helps in this regard.
Department Events will crop up in both modes, like choosing to follow the Durability team or ignore their opinion – these can also impact your teammate’s Focus. There are even interviews which can affect different departments. Overall, though not massively overhauled from last year, it’s fun and fulfilling, intertwining with the various new features and systems to feel even more robust.
Of course, there’s plenty of racing on offer. Much has been made about the new rules, how cars drive lower to the ground and the focus on airflow dispersal to favor overtaking. The responsiveness and sensation of speed are spot on, whether you’re travelling down a straight at top speed and navigating speed traps or cornering without cutting too far.
Finding the right timing between breaking, easing off the acceleration and gunning it along with the right place to overtake opponents without causing a collision is key, making races feel exhilarating (and more than a bit nerve-wracking) each time. The controls are on point throughout, and the DualSense implementation on PS5 feels solid with different force feedback and responses making one feel immersed.
“Adaptive AI also helps keep things fresh. At lower settings, it feels like opposing cars will have more obvious openings, as opposed to making blatant mistakes.”
The presentation is further aided by the new Immersive Pit Stops and Formation Laps. The former has you timing your Pit Stop entry – get it right and you can shave off a few seconds. Get it wrong and your crew is more prone to making errors, costing you valuable seconds in the race. Immersive Formation Laps are also intriguing as you fight to race as clean as possible while timing your formation entry. Get it wrong or drive even a smidge too recklessly and you’ll be set back from your original position.
Of course, if all of this is too much to handle, you can go with the normal style of Pit Stops and start from the qualifying position from the race’s get-go. You also have the new Sprint Races, applicable for certain tracks in Grand Prix and Career Mode. These are races without any Pit Stops and are key to determining the finishing order for the Grand Prix among other benefits. It’s a nice addition, introducing even more stakes to each session.
Adaptive AI also helps keep things fresh. At lower settings, it feels like opposing cars will have more obvious openings, as opposed to making blatant mistakes. How you capitalize on those openings is key. At medium difficulty (50 and above), AI cars feel more resilient, willing to bump you but smart enough to avoid outright collisions and let you pass. There are some mind games in play, leading to tighter racing that isn’t overwhelmingly hard. You can still default to Casual, Normal and Expert styles of play but it’s possible to tweak various other options like the rules and how strict they are, car damage, collisions, Flashbacks, fuel mode and whatnot. There are a ton of options here and it helps to get into the game that much more seamlessly.
Aside from Career and Grand Prix (the latter featuring Formula 1 and the 2021 Formula 2 seasons), you have Pirelli Hot Laps. This is where you take those Supercars for a spin and complete different challenges, like drifting and maintaining an average speed. They’re fairly straightforward and nothing too crazy. But it highlights another key issue with F1 Life.
“As it stands, the Supercars are just there – there aren’t many and you earn them at a quick pace.”
While it’s nice to collect Supercars – even though they feel just about fine to race – it’s at odds with the overall vibe and tone of Formula 1 racing. It makes sense in Forza, which is a celebration of all kinds of vehicles but for a game like this, the addition of classic cars would have been preferable. I would have preferred collecting, learning about their history and comparing their handling versus the current generation of Formula One cars.
As it stands, the Supercars are just there – there aren’t many and you earn them at a quick pace. The Pirelli Hot Laps can pop up during Career mode as different challenges, providing some easy Research Points. But they spice things up rather than expanding on the actual Formula 1 aspect of the game.
Other hiccups in this year’s iteration pretty much apply to last year’s, namely in the lack of Championships or alternate track layouts. While the overall track design is great, especially in Miami, it would have been nice to mix things up once in a while. Also, instead of three save slots each for MyTeam and MyDriver, this year gives only three save slots for the entire Career Mode. This feels way too limiting, especially given the sheer range of set-ups, approaches, teams and sponsors that players can go for.
It’s also worth noting that the livery and logo customization is pretty lackluster. While the starting options for designing one’s avatar are passable, logo customization boils down to choosing a shape and some colors. As for the car livery, you can choose different sponsor logos but can’t change their positions. New Livery designs, outfits, emotes and whatnot can be purchased with PitCoin from the in-game store.
“There are the odd bugs and glitches though. One time, the lights reflected on my car were briefly rendered at 30 FPS.”
In terms of production values, they’re pretty good both in the overall recreation of the cars and tracks, along with the sense of speed and visual feedback while racing. Sound design is strong all around, whether it’s engine sounds or the new commentators (with the likes of David Croft switchable with Alex Jacques). Character models are fine though they can come across as unnatural at some points.
Weather effects are similarly on point, but the overall result isn’t a huge difference from last year, unfortunately. There are the odd bugs and glitches though. One time, the lights reflected on my car were briefly rendered at 30 FPS. Other times my character’s hair would randomly disappear and during one podium victory, everyone’s skin textures were replaced by the backdrop color. It was…odd, to say the least.
Nothing game-breaking, fortunately, and while out on the track matching up with cars at breakneck speeds, the frame rate feels rock-solid even when it’s raining. One particular thing to note is car damage. While it’s realistic and can impact performance, whether it’s causing spin-outs more frequently or outright taking you out of the race, you won’t see any massive pile-ups or crazy crashes.
“It’s another good Formula 1 racing title, one that will tide you over in many places and leave you wanting in others.”
F1 22 is a great entry point to the series for newcomers with lots of accessibility features and fun racing, albeit in a much more serious environment that demands precision and practice. For veterans, it comes down to whether you’ll enjoy the new handling and suspension, the redesigned cars, the new presentation features, and so on. F1 Life feels inconsequential as a whole, less like a central showcase of this year’s edition and more like a gimmick.
Overall, this year’s edition feels like a pit stop rather than the next big step for Codemasters’ franchise (which could be next year, according to rumors). It’s another good Formula 1 racing title, one that will tide you over in many places and leave you wanting in others.
This game was reviewed on PS5.