The 2022 F1 season is notable for many reasons, but the most important is certainly the introduction of new rules and regulations pertaining to the cars themselves. For the first time since the beginning of 2014, the governing body of F1 has overseen the transition into a new generation of cars, including massive changes to body shapes and aerodynamic equipment. The 2022 F1 cars have been designed to change how races play out and should make it easier for drivers to follow and pass each other. For the upcoming F1 22 from EA Sports, the aim is to cleanly transition into a new generation of cars while making the acclaimed franchise more approachable for new and casual F1 fans.
Many eyes have been on the development of F1 22, wondering how the regulation changes will affect the on-track action as well as the cascading effects it will have on MyTeam and Multiplayer modes. The F1 games as we have known them for the last several years have mostly felt similar as far as the actual racing goes. F1 2020 saw the introduction of the MyTeam mode that allowed players to have some control over team operations as a part of an extended career. F1 2021 was again a transitional title, hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic and arguably a slight step down from the previous year.
F1 22 aims to be a fresh start for the series under its new publisher EA and the changes necessitated by the real-life regulation changes. The use of ground effects on cars had been banned in F1 since the late 1970s but makes a big return for the 2022 season. Similarly, F1 cars have used a 13-inch wheel since 1980 and the new 2022 cars have swapped to a standardized 18-inch wheel. Further regulation changes were planned for power units in 2022, but have been postponed until the 2026 season.
EA allowed a group of press and influencers to go hands-on with a pre-release build of the PC version of F1 22. The build featured the full 2022 field of cars and drivers and a selection of circuits (including the Red Bull Ring in Austria and Silverstone in Northamptonshire). Mode selection was limited to time trials and a full-fledged Grand Prix weekend.
I slipped into Fernando Alonso’s #14 Alpine and set off for a full weekend at the Styrian Grand Prix in Austria. Some changes to pre and post-event presentation were spotted, though the build I played still had last year’s broadcast graphics package. Practice programs have had their UI elements and instructions adjusted to offer more user-friendly feedback. The rest of the interface and paddock presentation was nearly identical to F1 2021. I qualified in the top ten and advanced into the Grand Prix.
In F1 22, players can opt for an Immersive or Broadcast presentation. Broadcast takes control of the car from players to offer more cinematic angles of things like formation laps, pitting, and safety car deployments. Immersive returns some control to players and tosses up a QTE during pit stops in order to gamify tire swaps. It certainly isn’t the ability to drive the cars in the pit area, but it’s a start. Once up to speed, things felt pretty similar to F1 2021. I was using the same assist configuration I play with for F1 2021 and was comfortably doing competitive laps within minutes. The main difference I noted (playing with an Xbox gamepad) was that rear-wheel traction was more sensitive to throttle control in F1 22. In the press presentation, the devs explained that most of the significant handling and physics changes would be more appreciable when the game is played with a quality force feedback wheel.
F1 2022 adds in the Sprint Race weekends that debuted in the real-life 2021 season. During MyTeam or Career modes, these weekends happened along with the real-life calendar, but players can also add Sprint events to one-off Grand Prix events and online. The team touted its new Adaptive AI designed to make things more exciting for new players, but I couldn’t get a good feel for how it affected racing in the short time I played. It may ultimately be more applicable to the casual mode or when using the full assortment of driving assists.
Braking Point doesn’t make the cut this year after debuting in F1 2021, though the developers hinted that there may be more to come in future titles. VR support is in for PC players. The preview client I played via Steam already had SteamVR options included, meaning the game will support virtually any PC-compatible headset. Ray-traced effects also make a return this year in the PC version, with a couple of additional features, including one for transparent object reflections.
F1 22 is still straddling the line between console generations, so those hoping for a generational leap in graphics or physics should temper their expectations. The good news is that EA Sports is committed to offering crossplay functionality between the various platforms, though this feature will not be ready when the game ships, arriving instead in a post-launch update.
The devs were eager to talk about F1 Life, a new feature that lets fans show off the digital items and clothing they collect while playing the game. Players will have their own space to decorate and fill with goodies. Even the ability to collect and drive supercars from Ferrari, AMD, and McLaren in special time trial events will be possible. EA Sports hopes this will draw in more casual fans who have as much fun with the glamor side of F1 as they do with the actual driving.
Aiming for a Grand Chelem
Thanks to a hit Netflix show and some clever marketing, F1 is growing in popularity at a rapid pace, particularly in North America. Millions of eyes will be on the Grand Prix in Miami, Austin, and Las Vegas. Converting those fans to die-hard F1 game players would be a dream for EA and F1 22 is their first big attempt at tapping into that market. Returning fans may want to keep a close eye on how the driving and physics develop towards the game’s final launch, but new players will likely find lots to like should they opt to take a drive when F1 22 launches for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC on July 1, 2022.
These impressions are based on hands-on time with a pre-release build of the PC version on Steam. Access to the preview was offered by the publisher for coverage consideration. F1 22 launches on consoles and PC July 1, 2022.