Earlier in July saw the release of F1 22the latest installment in the official Formula 1 racing game franchise. Unlike years past, a lot has changed in the year since F1 2021: radical new technical rules mean the cars are very different from those we have seen for several decades, several tracks have been revised, new tracks have been added and the race format now includes the occasional shorter sprint race alongside to the main characteristic of the race. All this is faithfully reflected in F1 22and for some hardcore F1 fans, that will be enough to get a copy.
For everyone else, I’m not so sure. Part of that is down to the game itself. For the first time since EA Sports bought the Codemasters studio at the end of 2020, we see the influence of the behemoth game publisher at work, and it is not particularly positive. For example, the frequency of urgings to spend XP or buy microtransactions will likely be enough for most Ars readers to dislike. F1 22.
But my frustration isn’t just with the game itself – at its heart are still wonderful physics that translate into engaging handling, whether with a wheel or a controller. No, these are the new F1 cars, which are bigger and heavier than they’ve ever been, and, frankly, a bit of a drag to drive.
Now riding on 18-inch wheels, the tires have shorter, stiffer sidewalls, and the suspension designs are far less complex than before. Adhesion is limited; therefore, the front tires don’t like being asked to do two things at once, like braking and turn – best to slow down in a straight line before approaching this turn. The rear tires will also happily break traction in the lower gears, sending you into a spin unless you’re extremely progressive on the throttle (or the traction control is on max).
This was all predicted ahead of the 2022 F1 season, so Codemasters have done a faithful job of recreating the new machines digitally for our entertainment. I don’t think the in-game cars suffer from the same porpoising that affected the real ones this year. But the aerodynamic phenomenon is very difficult to simulate, as we can see by the fact that none of the teams that encountered the problem detected it during their own extensive computational fluid dynamics simulations when designing their cars.
I have less positive things to say about the addition of supercars. Based on the fast supercar laps offered to VIPs at an F1 race, they add nothing to the experience. In particular, the handling and feedback you get from supercars in the game is far from anything like Gran Turismo 7. They’re slow to respond, and it’s annoying to have to complete them between two F1 drivers.
You can still manage your own F1 team or play in one of 10 real teams, but this year doesn’t see the return of story mode or Devon Butler, the fictional F1 driver we all love to hate. As before, if you want to develop your car throughout the season, there’s a big advantage to going to all the practice sessions to test things out with your engineers. But it has been slightly stripped of years gone by. In particular, the track acclimatization test program lacks action, making it more difficult for players to learn new tracks, or for new players to learn any of the tracks, without relying on driving line assistance. Spending hours then makes it doubly frustrating when all your R&D fails and upgrades need to be re-developed.
It’s all a shame. The game looks great on the PS5 in cutscenes, transitions, and gameplay, and as already mentioned there’s a damn good game engine under the hood, something that’s easily noticeable in slower F2 cars. But as you turn off the assists and increase the realism, the main event starts to feel more and more like a chore, and for someone with limited time to play, it’s a real stalemate. (Unlike bus drivers, F1 drivers are well paid, so don’t feel sorry for them having tough jobs.)
- Always brilliant physique
- Looks good, especially on the PS5
- F2 cars are fun to drive
- 2022-spec F1 cars are hogs to drive
- Urges to buy XP microtransactions
- Adding supercars, which are even worse to drive than 2022’s F1 cars, adds nothing to the game
The ugly one:
- It’s starting to look more like an EA game than a Codemasters game
Verdict: Skip, unless you are a hardcore F1 fan.
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