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F1 22 review: an authentic thrill-ride

·4-min read
F1 22
F1 22

That the new regulations and next generation of F1 cars have caused some controversy at the halfway point of their first season is probably no surprise to any racing aficionados.

The heavier, big-wheeled, ground-sucking racers have created as many problems as they have solved, with ubiquitous bickering between teams and drivers the classic marker of split opinion. For Codemasters, the British studio which has been video game custodians of F1 since 2009, it poses quite the conundrum: how best to stay authentic to the sport, while retaining the white-knuckle thrills?

So here we have the idealistic version of F1’s grand vision, which straddles that line rather brilliantly. The handsome new motors are responsive and feel positively stuck to the tarmac, every bit of that groundforce felt under your control. But without any of the pesky ‘porpoising’ that has caused such consternation and put Lewis Hamilton’s back in such agony.

You can feel the weight here too, wrenching cars through chicanes and around low-speed hairpins. This might not be such good news for those that preferred the lithe cars that came before, but as a recreation of the sport as it is today and communicating every inch of the vehicle to your fingertips, the handling shift is a triumph. Opponent AI is smartly done too, pairing competitive aggression with allowance to the rules and etiquette.

F1 22
F1 22

The precision of the F1 cars is highlighted most by the appearance of road cars. The real-world Pirelli Hot Laps, which give a Grand Prix punter the chance to be thrown around the track at full pelt by an F1 driver, are represented here for the first time. So you get the chance to tease a Aston Martin DB11 or McLaren F1 around the tracks.

In comparison to the F1 cars, they are wild things which constantly feel on the verge of spinning out with a wrong twitch of the wheel. As a supercar simulator, F1 22 is obviously not going to trouble Gran Turismo 7 or Forza, but it makes for a neat palate-cleanser during your career and fine underlining of how differently the F1 cars behave.

That career is where F1 22 laps the competition. Having the license to the world’s foremost racing competition gives a head start, of course, but Codemasters ability to build a compelling campaign from the complex rules, mechanical minutiae and race-day bravura is very impressive. You can start out as a driver in Formula Two, impressing in the development leagues before signing up to an F1 team and challenging for the Driver’s Championship. Or build your own team from scratch. Either way you get to tinker with car settings, pour earned resource points into R&D and build out your strategies.

F1 22
F1 22

Codemasters even make Practice Rounds interesting, serving up notably tricky challenges which translate as data research for your team to analyse and help improve performance. A lot of this stuff is notably ‘video gamey’, but necessarily so in order to make the whole race weekend feel like an event, rather than just the Sunday face-off. I have lost hours just in practice, perfecting lap times before heading into qualification with a knowledge of the track. But the difference between empty track hot laps and the bustle of a race is pronounced. And everything is mercifully customisable, real F1 nerds can run through every race at full length –with great attention to pitstops– while more casual fans can pick and choose the races to make up the season and burn round in 5 laps and soft tyres.

It's a compelling main event and there are plenty of other modes to play around in, including online and splitscreen multiplayer (you can even have a two player career, joining the same or opposing teams). Less great is the new 'F1 Life', which is a thin excuse to try and extract cash from its players. You have your own apartment to furnish, supercars to collect and clothes to buy with the game's, sigh, 'Pitcoin'. Obnoxiously, it is the first thing F1 22 shows you and while there could be some merit in exploring the glamour of being an F1 driver –such as in last year's now absent story mode– this is utterly vacuous stuff.

But thankfully also completely ignorable past the introduction. And where it counts, F1 22 is right on track.

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