F1 22 Review – Front row but not pole position

After a rather controversial final day of the 2021 season, when Max Verstappen snatched the drivers’ championship from Lewis Hamilton on the last lap in a rather liberal interpretation of the rules, it is fair to say that the premier class of motorsport has entered a popularity boom. With the help of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series, Formula 1 is more mainstream sport than ever. The 2022 season saw the sport undergo a number of major rule and regulation changes aimed at making the sport even more interesting, with more wheel-to-wheel action and cars that can follow closer than ever.

As such, F1 22 has a lot to offer. With a plethora of tweaks and adjustments to the core driving game, can it put itself in pole position over its predecessors, or will it spin at the last corner? Well, it’s a bit of both.

F1 22 will reflect the new real-world season’s new cars, rules and regulations

Codemasters and EA claim that F1 22 will bring revised handling and tire models, as well as updated physics to reflect the new real-world season’s new cars, rules and regulations. From my experience on multiple Grand Prix weekends, including three separate practice sessions, qualifying and the mid-length Grand Prix race itself, there’s probably little difference in how your car behaves in moment-to-moment gameplay. There’s a little more emphasis on making sure your car’s setup is just right for the tight corners of Monaco or the long straights and gradual corners of Saudi Arabia, but I can’t say that the overall handling and racing game of the Series were completely rewritten in F1 22.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, considering how well the series has historically emulated the high-speed racing of motorsport. Given the drastic real-life impact of overhauling the rules, regulations, and requirements placed on each manufacturer’s vehicles, with underdogs like Haas looking far more competitive, I was expecting a more noticeable difference emanating from the game. Experienced F1 players might pick up on these small improvements, but don’t expect a completely different F1 experience.

After a rather controversial final day of the 2021 season, when Max Verstappen snatched the drivers’ championship from Lewis Hamilton on the last lap in a rather liberal interpretation of the rules

For better or for worse, this is the story of F1 22 in most respects. Aside from the addition of sprint races on certain Grand Prix weekends and updates for Spain, Australia, and Abu Dhabi to reflect their real-world counterparts, there has not much changed compared to last year.

The fan-favorite My Team mode returns, but with three starting points—Newcomer, Challenger, and Front Runner—that allow you to choose your team’s performance and starting budget over last time, and Career now has one extended department event and cross-race questions, but these make up such a small part of the experience that it’s nothing special to write home about. Even when I chose the Challenger starting point, I still found myself a contender for the Drivers’ Championship, while my team-mate remained at the very end of the grid.

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There’s also a plethora of single and multiplayer modes to fit the time you have to get behind the wheel. One-off Races, Grand Prix Weekends and Time Attacks join the standard Career and My Team modes mentioned above on the single player front, while Quick Play, Weekly Events, Split Screen, Ranked Play and Leagues offer a choice of modes of varying lengths multiplayer antics. Most interesting is the introduction of leagues, which offer all players the opportunity to compete in a shared multiplayer championship with a fixed roster of players.

These can be set up private or public, and you can set the events to run at fixed times, or have them “on demand” so you and your friends can come over and compete even if your schedules aren’t perfect relay a message. Much of this has been seen in previous entries in the series, but there’s still a solid selection of modes on offer, so it’s great to see them all return.

Oddly enough, the most notable improvement over previous years is the introduction of a licensed soundtrack, giving you an impressive throwback as you navigate the menus and plan your R&D improvements in aero, durability, powertrain, and so on. It’s very heavy in the hard-hitting, dance-like tracks, but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless.

The only other major change in terms of actual gameplay is the introduction of supercars to race on the track during the Pirelli Hot Lap Challenges. These range from drift challenges and average speed traps to checkpoint challenges and handling challenges where you have to guide your car through a series of gates in a section of the track. These could have made for a nice bit of a change from standard F1 fare, aside from the fact that the handling on each and every one of the supercars is terribly floaty and imprecise. It’s so bad that after making a handful for this review I just gave up on them as they were so entertaining and the rewards for getting “Gold” weren’t worth the effort.

F1 22 rating supercar

Given Codemasters’ prowess in the racing genre, it’s odd that the supercars feel so bad. I understand that the F1 22 focus is on the Formula 1 cars, but if you decide to deviate from that at least make sure those segments are really enjoyable to play.

Otherwise, F1 22 feels very much like its predecessor. Practice sessions still involve completing the same tasks to give your team research bonuses and development boosts, as well as gather vital data to inform your strategy for the Grand Prix, and the length of each session can be adjusted to save you some time, if you don’t want to spend hours and hours on just one race weekend.

The optics are also a bit mixed here. While vehicle models look amazing and tracks have acceptable visual accuracy when you’re racing around them at 200mph, the models look subpar to pit crew members, journalists, or just other real drivers. Max Verstappen in particular appears to be wearing a Red Bull cap that takes up half of his head, to paraphrase my partner as we scrolled through the list. Some look better than others, but they all look a little disproportionate and alien in general, and pit crew members generally lack detail, which shakes things up a bit for those moments when you’re sitting in your garage can. They’re not terrible, but they all look like they have incredibly smooth, perfect skin, with not a single wrinkle or blemish in sight. It’s easy to miss as you rarely find yourself staring at them, but it’s a little underwhelming as this is a simulation game and I’ve played it on the X series. It almost feels like these have been copied from the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, with no improvements made in the process. At least that was my first impression.

It’s also a bit odd when you pull out of the pits at the start of a free practice session or qualifying session and slam your hands wildly around the wheel before the camera switches to your chosen angle. When you’re not behind the wheel and on the meticulously recreated tracks, the look of F1 22 lacks polish and finesse, and that’s a little disappointing for a series so intent on delivering the ultimate F1 simulation experience.

But then you start running, and all that fades into the background as the intricately textured tarmac beneath your tires fades into oblivion when you engage your DRS on a straight and surpass 200mph. It’s a real racing sim with AI racers that will really push you to the limit thanks to the adaptive AI difficulty setting where AI competitors will react to your position on the track and adjust their competitiveness based on it.

F1 22 review in cockpit view in the box

Driving the same track over and over again might seem a little boring, but then you shave tenths of a second off your lap time by perfecting a corner and kissing the apex, and then a wave of satisfaction washes over you. It’s all about learning the track, pushing your car to the limit and learning the style of Formula 1 racing via your signature racing titles. It’s all about technical finesse, strategy and the age-old adage “practice makes perfect”. That means it won’t appeal to everyone, but F1 fans will find the on-track gameplay just as entertaining as they have always been in the series.

Those who prefer the arcade open-world antics of the Forza Horizon series might find F1 22 a little dry and formulaic, but that’s an integral part of motorsport. Meticulous cornering, perfect braking and acceleration to the millisecond.

F1 22 is another solid installment in Codemasters’ Formula 1 simulation series, although the gameplay changes aren’t all that noticeable on the track. It feels a lot like an annual EA sports title. Updated “lists” in the form of tracks and driver ratings, a few very small tweaks to the core game, and a new addition or two that may or may not improve the experience… I’m looking at you supercars. Its character models can look a little lacking off the track, but as long as you look past that the racing action is just as satisfying as ever and is sure to keep F1 fans happy for the next 12 months.

Twinfinite Editors Choice Award
F1 22 critic rating

Reviewer: Chris Jecks | Forgive: The Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by the publisher.

advantages

Disadvantages

release date
June 28, 2022 (Champions Edition), July 1, 2022 (Standard Edition)

developer
Codemasters

publisher
EA

consoles
PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S

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