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[REVIEW] F1 22 – Stays comfortably within the track limits

F1 is a bit of an underestimated sport. To the untrained, Formula 1 is nothing more than driving in circles for two hours straight. Hardly an athletic undertaking. But if Codemasters aims to do one thing for years on end, it’s showing the unbelievers that it is. The annual F1 series does a decent job of simulating the sport to a certain extent. But it has always seemed to”hold back” when it came to shaving off those last – ever so crucial – tenths of a second. With F1 22, Codemasters follows suit by delivering a great racing feel. But it once again won’t dream of crossing the track limits in risk of a penalty.

But can we really blame Codemasters for that? Hardly. The renowned racing game studio can only do so much in the time given. In that respect, this year must have been a doozy for the British devs. With regulations and car specs being massively different this season, F1 22 can’t really afford to be a carbon copy of the previous edition, something that I’ve often believed to be the case in previous installments. This time, Codemasters obviously had to spend its time implementing those impactful changes. And that shows in ways that some might find disappointing.

One of those ways is the single-player story mode, or rather the lack of it. Say of it what you want, but last year’s Braking Point did a good job making F1 2021 more than just an ordinary racing sim. Sure, the plot was corny as hell and overly dramatized, but it made the game super accessible to gamers who aren’t necessarily looking for the hard-core F1 sim experience. With F1 22, Codemasters hadn’t the time to flesh out another story-driven campaign. Instead, it stuck to a more conventional career mode. And that’s fine if there wasn’t this huge elephant (or in this case, car) in the room called F1 Life.

Because for some reason, Codemaster thought it would be swell to give the player an empty loft to customize. You know, a place to lean back after a hard race and practice your interior design skills. And while you’re at it, get a nice shirt or two so you look classy while you’re doing it. Yeah, I don’t know who’s responsible for that call, but I’m sure it’s someone who’s deep into EA’s monetization branch. Everything has a hefty PitCoin price tag on it and EA is very willing to sell those PitCoins to you. Then again, supercars – which can be put up for display but also driven – can only be unlocked with special tokens. Surprisingly enough, those can’t be bought. Go figure.

F1 22 F1 Life

But hey, who cares about F1 Life, am I right? So let’s forget about that and let’s talk about racing in F1 22. Because that’s where the F1 series earned its merit in the first place. Well, it might not come as a surprise anymore, but the racing is pretty solid. I mean, Codemasters knows how to convey the feel of the high-speed sport and has been doing so for years. Therefore, you’d expect it to be sphincter-tight this time around. And mostly it is. Keeping the regulation changes in mind, Codemasters did a great job of replicating the new F1 track feel. Downforce feels considerably lower, especially in the slower corners, which drastically impacts the grip level. But hey, if seasoned F1 drivers can get used to it, so can a seasoned F1 connaisseur like you.

Because if there’s one thing that stands out in a less positive way, it’s the audience F1 22 is clearly targeting. Codemasters and EA mentioned making F1 accessible to newcomers and veterans alike. And that isn’t a complete lie, but they might have been able to do a slightly better job at that. Admittedly, making players choose between a fully orchestrated Broadcast Mode and a full hands-on Driver Mode (which lets you take the reins during the Formation Lap and pitstops) is a wonderful way to separate the men from the boys. But F1 22’s lack of automated skill tracking is – quite frankly – disappointing.

In that way, F1 22 pretty much makes you figure things out on your own. After choosing your preferred skill level and the desired assists that come with it, F1 22 doesn’t even try to match the experience to your gradually acquired skill. If things are getting a little too easy because you’re finally getting comfortable in your car, it’s you that needs to go into the menus to tweak the skill settings. The same goes for the A.I. of the other drivers, which were supposed to get a massive overhaul. Even while they’re not terrible – I mean, Grosjean and Mazepin are out – some of them have no issues with driving straight into your sidepods, even if it was definitely your corner. “He just came out of nowhere! I totally didn’t see him!” Riiiiight… you would if you would’ve kept your eyes on the track, Lance.

F1 22 screenshot

And why shouldn’t you, because the track and everything on it is also the area where F1 22 excels graphically. As always, the cars look absolutely amazing and every little detail seems to be there. The tracks themselves – even the brand new, super claustrophobic Miami track – are mesmerizing, especially when the weather turns. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for everything outside of the white track limit lines. Trees appear to consist of a handful of polygons and spectators are just mannequins. On track, it’s all good. Outside of it, it’s pretty meh.

And to some extent, that’s somewhat understandable. Codemasters has to cut corners to make the game playable for everyone, even if you’re playing F1 22 on a slightly older PC. Even if you’re rocking an Intel Core i3-2130, NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti equipped gaming PC, you’ll be able to run the game, be it with questionable performance. A vastly superior CPU and an RTX 2060 are highly recommended though since ray tracing and DLSS are quite the game- and frame changers. Then again, even an RTX 3090 won’t change the sub-par environmental effects and the sometimes awkward driver models.

All things added up, F1 22 forms another solid entry in the F1 series. But there’s no denying that weird choices were made in the development process. Understandably, the focus needed to be kept on implementing new F1 regulations and the vastly different vehicle specs, but it’s kinda baffling to see that time was spent on an utterly forgettable F1 Life mode when that time could have been spent elsewhere. On developing a better adapting skill system, for example. Or slightly less static spectators. Just a thought. It’s a good thing that the handling, on-track visuals, and sound effects are so incredibly soothing though. Especially in VR. But that’s a thing worth talking about in a dedicated review.

Still the champion (in a one-man race)
The checkered flags
Codemasters still "masters" the art of F1 simulating
On-track everything looks, sounds, and feels incredible
Car and regulation changes are well implemented
Lots of modes to choose from, just so story-driven campaign this time
The double-yellows
What is up with F1 Life (no... really)?
So much for automated skill leveling
A.I. can still be a pain in the sidepods
Outside of the track, graphics can be majorly underwhelming
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