F1 22 review – a triumph on the track

F1 22, Codemasters’ latest addition to the Formula One racing game series, is a treat for fans of the sport, but F1 Life fails to live up to the same standards

F1 22 Review: An arieal shot of a Red Bull car on Monaco

The first thing I want to say with this review is this: if you’re a Formula One fan, you need to play F1 22 – it really is that simple. Codemasters’ latest addition to this iconic racing game series is an excellent one; the veteran developer has built on the strong foundations of F1 2021 to create an even better game for fans of the world’s fastest motorsport. With a host of new features that add depth and immersion to the on-track experience, there’s so much to enjoy when you’re sitting in the cockpit of a F1 car. Sadly, outside of that, Codemasters’ attempts at building on the game’s off-track experience with F1 Life fall flat – and at times, feel like a wholly unnecessary addition to what is otherwise an excellent game.

So, let’s kick things off by talking about F1 Life. While not necessarily a bad addition to F1 22, it comes across as a hollow experience that doesn’t actually introduce anything of substance to the game. Taking a moment to create your player driver and customise the livery of your car is one thing, but decorating a high-end living space you’re only going to see when you’re in the main menu and (on occasion) in a multiplayer lobby just feels like a waste of time.

Something that unfortunately reinforces this sentiment is the fact that, in this early stage of the game’s lifetime, everyone’s F1 Life driver avatar is wearing almost the same thing – that and everyone’s F1 Life driver location look similar-enough at a glance that it’s hard to discern who’s taken the time to customise theirs and who hasn’t.

You can’t actually design your F1 Life location; I think that’s what is letting this down somewhat. You can choose which sofa your driver will sit on while waiting for a race to start, the wall art behind them, and even the type of flooring, but the layout is always the same. So, it’s similar enough that it doesn’t really feel as personal as it should.

F1 Life is a far cry from what you would expect in 2022 from a triple-A studio with EA’s backing

Still, I did have a play around with the mode for a while and after spending some time exploring the options on offer in F1 Life, I was left with the feeling that this was something of a filler activity Codemasters is using to mask the fact that it actually hasn’t done a lot to update the driver customisation feature from F1 2021. Sure, there are a handful of new options when it comes to choosing a pre-set appearance for your driver, but it’s a far cry from what you would expect in 2022 from a triple-A studio with EA’s backing. You just need to look at what EA has done with FIFA 22’s player creator to see what an improvement would look like.

However disappointing F1 Life is, it’s ultimately just a selection of cosmetic options that don’t actually impact the core gameplay experience. Much like the professional drivers you’ll be wheel to wheel with into turn one, F1 22 does its talking on the track – the race weekend experience is where this game shines.

F1 22 Review: An image of an F1 Life scene with people sitting on a sofa

With improved free practice programs, expanded car set-up options, and an updated R&D system (for those of you tackling a MyTeam career mode), F1 22 is offering players a much deeper race weekend experience than before. It’s never felt more important to know the track layouts, explore the limitations of your car, and adjust your settings to suit your driving style. It’s perfect for F1 fans who want to get stuck into the details without necessarily committing fully to hardcore sim racing (or the upcoming, extremely in-depth management sim from Frontier Developments, F1 Manager 2022).

The race weekend experience is where this game shines

Alongside more stuff to play around with for serious fans, Codemasters has also once again catered to the more casual F1 fan with a number of assists and options you can use to tailor the whole experience to suit your needs. I opted for a middling selection of assists, with a full 3D racing line enabled and medium traction control.

Once I got my head around adjusting to how the cars drive in F1 22 compared to in F1 2021, and how to stop losing the back end on every corner exit, I found everything to be a wholly rewarding experience – and that’s just doing laps in free practice. The same can’t be said for using the newly-added supercars to tackle F1 22’s Pirelli Hot Laps challenges, though.

These cars are always going to feel sluggish in comparison to a Formula One car, but they also feel as though they lack any kind of traction, making them unpredictable at the best of times. To put it plainly, they are not as fun as you’d expect – which is a shame. However, when you sit down to start a full Grand Prix race, that’s where you can have a lot of fun.

F1 22 Review: An image of an interactive pit stop in-game

In F1 22, Codemasters has introduced new Immersive and Broadcast options for Pit Stops, Safety Car periods, and Formation Laps. If you’re looking for a more interactive experience, you can find that with Immersive options – something that gives you more control than ever before over every aspect of a race day. However, if you’re looking for a more cinematic experience, you can opt for Broadcast settings. This doesn’t just automate the aforementioned moments, it also lets you watch the action from a camera angle designed to replicate what you’d see on TV. I can’t say that one is better than the other, but they both add to the experience in different ways and you should certainly try both.

These options aren’t the only thing that has helped Codemasters to deliver one of the most authentic Formula One game experiences to date. The updated vehicle handling and the way your car reacts with the track it’s on shouldn’t be overlooked – however much you expect things to improve from F1 2021.

One of the most authentic Formula One game experiences to date

F1 22’s realistic surface settings are both a blessing and a curse – especially with the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback on PS5. They introduce another layer of realism bolstered by the improved “bottoming-out” you can experience on high kerbs and at high speeds. However, it also makes traction control an absolute nightmare, especially in the wet (and if you’re not as good at F1 racing games like me). It’s a fun challenge to overcome, but it’s also important to know when to admit defeat and toggle your assists in F1 22. There’s no point struggling when you can toggle all of these settings, meaning they’re not permanent obstacles.

But, this authenticity is what F1 22 does well as a whole – both with the gameplay and beyond that. With new background audio featuring Crofty’s iconic commentary on start-up and during a race weekend, a dedicated EA playlist of electronic and dance music, and a brand new race engineer, the atmosphere created by F1 22 rivals the real thing. And, that just makes you want to play it more – even if you’re struggling to get your car around Monaco in one piece.

New features make a huge difference in pulling you into the fantasy of being a Formula One driver

If you’re someone who’s more interested in the online multiplayer side of F1 22, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s all just as good as it was in F1 2021. In fact, I didn’t think much had changes at all – bar the fact that you can look around an F1 Life location while in the lobby. Everything that makes the game’s single-player racing as authentic and enjoyable as it is can be experienced in an online race, too. There’s options for beginners where collisions are turned off and the races are shorter, and there’s an experienced option where the races are longer and collissions, importantly, are enbaled. Much like any racing game, the online race is only as good as everyone you’re playing with. There are times where six cars will retire before the second corner and times where you’ll complete a clean race – it’s an unavoidable part of racing online. Thankfully, you can create custom lobbies and participate in ranked tournaments, if you’re looking to go wheel-to-wheel with a grid taking things a little more seriously.

You don’t need to be the best at racing games to enjoy F1 22, but Codemasters has made sure to create a title that caters to those invested in the sport as much as those who enjoy the occasional race. However, the developer’s attempt at delivering the glitz and glamour of a lavish Formula One driver lifestyle through F1 Life feels flat, and isn’t able to mask the fact that actual driver customisation is still lacking.

F1 22 is, so far, an excellent racing game, but there’s still room for improvement when it comes to capturing the sport as a whole. Once we’ve delved deeper into the online features of F1 22, we’ll update this review with that all important score.

F1 22 (PS5)

F1 22 is the most authentic Formula One racing game experience to date - when it comes to being on-track. Codemasters' newest major feature, F1 Life, is overshadowed by the smaller improvements to gameplay that make this game great.

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