There’s been plenty of change in Formula One this year, with new technical regulations leading to nicer-looking cars that can race more closely with each other.
And while there’s been plenty of hubbub centring around the unforeseen problem with ‘porpoising’ – aerodynamic stall-induced bouncing – the transition between each iteration of the sport’s gaming series is often much smoother.
F1 22 – this year’s officially licensed Formula One game, which has been developed by Codemasters and published by EA Sports – will no doubt be aiming to build on the success of last year’s title.
So, what’s been introduced this time around? And is this an essential pickup for F1 fans?
We’ve been in the cockpit testing in order to find out.
Whatever you might think about the F1 Life mode – and veteran franchise enthusiasts may well feel it sullies the game’s purity – F1 22 nevertheless has the technical rigour and design panache to retain its place as the best mainstream racing game out there.
It straddles the tricky line between accommodating those with minimal driving skills and operating as a near-simulation more impressively than ever, and replicates the difference in feel provided by this year’s radically redesigned cars brilliantly.
For that reason alone, it feels like a pretty essential iteration of the annual franchise – and a great pickup for anybody looking for a driving game on PlayStation or Xbox.
Codemasters has had to put in some unseen under-the-bonnet work with this year’s game. Due to this year’s F1 cars using larger (and heavier) wheels and lower-profile tyres, the developer had to create an entirely new tyre model, which is a key aspect of any driving game.
The good news is that Codemasters appears to have made light of that particular major undertaking; F1 22’s cars feel exactly how you would expect them to. Although noticeably heavier than last year’s cars, they boast more mechanical grip and don’t start understeering wildly when you enter the slipstream of a car in front.
Codemasters, as is its wont, has made a raft of tweaks and minor improvements to this year’s game, but there is one glaring omission – there’s no equivalent to Braking Point, the story mode that featured in last year’s game.
Codemasters explained that it takes two years to make a proper story mode, so we can expect one to return next year. And fun though Braking Point was, you don’t really miss it. F1 22’s Career Mode gives you the choice of starting in the F2 feeder series, or as a Formula One driver joining the team of your choice (with expectations adjusted according to that team’s status).
In addition, the My Team mode, which adds an element of team management by letting you take on the dual roles of team owner and driver, has been cleverly refined by letting you choose between three entry points. You can be a Newcomer, in which you build up a team from scratch, a Challenger, in which you take over a team established in the midfield, and the self-explanatory Front Runner.
With Career Mode charting up to ten seasons, plus myriad Challenges and Time Trials, there’s a huge amount of meat to F1 22, even without a story mode.
One addition to the game may prove somewhat controversial, at least among older, seasoned Formula One fans. A new mode – F1 Life – is supposed to give you a vicarious taste of the ridiculously bling lifestyle that any self-respecting F1 driver should enjoy.
It gives you a flash apartment, in which you can house an ever-growing collection of supercars, and you can kit out your apartment with furniture and knick-knacks, accessorise your driver avatar with virtual clothes, caps, sunglasses and the like made by real brands.
F1 Life also operates as a lobby for F1 22’s online side, which gives it a modicum of justification, but it feels exactly like the sort of cynical exercise in generating extra revenue streams that many predicted would result from Electronic Arts’ 2021 purchase of Codemasters.