Every year, Codemasters’ F1 games have been getting better and better. Considering the significant changes that have come to the sport for the 2022 season, I expected F1 22 to be another big step forward.
Unfortunately, while F1 22 is still an excellent Formula One sim, the biggest new features will only be experienced by a select few.
If you aren’t playing the game on PC with access to a VR headset, it’s hard to recommend upgrading to this year’s game.
Racing Feels Better Than Ever
F1 22 features “the sport’s stunning new cars and a new handling model” and the on-track experience is as good as it has ever been. There’s no other racing sim like F1 22 when it comes to the intensity of the racing.
It’s fast, responsive, and feels incredible. Even playing with a controller on PS5, I found myself tensing my forearms as I swept through the fast corners at Silverstone and sometimes my whole body when I slightly outbraked myself going into the tightest of hairpins.
You have to focus so intensely and the Grand Prix experience is more satisfying than that in any other racing game, just as it has been for the last few years.
However, as someone who plays every year’s game but isn’t deep into the competitive side, I really didn’t notice much of a difference between this year’s racing experience and last year’s.
The cars feel a little more responsive and have slightly more grip, making fast corners easy to keep your speed into, but it’s hard to pick out the differences in the “reworked handling model.”
Opponent driver AI is the only aspect of the on-track experience that needs some balancing. It seems like they have all gone to the Max Verstappen school of overtaking. They’re respectful for the most part, but if their front wheels are in line with your rears, they’ll do all they can to overtake.
They’ll often tap you from behind or cut corners to try and get ahead unfairly. That would be fine if they suffered any consequences, but more often than not you’ll be spun out or given a penalty as they continue scot-free.
Since the racing feels so good, the lack of significant changes isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I just expected more in what is such a landmark year for the sport.
The new car models do look fantastic, though. I forced myself to start using the cockpit camera, having used the front pod view for years, simply because of how good it makes the game look and how it adds to the intensity of the racing.
It also shows off the great weather effects - I seemed to have a lot more rain in my own career mode than in previous years - and the meticulously designed tracks.
The set of tracks, most of which will be familiar, is great, and Miami is a perfect addition. It didn’t make for the most exciting race in its real-world debut, but the mix of long fast sections and really tight chicanes will make it a go-to for most customs Grand Prix in F1 22’s multiplayer.
VR Is the Big New Feature
The game also looks better than expected in VR, the addition of which is F1 22’s biggest new feature.
From the cockpit, racing down to the first corner is really exciting, maintaining the responsive, thrilling driving you know and love. The enclosed streets of Monaco are really challenging, but the walls rushing past is a thrill, and the open fields and mountains that surround the likes of the Austrian GP look great.
The fact that VR is also an option in all of F1 22’s modes allows you to jump in and out whenever you want. It’s unlikely you’re going to want to stick the headset on for every race, but if you fancy one or two to break things up, you can jump into VR seamlessly.
The implementation of F1 22’s VR isn’t perfect, though. The first thing you’ll notice is that looking left and right, at least on Quest 2, causes some unsettling juddering. For the most part, F1 22 runs very well in VR, but moving around in the cockpit is best avoided.
Also, the VR aspects don’t begin until the moment you get into the car and they end the moment the race is over. The game even switches back to the flat cinema display for the celebrations once you cross the finishing line.
Codemasters also hasn’t implemented custom menus and user interface for playing F1 22 in VR. The info that’s on-screen when playing normally, such as pause menus and damage indicators, are just replicated for VR and stuck in the background where you can’t really see them.
VR is also exclusive to the PC version of F1 22, leaving console players or anyone with a VR headset with few new features to get excited about this year.
While it’s great when it works, I also ran into a few bugs in VR, which forced me to quit and start again. Bugs crop up every now and again in the non-VR modes too, such as the new race engineer getting the race leader completely wrong or congratulating you for your Sprint Race performance before it’s even happened yet.
It’s not the new engineer’s fault. He’s quite good, but I do miss Jeff’s voice. Natalie Pinkham’s debut as a co-commentator is really welcome though, as are the options to choose between immersive and broadcast style pit-stops and formation laps.
Supercars Are Pointless
The other significant new addition, for players on all platforms, is supercars. Between most F1 weekends in the Career Mode, you have the option to take part in a Pirelli Hot Lap event, which can be time challenges, drift events, and other showcases in F1 teams’ own supercars.
They’re a rather strange addiction. They’re mostly too easy and the handling of the supercars isn’t great. They feel floaty and artificial, which is in complete contrast to the F1 cars.
I’m not really looking for supercars from an F1 game. I’d rather be tackling these events in the F1 cars the game has been built around. The intermission events add nothing to the overall Career mode package. With F1 2021’s Braking Point story mode taking a break for 22, this year’s game’s solo options have taken a step backwards.
There are also a lot of new customization options in F1 22, thanks to the addition of F1 Life. You can kit out your own space and your driver character. If that’s something you’re excited by, then there’s a lot of cool stuff to play around with, but they don’t play enough of a part in the rest of the game to really be worthwhile diving into.
Racing in F1 22 feels as good as it ever has done in the series. However, considering the wholesale changes in the sport this year, there isn’t much new content to jump into if you don’t have access to a PC VR headset. Playing in VR for the first time is a thrill, but the other new features haven’t been implemented well.
F1 22 was reviewed on PS5 and PC via Oculus Quest 2 with code provided by the publisher.