Formula 1 is more popular than ever, and the FIA's newly introduced regulations and technical standards have resulted in some revolutionary new looks of the fastest cars in worldwide motorsports. F1 22 is the first official entry in the series by Codemasters under the EA umbrella after their acquisition last year. This version includes all the new technical specifications, tracks, and several new features, including the first proper implementation of VR on PC. As the Formula 1 season is in full swing, let's have a look at how F1 22 performs.
Ready for a new era of racing
One of the main reasons for shelling out some cash on EA's annual releases of sports titles, which now includes the F1 series, is to get updated rosters. The drivers grid is now fully aligned with the current lineup of drivers and teams. More than just updated rosters, however, F1 22 introduces the new car models that match the updated style and technical specifications of the Formula 1 2022 season. New front and rear wings, iconic larger tires and wheel rim covers are all represented. As expected, the visual fidelity of these new cars is top-notch. The liveries, sponsor decals, and differences in body designs between competitors all match their real-life counterparts. At least as close as Codemasters could get it at the time of development; F1 teams seem to be changing their cars' floor layouts from week to week this year. Fans familiar with the series will find a plethora of technical tweaks, development updates, and car setups that come forward from last year's iteration. The handling and physics have been updated to match the new cars' behaviors on track, forcing even veteran drivers to rethink their usual setups.
The high quality of design in F1 22 extends to more than just the new cars. Several circuits have received notable updates, including Spain, Australia, and Abu Dhabi. Of course, the new Miami Grand Prix also makes its first appearance in the F1 franchise and provides some gorgeous visuals of the Miami International Autodrome. To enhance the experience for drivers, Codemasters has added new immersive and broadcast styles for pit stops, formation laps, and safety car periods. Immersive options allow drivers to influence these events, determining the speed of their pit stops, or adding additional risk during safety car laps. The broadcast option allows drivers to sit back and take a few breaths while enjoying the events from a perspective similar to that seen on TV.
One of the standout features of the series has been the high-fidelity audio, ranging from the engine sounds, to on-track ambience, commentary, and your race engineer. In F1 22, many of these areas have been re-recorded and remastered. The race engineer has been retooled, and the commentary team has been expanded to include Natalie Pinkham, who covers F1 events for Sky Sports. Drivers can now choose between three different audio styles during their races, depending on what level of realism they desire. F1 22's soundscape is one of its standout features, and stead-fast fans of Formula 1 will be able to easily distinguish between different engines.
While F1 22 has received many notable updates in the area of sounds, circuits, and race cars, many of its predecessor's issues remain. I've found it just as difficult to dial in AI behavior in F1 22 as it was in F1 2021 and 2020. At lower difficulty settings, and with many assists enabled, racing around the familiar circuits can be a lot of fun but not much of a challenge. Raising the difficulty also requires disabling several of the game's assists, and quickly highlights issues in the AI of other teams. Competitors still brake unreasonably early into fast corners and then accelerate out at a pace that cannot be matched without disabling features such as traction control. This immediately raises the difficulty immensely, making it tough to find that sweet spot for the intermediate player. AI cars also hog the racing line, weave in clear violation of the racing rules while defending positions, and continue to drive irrationally slow and bothersome during qualifying sessions. Don't get me started on the number of times that a collision leaves me in the gravel while the AI carries on without a dent. Frequently, you'll end up in frustrating scenarios that you occasionally see in real world racing, but without consequences for the AI drivers in F1 22.
I would dearly love to see the addition of penalties for AI cars during qualifying sessions and more frequently in races. Incidents rarely occur unless caused by me, even with bumped up sliders. You've never seen such reliable cars in real life, let me tell you. Ferrari engine powered teams can only dream of this level of reliability! Many obvious bugs from previous years also make their return. I've yet to start a race without my engineer telling me that no less than three critical engine parts are degraded for some reason or another, even if I have just fitted brand-new components. While the commentary and engineer audio quality is excellent, the things that come out of their mouths are often less than useful or just flat-out wrong. It's unfortunate that these issues persist year after year. None of them are game-breaking, but they do detract from the immersion that Codemasters and EA keep promoting.
The F1 Life may not be for everyone
For those concerned about how EA's acquisition of Codemasters might impact the F1 series, you'll be happy to know that last year's story mode, Braking Point, is no more. The feature has been replaced by a new social hub entitled F1 Life. This is intended to allow players to showcase their achievements in the form of trophies, accessories, fashion styles, and the new Supercars collection. The idea behind F1 Life is that your friends, competitors, and drivers you come across in F1 22's various multiplayer modes can visit your house and check out your style. Ultimately, I found this feature to be little more than a gimmick. The range of accessories and supercars to choose from is fairly limited and smells like just another way to promote the use of PitCoins.
Supercars in general seem very underwhelming. Some races during career and My Team modes will feature Pirelli Hot Lap challenges that let you drive a variety of expensive cars on circuits. You'll earn acclaim by doing well in these, but I found the supercars to feel very sluggish. I'm not certain if it's because the contrast between a high-speed F1 racecar and even a million dollar Ferrari supercar is just too great, or if they are just poorly implemented Handling, sound effects, textures, and overall feel are night and day, and I found myself skipping past most of the challenges very quickly. If you enjoy collecting fancy cars and displaying them in fictional showrooms, you may get some fun out of F1 Life, but overall it feels like effort that would have been better spent elsewhere in F1 22.
F1 22 in VR is... a game changer
For several years, VR enthusiasts like yours truly have been waiting for Codemasters to include official VR support in the F1 series. Well, friends, that time is finally here. F1 22 includes native VR support on PC via Steam VR, and it is glorious. I was a little apprehensive at first, as I've been spoiled with a very good implementation of VR in Microsoft Flight Simulator, and my experiences with Steam VR have been less than stellar. But while F1 22 still forces you to spend the entirety of the game in VR, menus and all, the race experience in virtual reality is second to none. All those issues and complaints I've had about not being able to tell where competitors' vehicles are, not being able to properly judge braking zones, and generally being used as a bumper car by others, go away in VR. A true sense of depth is a critical part of car racing, and I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to flat screen racing after this.
F1 22 supports basically any VR headset compatible with Steam, which is just about everything on the market these days. In my tests, I used the HP Reverb G2 headset powered by an Nvidia RTX 3090, and the results were buttery smooth and fast. Obviously, steady frame rates are important for a good VR experience, and they are even more critical during racing. You're able to configure F1 22's graphics options specifically for VR in order to get the best performance. I settled on the VR High preset because it offered a good compromise of smoothness and image quality. The default of VR Medium looked great as well.
For the first time in many F1 sim racing hours, I was able to feel like I was in a race car. I leaned into corners, I looked to my left and right to spot other cars trying to pass me, and I was able to go wheel to wheel in the most Netflix Drive to Survive kind of way imaginable. Oh, and I sweated. So much sweat. Prepare yourself! If you've been waiting for official VR support in the F1 series, this is it. You're going to love it!
F1 22 is still worthy of picking up if you don't own a VR headset, if only to experience the new car designs, new circuits, updated team rosters, and re-mastered sounds. Outside these flashy new features, the core of the game is unchanged from previous versions, for better or worse. As with many other EA annual titles, I wish more time was spent improving the guts of the series, particularly the AI behavior, instead of adding social features such as F1 Live, but the new VR implementation gives me hope. One can dream, right? Now excuse me, I'm due for another front wing replacement. Elbows out in turn 1, drivers!
This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. F1 22 is available on June 28 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and PC.
- New regulations and car designs look on point
- Racetrack overhauls and new circuits are beautiful
- Remixed audio and commentary sounds are very immersive
- Finally official VR support and it's very good
- AI drivers at anything but casual settings are frustrating
- Supercars feel terrible compared to F1 cars
- Familiar series issues persist