F1 22: The Kotaku Australia Review

F1 22: The Kotaku Australia Review
Screenshot: James Swinbanks, Kotaku Australia

Formula One in 2022 is revolutionary.

From last year to this, the cars have undergone the biggest technical changes seen in F1’s modern era. This follows an explosion in popularity thanks to a banger of a 2021 season and Netflix’s Drive to Survive planting it in front of the mainstream masses. The result: Formula One in 2022 is also bigger than ever.

By comparison, F1 22 — adopting familiar double-digit EA Sports titling — isn’t a revolutionary game by any stretch, but it does build upon the strong and growing foundation of recent F1 titles. While the perfectly cromulent Breaking Point story mode from F1 2021 has been turfed, there are many new features to replace it. The addition of VR, a highly requested feature for years and one I sadly haven’t been able to check out for this review, leaps to mind. There are improvements across-the-board, from circuit and car updates to AI improvements, physics and handling changes that push F1 22 further towards the front of the grid. But much like a new era of Formula One cars, intermittent performance and reliability issues, particularly on the PC, have hampered its push for pole position.

f1 22
Screenshot: James Swinbanks, Kotaku Australia

Life in the Paddock

The first port of call is F1 22’s new player hub, called F1 Life. It’s here where you’ll get to customise and decorate your driver’s lavish home. This becomes the backdrop to the game’s main menus, and you can spend the in-game currency PitCoin on new items, clothes and other niceties to help your place look the part. You’ll also see the avatars of other players hanging about, poking around your stuff. I don’t know why all these freeloaders get to live in your home rent-free, but even if customising a player hub isn’t your thing, it’s  at least quite nice to look at., It’s certainly much nicer looking than the relatively bland menus of F1 2021.

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Screenshot: James Swinbanks, Kotaku Australia

F1 Life’s biggest attraction has to be the new supercars you can obtain by collecting tokens. Supercars aren’t just nice eye candy for strangers to fawn over in your F1 Life hub either: you can take them out for a time trial run on any circuit of your choosing, or attempt one of the various Pirelli Hot Laps scenarios your chosen car is used in. They each have a unique handling and feel and go a long way to highlighting some of the changes to F1 22’s physics model, particularly in the way car suspension works. Sliding through the tunnel in Monaco, behind the wheel of a Ferrari Roma, leaning on the walls as you hoon around one of the most expensive cities in Europe is just as fun as it sounds. Although the range of supercar selection is relatively meagre overall, what’s here is definitely not lacking in quality.

Full send

As expected, F1 car handling has been updated to sit in line with the new rules laid out for the 2022 season, and the changes are all for the better. Thanks to an increase in minimum weight, the cars feel heavier compared to their 2021 counterparts. This means they’re slightly hulkier to drag through the slower corners of circuits like Singapore and the old-castle section of Baku. But because of the larger, lower-profile tyres and stiff springs required to hold the cars off the ground through high-speed sections, the 2022 cars are ferocious through fast corners, responding to a turn of the wheel with neck-snapping savagery. Racers who prefer the no-assist approach will have a challenging but enjoyable time getting these beasts under control.

f1 22
Screenshot: James Swinbanks, Kotaku Australia

Due to some late announcements and bad timing on F1’s part, last year’s game never got the slightly updated layouts of some circuits like Catalunya and Abu Dhabi that debuted in the 2021 season. But they’re here now, and I’m happy to say the track changes are just as successful in the game as they have been in real-life. Melbourne’s Albert Park is now one of the fastest flowing circuits on the calendar, with many of the tighter corners being widened for more overtaking room. The entire back section has been remodelled to become one long and winding slalom where the cars are at full throttle for over 20 seconds, creating much better opportunities for side-by-side action. One big surprise has been the recreation of the Circuit of the Americas with what feels like a lidar scanned track surface, making it a much more true-to-life representation than what had been offered previously. Perhaps the most impressive is the new Miami International Autodrome, with its lush and vibrant recreation of Miami Gardens and the Hard Rock Stadium that shadows the circuit’s first sector, as well as its ridiculous ‘marina’, complete with fake water.

Another area that struck me as immediately improved is the in-game audio. The cars themselves sound phenomenal; from the ear-splitting whirr of the Ferrari driveshaft, the aggressive, throaty roar of the Mercedes ICE or the thwacking into gear of an Alpine’s gearbox, the iconic sounds of a Grand Prix weekend are all here in immensely satisfying detail (Editor’s note: GOOD SHIT – DS). Jeff, your long-suffering race engineer, is gone, replaced by YouTuber, TV presenter and former F1 mechanic Marc Priestley, who brings his own brand of dry instruction to the part. Much to my delight, they’ve also expanded the race commentary team; you’ve got the option of putting Crofty out to pasture and bringing in the superb Alex Jacques on main comms. Sky Sports F1’s Natalie Pinkham also takes on an occasional co-comms role, alternating with Ant Davidson from race to race and adding some much-needed freshness to what had become an increasingly stale race presentation.

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Screenshot: James Swinbanks, Kotaku Australia

Rule changes

Assembling on the grid and pit lane transit has also had a small update, with new AR prompts letting you know where to stop on the grid or when to turn into your pit stall. Make a mistake and you’ll be pushed back in your grid slot or possibly cause a costly, time-wasting error in your pitstop. I will say that, for me, the idea of turning into the pits with a button press is pretty off-putting for my sim racer, “give-me-full-control-in-the-pitlane” brain. Also upping the presentation stakes are some new pre and post-race cutscenes, as well as the new broadcast-style cameras for the formation lap and if/when the safety car comes out. If trundling around at lower speeds and weaving about to try and keep your tyres warm sounds like your idea of boring, flick on the broadcast mode to sit back and get a TV-style presentation.

As with last year’s game, there’s a bevy of options designed to give you as casual or hardcode an experience as you’d like. Don’t play many racing games? Turn on casual mode, set the off-track surface as forgiving, turn on the new adaptive AI and watch as they rubber band themselves to you. This ensures you’ll get some racing done no matter your skill level. Alternatively, turn off everything and give yourself the most authentic experience possible. F1 22 fully caters for all of this and every skill level in between, with simplicity and elegance.

F1 22: The Kotaku Australia Review
Screenshot: James Swinbanks, Kotaku Australia

While Codemasters’ racing AI is still capable of doing some pretty daft things, F1 22’s AI is still the spiciest and best it’s ever been. The computer is still susceptible to the odd full send into turn 1, but noticeably less so than in previous years with drivers much later on the brakes, and a little more aggressive when it comes to squeezing through a gap. Their individual driving styles also continue to shine through on-track. Some will make more mistakes than others, out-braking themselves during an overtake attempt. Others will drive you all the way to the inside of the track and squeeze you out of room, putting on their best Mexican Minister of Defence Sergio Perez impression. It makes coming out on top of a battle that much nicer knowing that AI will race you as hard as most human opponents will.

Speaking of human opponents, platform cross-play is a feature that, much like VR, has been long requested by series fans and will make its way into F1 22 in a future update, allowing PC players to join their console friends and vice versa on the same track. Outside of that, not much in the multiplayer space has changed. There are both unranked and ranked online play, league racing and, if you’re fast enough, F1 esports events to challenge the very best from around the world.

Both Driver Career and My Team Career modes will feel very familiar to anyone who’s dabbled with them before. For the start of My Team, you can now choose the level of competitiveness your new team will start at. Choosing between being a newcomer, challenger or front-running team will, in turn, set your opening resources and cash reserves. Some minor changes, like the introduction of sprint race qualifying for the rounds at Imola, Austria or Brazil, are a nice addition for those looking for full authenticity. Another nice change is the small improvements to practice session program presentation. A new AR overlay on the track now actively plays back your performance while you drive, allowing for simple analysis and learning from your previous efforts. Additionally, some new screens have been added to the pit monitor to help break down practice program results and stats in greater detail. This makes them much more useful tools for your own self-improvement and not just the earning of upgrade resource points.

F1 22: The Kotaku Australia Review
Screenshot: James Swinbanks, Kotaku Australia

Reliability issues

Unfortunately, on PC at least, my time with F1 22 hasn’t been all flashy overtakes and podium places. Constant technical issues have hampered the experience, from regular, inexplicable frame drops to intermittent performance hits. I’ve also run into an issue that keeps me from being able to play the game at all using my Fanatec sim racing hardware. For a series that ties itself closely to Fanatec as a hardware sponsor, such a hardware compatibility issue is just baffling.

In longer races, I would sometimes experience game slow down as the laps wore on. Though races would begin at a consistent 144FPS, they would drop down to around 40FPS after about twenty minutes of gameplay. With a system like mine (i9-9900KF, RTX 2080ti and 32GB RAM) I wouldn’t have expected such inconsistent performance. Given that longer races are what allows the more interesting elements of racing, like tyre strategy, to play out, having to be wary of such problems is a huge bummer. Turning off the more resource-intensive settings like ray-tracing helped alleviate performance issues somewhat, but it’s clear there’s still a little bit of work for Codemasters to do to get overall performance where it needs to be.

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Screenshot: James Swinbanks, Kotaku Australia

Final thoughts

F1 22 is a feature-packed racer that goes above and beyond to offer close, fast racing to as wide an audience of F1 fans as possible – no small feat. Not only does it have the latest F1 cars and circuits, but like previous games, it features the full Formula 2 season from 2021, the stylish and sleek new supercars, and a frankly incredible list of varying options and settings letting you customise the game to the nth degree, and more. While the current prevalence of performance and stability issues on PC is a legitimate concern, problems like this haven’t proven insurmountable to patch out before. For now, it’s worth keeping that in the back of your mind before slipping your money over the counter. But if the allure of current speedy race cars is too strong for you, despite its problems, there’s currently no better way to get your F1 racing fix.

F1 22 launches June 2, 2022 on PlayStation and Xbox platforms, and Windows PC via Steam and Origin.

Comments

  • Hey James, I haven’t played yet as I didn’t bother with the champ edition but the Fanatec issue apparently is happening with many other wheels as well. The fix seems to be to make sure that your wheel is not plugged into a USB hub and to plug your pedals into the wheelbase. I’ll be hopping onto my sim rig tomorrow night to give it a whirl on Steam.

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