Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix wasn’t quite the exciting addition to the formula one calendar we thought it might be. Lando Norris’ crash and some DRS assisted overtakes were the only real highlights in what was essentially a procession. As we said in our preview of the track in F1 22, it’s a lot of fun to drive, but that doesn’t always make for an exciting watch.
We’ve now had the chance to preview a larger chunk of Codemasters’ new game, as well as attend a presentation showcasing what exactly is new in this year’s F1 iteration.
While the build we were given access to only featured a small selection of F1 22’s modes (there was no MyTeam or Career mode), it was good to see how the on track changes really work.
F1 22 Preview
Much like in the real world sport, the biggest changes in F1 22 are those made to the cars, which feature complete overhauls of the physics and handling models.
With just five tracks to test limited modes, it’s difficult to get a complete understanding of how different the game plays, but some tweaks are easy to notice.
What initially stands out is how responsive the new car models feel. With downforce increased across the board, it feels like you can take a lot more speed into corners and racing feels more stable.
The new cars also sound brilliant, with a far meatier rumble sounding incredible when putting your foot down.
At the end of the day, F1 22 will feel mostly the same to some players. The physics changes aren’t significant enough to notice without really paying attention or comparing games side to side. However, it still feels undeniably great.
Codemasters’ F1 games are more intense and engaging than any other racing game. Putting in the perfect lap feels incredible and that’s no different in 2022’s game.
Adaptive AI Could Be a Gamechanger
The other big on-track change is a further attempt to make F1 22 more accessible and consistent in its challenge. Adaptive AI, which is something fans have been asking for for a long time, is being added to the Casual race style settings.
What it does is adapt the competitiveness of all AI racers depending on a player's speed or position in a race. For anyone looking for the most realistic challenge, Adaptive AI won’t really be a consideration, but the feature has the potential to make career modes much more enjoyable.
Street races, such as Monaco and Baku are often significantly harder to put a good time in on than the open, purpose-built tracks like Bahrain. Stick the difficulty at 50 and you’ll win comfortably at the latter and finish towards the back on the field in the former, all because of how the tracks are designed.
There’s some work to be done on how the AI performs in F1 22, with being tapped from behind or turned in on (I promise it wasn’t always me being too aggressive) still being an issue from time to time. However, Adaptive AI should make the overall AI inconsistency less frustrating.
A lot of work has also been done to make F1 22 more representative of the TV broadcast experience. Jeff is gone (I’m not crying, you are!), replaced by another race engineer, which will take some getting used to.
Elsewhere, Pit Stops, Formation Laps, and Safety car periods can all now be experienced in new Immersive and Broadcast styles, allowing you to still see all of the action, but in a more exciting way. After all, sitting in your car for a formation lap can be quite dull.
You can read our full thoughts on F1 22’s version of Miami, which is one of the biggest new features, but we really do think it’s a great addition to the selection of tracks, whether the real-world race debut was exciting or not.
It’s varied, fast-paced, and challenging, which is all you want in a virtual race track. I think it’ll be a mainstay of custom championships this year, and probably seasons to come.
More Immersive Than Ever in VR
Beyond the on-track changes that everyone gets, PC players get a little something extra. For the first time ever, F1 22 is fully playable in VR and we had the chance to test that out too.
Playing on a Quest 2 connected via Link Cable, I was shocked by how good it looked. From inside the cockpit, the enclosed street circuit of Miami feels claustrophobic, while the picturesque Austrian GP looks incredible.
The racing also feels just as good. The smooth animations and lack of input delay keep motion sickness at bay. Jostling for position at the start or trying to dive into corners for a sneaky overtake are intense at a level beyond anything in the base game. It’s tougher to do well, as you’d expect, but it’s an incredible experience that makes an already intense and stressful game even more so.
It wasn’t without its issues, though. You have to keep your head somewhat still as looking left or right causes an unbearable amount of juddering, which doesn’t help at all when trying to defend an overtake.
Also, other small frustrations include the in-game driver not turning their hands with the steering you’re doing and the UI prompts being hard to see, popping up behind other VR animations.
Of course, the build we played isn’t the finished product, so hopefully, the issues will be ironed out before the July release date, but even just how great racing feels in VR is enough to make it a worthwhile addition. It won’t be choice for online racing, nor for the more competitive races, but it’ll be a lot of fun when it comes to messing around in Quick Races and Time Trials.
The addition of VR to the PC version does make the console version seem like just a minor step forward. With no Braking Point style story, due to how long development of such modes take, and Miami being the only new feature beyond presentation and on-track tweaking, console players don’t have so many reasons to upgrade to the latest game.
That doesn’t stop F1 22 shaping up to be the best F1 game to date, once again. The real-world sport’s changes are pretty dramatic, so diving into Codemasters’ game to see how they have been interpreted will be a lot of fun.