F1 22 marks the beginning of a new era for Codemasters’ Formula 1 series as the first F1 game developed under Electronic Arts. Immediately you can feel changes made to the F1 formula, with even the menus taking on a new edge.
The biggest example of this new direction is the addition of F1 Life, which introduces the idea of living the lifestyle of a multi-millionaire Formula 1 driver. You can buy supercars, show them off, customize your appearance with branded clothing, and display your trophies. In other words, it’s everything I hate about modern AAA games. Luckily, F1 22‘s core mechanics still shine through.
The driving force
F1 Life is essentially an idea lifted straight out of Test Drive Unlimited but made worse in every way. I don’t care what drivers look like, and the supercars feature feels like a gimmick at best. You can’t even drive them online, and the accompanying Pirelli Hot Laps game mode’s implementation isn’t even worth talking about. It consists of five generic drills repeated over and over, and none of them are particularly fun.
The supercars themselves do drive fairly well, though. It’s no Forza Motorsport by any means, but they are fun in their own right. It’s unfortunate that how they drive doesn’t matter because there’s so little to do with them. The whole F1 Life section feels like a desperate attempt to appeal to a generation of younger gamers that simply aren’t understood. This is a Formula 1 game that doesn’t even stick to Formula 1. I’m not against the idea of expanding the franchise’s reach, but do so by adding legacy tracks, bringing back classic F1 cars, and introducing new game modes — not by letting me buy a Puma jacket for $2.
On the track
The good news is that once you get past all that and into the racing, things start to improve. I can say with confidence that F1 22 has the best driving mechanics the series has seen in some time. Last year’s installment had numerous issues, from the overly punishing curbs to its questionable handling model. Considering that these are supposed to be the grippiest cars on the planet, they were massively lacking in downforce in F1 2021.
F1 22 amends these issues with curbs now acting as expected. They still punish you if you ride them in their entirety, but clipping them for a more aggressive and faster racing line is usually fine. Plus, the handling model as a whole is much more manageable. This year’s cars are planted, which lets you push hard and attempt maneuvers that weren’t viable last year.
The AI seems to deal with wheel-to-wheel racing better, too, with it being more aggressive than ever before. This helps make it feel more human and realistic. Considering that the racing makes up the majority of gameplay, these innovations help neutralize the damage dealt by new decisions.
As for new mechanics, F1 22 introduces two: sprint races and manual pitstops. Like in real life, sprint races are shortened events that take place before the main race. They decide the starting grid for the main race in place of traditional qualifying. They’re implementation into F1 22 is good, and helps change up certain venues to make them more exciting.
Manual pitstops have been a heavily requested addition to Formula 1 for some time. Even so, I can’t imagine F1 22‘s version is what fans had in mind. Effectively, all this mechanic involves is pressing a button at the right time to turn your car into your team’s pit. It’s a far cry from real manual pitting that is sadly absent in most modern racing games. Isn’t it crazy to think that the F1 games of the 2000s had more interesting pit mechanics than the supposed state-of-the-art games coming out today? Regardless, it is better than nothing, but I’d be lying if I called it a game-changer.
No story to tell
F1 22 doesn’t have a story mode or any other equivalent this year, so I hope you didn’t enjoy the Braking Point mode. Codemasters has hinted that it will return in future installments, but that doesn’t do much for players right now. Plus, it’s not as though F1 22 is any cheaper due to its lack of a story mode. The game comes with the usual $59.99 USD price tag attached.
Of course, you can resort to MyTeam to fill the void, and it has received some improvements. There are a good amount of new customization options to help make your team feel more authentic. You still can’t import custom images, but the increased variety is nice. Also, you can now freely pick what level your team will be at from the start. Your team can either begin as a newcomer, midfield challenger, or championship contender. Once again, this is a nice touch that lets you play how you want.
Otherwise, changes to MyTeam and the other game modes are largely superficial. In the case of driver career and co-op career, they are entirely untouched. I was hoping to see the co-op career expanded to support more players, so this is disappointing. Although it still remains the most fun game mode available. There’s just something wonderful about teaming up with a friend to take a team from the bottom to the top. It would have been fun to experience that with more people.
F1 22 pulls through
Frankly, I think most of the newer inclusions in F1 22 have been poor. This year’s installment makes blatant yet weak attempts to appeal to casual gamers while ignoring the core fanbase that has supported the series up until now. F1 22 feels like the most corporate entry in the series to date, with the introduction of F1 Life being especially out of touch.
Despite all of that, the game somehow manages to pull through. The improvements made to the racing experience, with the cars being more fun to drive and the CPUs putting up a real fight, make a big difference. That’s the tale that is F1 22: every second spent on the track brings with it exciting wheel-to-wheel action and excellent racing. Yet every second spent off the track is a sad reminder of F1 22‘s widespread lack of innovation.