It’s lights out and away we go! A controversial yet thrilling finale to the 2021 season, a new rivalry this year alongside revolutionary new regulations. There’s rarely been a better time to be a Formula 1 fan, and with F1 22, Codemasters aims to bring the sport to even more dramatic and spectacular levels to better mimic what we see on the real tracks, revamping the general experience to both suit newcomers and veterans alike. Can EA Sports’ latest racer deliver on said objectives? Find out in XboxEra’s review of F1 22!
The British studio has been giving fans their take on the sport since obtaining the license in 2009, managing to iterate on the formula and apply key improvements throughout the years. Last year’s interesting story point, Braking Point, has not made the cut this year – speaking to the developers at a preview event earlier this year, it seems to be down to the yearly cycle being a bit too short to make a satisfying new story, with Codemasters developers hinting at the mode’s return in the future. The big substitute for it? A brand new mode with supercars!
Before racing fans’ mind drifts to the Supercars competition, formerly known as V8 Supercars, this isn’t a brand new series. Instead, it’s a new mode with a limited set of luxury cars that can be used for select Pirelli challenges, such as mantaining a certain speed average over the course of a segment or reaching a high score via drifts. The cars that can be used for this include Formula 1’s actual safety cars, the Aston Martin Vantage and the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, but also expensive but road-specific Ferraris and McLarens. This mode is a fun little timewaster that adds some surprisingly different driving experiences to the package, but it’s certainly nowhere near as impactful of a mode as last year’s Braking Point. Still, it’s fun to earn tokens via various in-game challenges, which can then be used to unlock gorgeous multi-million dollar sportcars. These cars can then be exposed in players’ own personal spaces, alongside posters, cool unlockables and so on. It’s a rather basic feature, but it gives a good impression of the luxurious Formula 1 lifestyle. Naturally, it also ties in with the customization of players’ clothes, with various brands lending their styles to paid cosmetics like we’ve seen in F1 2021.
Naturally, the standard career mode is back, which by now can be played in a myriad of ways. Players can walk in the shoes of existing drivers, starting from the 2021 F2 season or straight in Formula 1 in 2022, join an existing team or create own from scratch, with even different budget levels depending on the size of the crew, and so on. Even the two player career mode makes a comeback, allowing friends to share a common story and a fierce rivalry inside the same team, both in local play and online. The promising Braking Point from F1 2021 and the interesting story mode in GRID Legends made us hope this year’s Formula 1 game would also deliver a much more hand-made narrative, but we’ll have to suffice with the usual variety of custom career modes. At least the selection of tracks is very complete, with even the brand new venues such as Jeddah and Miami finally joining the roster, with track updates like the elimination of certain slow corners in Australia and Abu Dhabi, making them closer to their real life counterparts once more. Also, the Will Buxton-led segments in the style of Netflix’s hit docuseries Drive to Survive remain, albeit virtually unchanged from last year’s game. No classic cars in F1 22 though, this year’s “special” vehicles are the aforementioned Supercars.
You’re so dramatic!
As hinted before, one of Codemasters’ main sources of inspiration for this year has been the unbelieveable drama of last year. 2021’s Formula 1 championship saw 7-times world champion Lewis Hamilton and young prodigy Max Verstappen trade places and championship leads all year long, with nearly every race featuring some drama and unpredictable surprise, culminating with a controversial last lap pass due to a questionable interpretation of the rules by the since then dismissed race director Michael Masi. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that the stewards will be more erratic, but between such a dramatic ending and the popularity of the Netflix documentary series Drive to Survive, there’s a new breed of Formula 1 fans who are looking for much more excitement, less predictable races compared to the relatively uneventful and recent hybrid engine years.
This has been worked upon in a variety of ways. The safety car triggers have been tweaked, making their entry more frequent and more realistic. Players who don’t want to spend several minutes heating up their tyres during safety car can also use a handy broadcast option, which shows a few money shots of the cars driving, with the player’s machine that is taken over by AI, with the broadcast eventually skipping a few laps and going back directly to the restart. All in name of the spectacle. Similarly, driver AI has been tweaked to avoid the usual straight line of cars following each other, with computer opponents that will now attempt more daring divebombs, defend their line on straights with much more aggressivity, but also making natural mistakes more often. This makes races against AI much less of a procession, as in the past it felt like aside from random mechanical failures and player mistakes, every race was very linear in its execution.
This year’s Formula 1 cars have been vastly revolutionized, and this is felt in the driving model as well. Not only does the driving feel a lot more accessible than before with the various assists turned on, but removing said helpers makes the cars feel pretty wild. In particular, I felt that mantaining traction out of slow corners has became somewhat more difficult, especially using the default setups found in the game, while fast turns seem to offer better grip due to this year’s larger Pirelli rubbers. Interestingly, the AI seems less impacted by this change in car behaviour, as no matter what assists or difficulty I choose it feels like I gain on them in high speed segments but lose precious ground in slow corners or accelerating coming out of a turn. A bit of readjustment is necessary after many hours spent in F1 2021, but the end result is a driving model where it’s a tad harder to drive flawlessly, making small mistakes and lock-ups more frequent which, again, helps creating further drama and excitement.
Mandatory pit stop
Pit stops are also a crucial part of the Formula 1 experience, and as you may have guessed by now, Codemasters tried to make them a bit more skill-based and more prone to drama as well. Players can still use assists to automatically manage the entire operation, otherwise there’s a new minigame of sorts where drivers will have to correctly time the pit entry and the turning itself between the mechanics, already waiting the driver with fresh tyres. Misjudging the timing will make the stop slower, which can have devastating consequences on the track position. The AI itself is prone to these mistakes, so they can also lose time with botched pit stops or gain positions with perfectly timed ones. Similarly, warm-up laps can be done before the race, after which the players being able to position themselves slightly off-center on their grid slot if they so desire. We see this happen in real Formula 1 as well, with some drivers already turning their car towards the inside to defend their position from a rival. Once again, it’s all about the excitement, unpredictability and player agency.
The game’s presentation has received a bit of a shake-up as well. Updates to the TV broadcast presentation, improved introduction videos for tracks and better television style information during races makes the general experience feel closer to watching an actual Formula 1 race on our screen. Visually, the game did not receive a massive boost, yet it’s the first Formula 1 game to feature separate versions for current-gen and last-gen consoles, so beware of which version you’re getting. Fortunately, there’s a handy pre-order bundle that gives the player access to both as well. Players on different generations of the same console (eg. Xbox One and Xbox Series X players) can play together, while full crossplay with PlayStation and PC versions is coming down the line in a future update.
What hasn’t received noticeable improvements, but probably should have, are the game’s menus. While aesthetically pleasant, a lot of crucial options are still hidden behind too many button presses, a lot of options (such as race length) are still not properly saved from one event to another, and I also noticed multiple instances of items in customization not loading in properly until the game was rebooted. Perhaps more worryingly I had multiple instances of audio tracks cutting off, a handful of console hard crashes, some weird black artifacts during the post-race animations and so on. Hopefully a day one patch can take care of some of these problems by the time most players get their hands on F1 22. Not game-breaking issues, but they do stick out especially on Xbox Series X where we’d have expected an all-round well performing game. Which at least still applies for most of the actual driving, with 4K60fps options and a 120hz mode alike for those who own monitors or TVs up for such tasks.
Head to head
It wouldn’t be a Formula 1 game without competing against real people however, as the AI races offer more drama than ever this year but their behaviour can still be usually predicted or even exploited. As is often the case, the servers for the game’s online multiplayer were not yet available during our review window, but expect the usual barrage of custom championships, quick races, competitive modes and custom servers to organize anything from random brawls all the way to high-level professional tournaments. It has to be said that last year’s game had a lot of server issues around launch, heavily impacting matchmaking in particular, so we’ll keep an eye on whether this time things will go smoother. Split screen makes a comeback, and on a tangentially related note, a VR mode is available on PC but, obviously, not on Xbox consoles.
Time trials naturally make a comeback too, where players can choose a car, a track and a weather condition, tune up their vehicle to their preference and then tackle the online leaderboards, competing against ghosts of other players and being able to try their setups as well. Speaking of setups, the customization people expect from Codemasters’ F1 games is all in place here as well: wing adjustments, cambers, gear ratios and more can be finetuned meticulously and immediately tested on track. As always, this remains a crucial aspect of the game, especially when racing online, as certain custom setups can improve your laptime by even a handful of seconds – a gap that is normally almost impossible to compensate via skills alone.
And ultimately, F1 22 brings back the usual vast array of settings, options and assists, making the game suitable to hardcore racing fans and newcomers alike. Highly guided drives with automatic braking, no tyre wear, automatic DRS and pit-stops and so on, all the way to the lack of any electronic assistance, no HUD and so on, making it a tough experience even for seasoned veterans with a high-end racing wheel at hand. Races’ length can be changed, whether players want to go through practices and qualifying sessions before them. Weather and time of day can be randomized or customized, cars can follow real world performance or be completely equal, with the AI boasting a total of 110 skill levels to choose from, to name some of the options available. As always, Codemasters’ Formula 1 experience is as hardcore as players want it to be, albeit it still remains closer to a simcade rather than the true professional simulators like iRacing, rFactor or Automobilista. Personally, I mostly enjoy the F1 games at a golden middleground: pretty high AI difficulty, easier handling but proper strategies and damage to boot. As other years, this mixture of arcade and simulation suits my racing needs rather well.
Crossing the finish line
One rather bizarre bug I also encountered is the music and sound tracks in the game becoming echoed, almost muted at times, as if I had my soundbar half-disconnected. A reboot of the game, like with most issues, solved that one too. It’s a shame when it happens, because this is also the first chapter to introduce EA Music to the mix, having dozens of licensed tracks like it happens in most EA Sports games. Artists like Charli XCX, Chase & Status, Deadmau5, Sonikku, Diplo and more animate an energetic soundtrack, that accompany the revamped audio of the new cars and the new commentator so well – aside from modern F1’s iconic voice David Croft in fact, Alex Jacques, known mainly for his Formula 2 commentary can also be selected as the main voiceover of the broadcasts.
All in all, F1 22 sets out to achieve various noble objectives, but not everything performs quite as well as intended. The revolutionized cars feel like they should, the new broadcast options and extra accessibility settings allow for a more approachable presentation, and the sheer amount of game modes and content that we’d expect from a Codemasters Formula 1 racer makes this an easy to recommend buy for Formula 1 fans. The Supercar challenges don’t quite make up for the lack of the Braking Point story mode however, and some annoying technical hiccups and AI woes could render the launch weeks a bit more troublesome than expected. Still, Codemasters figured out long ago what makes a compelling Formula 1 experience to racing fans, and this year’s entry is no exception.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC (Steam, Origin)|
|Release Date||July 1st 2022, early access on June 28th for owners of the Champions Edition|
|Rated||ESRB E for Everyone, PEGI 3|