As with nearly all licensed sports game franchises, Codemasters’ Formula 1 series get another annual update. After a few years of testing their games on console systems, we’re now giving F1 22 a test drive on a PC – here’s our review.
When Codemasters joined EA, we didn’t expect a lot to change in their approach to racing games, but F1 22 does feature one major innovation that makes a huge difference – though it won’t impact the entire player base. We’re talking about the inclusion of a virtual reality mode, which is fantastic but currently limited to the PC build of the game. And unless PSVR2 arrives sooner than we think or Xbox starts supporting PC-based headsets, we don’t think that will change any time soon.
So it’s a “limited audience” experience, in more ways than one. You’ll need a decent PC gaming rig to run the game in its default (flat screen) mode, and a slightly beefier one to play at good frame rates in VR. You’ll obviously also need a headset, though we had a great time with a Quest 2 once we got it to work. For best results with a Quest, try running with a physical cable connected to the headset rather than wirelessly.
Once you step into the VR world of F1 22, it’s a transformative experience, and one that goes beyond just a simple first person perspective of the action. Because of the sense of scale and sense of depth that VR delivers, as well as the free control of your head, racing becomes an entirely different beast than it is on a TV screen. More immersive, sure, but also more challenging. Once strapped into the cockpit, it’s striking to see how little overview you actually have. Your rear wing blocks part of your rear view mirror, cars in front of you severely inhibit your chance to look ahead unless you’re in a corner, and there’s a scary blind spot during overtaking – for the latter, we recommend a good headset to be able to tell when and where someone’s coming from.
“Sense” is a great word to describe F1 22 in VR – with such a limited view of the action, you have to really sense your surroundings and quick glances and good listening are keys to that. You’ll also experience a much greater sense of speed this way, which is an eye-opening experience to longtime fans. It’s also a bit of a sensory overload though, as you constantly have to be on edge, making this an intense way to play that’s probably a bit too much if you’re planning on doing a big chunk of the season in a single session.
Outside of VR support, which was our main reason for going with the PC version this year, the changes are more incremental. Cosmetically, both cars and drivers look more realistic than ever before, with improved lighting effects and more customization options for your avatar – in case you’re into clothes and accessories. Pit crews look remarkably uniform in comparison though, so that’s an area of improvement for next year. In terms of audio, there’s been subtle improvements to the commentary, and we believe there are more ambient sounds around the track as well, making it more realistic and immersive.
Content-wise, the inclusion of eight supercars (or ten in the Championship Edition) is perhaps more interesting if your main interest is being behind the wheel, letting you steer a very different selection of cars around the track and try a few challenges for a nice diversion. It’s unlikely to become a go-to way to play because franchises like Forza, Project Cars and Gran Turismo are much more focused on this aspect, but a nice new addition nonetheless.
Existing options like My Team have been somewhat expanded, but have the same feel to them as last year’s edition. Extremely solid and highly customizable for replay value, but perhaps not different enough for the more casual racers out there. Sim enthusiasts will be pleased though, as the driving model seems more accurate and sensitive than before, adding more realism to those who want it while giving others the chance to dial down the challenge if they want to.
If you prefer a more arcade-like experience, you can go with the game’s “casual” style, which also allows you to easily catch up again after a mistake or two. Prefer more realism? You can even make it so that the temperature of your tyres affects their performance, forcing you to adapt your racing style. Some odd AI behavior can break the immersion at times, but if that gets improved post-launch then F1 22 can be played like a proper sim.
How interesting F1 22 is going to be for you will depend largely on how you plan on playing it. Casual racers will lament the lack of significant changes, but sim fans will embrace the most realistic version of the game thus far. That’s especially true if they plan on playing in VR, though the entry barrier for that is fairly high unless you already have a powerful gaming rig available to you.