The second year of F1 under new management brings some gameplay changes, tracks restructuring, cool new immersive features like VR, pit stop errors and formation laps, with some questionable additions like Supercars.
Right from the start, the game's focus is evident: F1 culture and casual fan approach compared to previous Codemasters editions. That is noticeable in the gameplay, as well as promotion and in-game positioning of certain modes. So let's dive into it.
Focus shift to casual players
A couple of months ago, F1 2020 was free on PS Store, and one of my friends tried it out the first time. He hated it and stopped playing after a couple of attempts, as the game was too hard for an absolute beginner, and he didn't follow the sport that much to push through it. It made me remember my first days of playing F1 2013 when I almost gave up during the tutorial that used to be a part of the game.
You had to complete several checkpoints in time to complete the tutorial, and it took me almost half an hour, as the game was different from any other racing game I ever played. I got lapped in the 25% race by half the grid, but I loved the game. And ever since then, I put hours and hours into every F1 game that was released since, getting better in the process.
This steep learning curve, for better or for worse, was the game's trademark for years. But starting with the last year's edition, and continuing with this, that curve has been reduced significantly. Netflix's Drive to Survive, among other things, has lored millions of new fans to the sport.
Just as the sport changed over the past couple of years, acclimatizing itself for the new, younger audience, so did the F1 game.
And that is very evident in this year's edition. The car is much easier to control from the start, and you can pull quality laps even without custom setups. A first-time player can enter the car, and drive a solid lap right from the start. And I don't consider that a bad thing. There is no reason to turn off the new players like my friend right from the start. Everyone should be able to enjoy this game, and the game should have enough depth to satisfy both types of fans: hardcore ones and the casuals.
And from what I played, with assists turned off, the game still has a lot to offer to players searching for tenths to improve the lap time. It has not been dumbed down or simplified, and I value that. And although I am skeptical about the lifestyle focus, the core of the game is still there, and it is good as it ever was.
As for the gameplay, there aren't many groundbreaking changes. If you've driven the F1 2021, you should adjust to the game easily. The car is a bit heavier and wider as it follows F1 2022 car design.
Acceleration is one of the things that seemed to have improved, as you now really feel that slow in - fast out approach. The car doesn't seem to drag out the corner but you can actually feel how it rockets out of the well-entered corner.
The biggest difference is the tire behavior and handling as announced. The handling feels vastly different both on fresh tires and worn out. You will not only feel losing the grip but also turning, crossing the curbs is felt differently this year and gives the player a more nuanced feeling of his tire wear.
The A.I. seemed a bit more aggressive than the last year. We had a couple of interesting duels with the A.I. opponents, even on tracks that don't favor takeovers like Monaco. They are still masters of avoiding contact, and you will crash into them more likely than another way around. The two teams, Ferrari and Red Bull seemed to be in their league in terms of driving, just as the case was the last edition with RB and Mercedes.
There is no famous proposing effect.
Compared to the last year's edition, curbs are much more forgiving, and you can actually touch a curb on tracks like Catalunya or Suzuka without spinning. I would consider that a positive change, as those tracks, in particular, were no fun to drive last year.
The game had many "cosmetic changes" added to bring the full-immersive experience to the user. You can now drive the full formation lap and park the car yourself, there are pit stop errors and semi-manual pitstops. The sprints have been added to the game as well, but just like the real Sprints, they don't offer anything different and seem like regular races just shorter. (plus I got the achievement of winning my first race after winning Sprint)
F1 22 features no story like Braking point, as they announced the story will continue next year as they need two years to properly develop a story. Careers and online didn't have any major changes.
Ever since they were announced, supercars have been a topic where fans have voiced their disappointment the most, and we assume that will continue after the game's release as well. The first problem is that they don't have a natural connection to the game except some drivers own them and drive them. But that wouldn't matter, and people wouldn't complain if it was just an addition to the game.
But it replaced classic F1 cars - and that decision speaks volumes. They replaced something that should innately be a part of the game, with something superficial as Supercars. But we kept our minds open when we tested them out, and when we played Pirelli hot laps.
But it didn't impress us. The driving felt very stiff like you're driving a truck. And even though you are reaching impressive speed, you have no sense of actually going fast. It felt like controlling a block of metal, that couldn't steer properly even at low speeds. And even though driving the supercars on the iconic tracks like Spa and Monaco does seem interesting, with current car physics it just wasn't enjoyable and worth the time.
It felt like a different driving game, that is still in the making.
As for the Pirreli Hot laps, there are five modes: Drift, Autocross, Rival duel, Average speed zone, and Checkpoint Challenge.
The most interesting mode for us was the Rival duel. You have 3 short races/sectors where you drive against the A.I., but the catch is in your starting position: starting equal, starting in front, and starting behind, and how many of those you turn to victories decides your final result. The A.I. didn't seem aggressive, and there seem to be no rules, so we were able to finish first Crash Bash style.
Autocross was another mode that seemed engaging. You drive a short distance between cones, and have to finish below a certain time Hitting the cone adds 5 seconds to your time while missing the gate adds 10. This mode took most of our time because it was more difficult than a Rival duel and more interesting than the rest
Checkpoint challenge is the same-old mode, just like j. On some tracks, it's more interesting than on the other, but as Supercars aren't as fun to drive as earlier Classic F1 cars, so the mode wasn't that engaging as well. Similar goes for the Average speed zone mode.
The last mode, the drift, was a total miss for us. The drift just doesn't seem natural and feels heavily controlled and induced by the game, and it gave us no enjoyment whatsoever.
Autocross and the Rival duel modes lack track length and could be more interesting that way. But overall, as driving Supercars wasn't enjoyable at its core, so didn't the Pirelli Hot laps, and we continued playing them just for the stars. The mode has a future but there needs to be an improvement on the gameplay driving side as this is just not enjoyable at the moment, and it seems like an uncooked game.
Graphics and audio
Graphics and sound departments in F1 rarely disappoint, and the same goes for this year as well.
Overall graphics experience is mesmerizing, and although we were unable to test it in VR, the racing experience on every track is as immersive as it gets. Some of the tracks were laser scanned, and tracks like Abu Dhabi, Spain, and Australia have been remodeled to feature new track changes.
Ray tracing has been improved and better optimized.
As for the sound, the biggest difference is the change of eternal race engineer Jeff who has been a part of F1 games since F1 2015. He is replaced by Marc Priestley, who used to be a Chief Engineer for McLaren. And although it is refreshing to hear a new voice during the race, it is noticeable that the dialog core has not changed significantly as you will hear Marc repeating old Jeff lines most of the time.
You will hear new lines from time to time, but the majority of the lines stayed the same, so we will have to wait another year for a full race engineer overhaul.
Car engine sounds were improved a bit as well, with gear shifting more noticeable than before.
F1 22 is a very good game, and fans of the game should enjoy it as well as previous editions. It has enough changes to avoid yearly FIFA talk about it being the same game but keeping the core to easily allow older players to adapt to the new game.
It is aesthetically gorgeous as always and will continue to be the benchmark test for future graphics cards.
The EA didn't go full EA with hiding tracks and drivers behind the paywall, and we hope they don't go full Star Wars EA by providing players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different tracks and drivers.