In some ways, F1 22 feels like quite a different game compared to its predecessor, though that's not a huge surprise. The current season brought with it some serious regulation changes, not to mention a drastically altered car model, so Codemasters had its work cut out in order to echo all that in this year's racing sim. On the whole, it's done a great job, presenting fans with yet another frenetic F1 experience.
First impressions are strong: you can tell the budget's gone up a smidge thanks to EA, with slick presentation that now includes licensed music throughout the menus. You can disable this if you want, but it does give the off-track game a little more flavour, which is appreciated. You're also immediately shown F1 Life, one of the big, back-of-the-box new features. It's a flashy hub that gives the home menu a bit more flair, and you can customise it to suit your tastes. You can dress your driver in casual and race wear outfits, alter the look of your abode, and unlock and then display supercars.
It's a decent idea, but feels a little lacking. Customisation options are relatively slim; you can visit other players' F1 Life areas, but they'll all look basically the same. We didn't get attached to our hub at all; we only really used it in order to drive our unlocked supercars. As you progress in the game, you'll be given tokens which can be exchanged for your choice of supercars. These can then be put on display and taken out on track in either time trials or Pirelli Hot Laps, which we'll get to in a bit.
It's quite a novelty to drive these supercars around the F1 circuits. The handling model in these games is of course specific to those open-wheel monsters, so naturally, these road-legal vehicles feel vastly different to drive. Even though you're still travelling at high speeds, they provide a nice change of pace from the breakneck intensity of F1 races, and are especially welcome during the course of career mode.
Both Driver Career and My Team return, and they remain just as in-depth as you expect. Whether you replace one of the real drivers and join an established constructor, or you join the pack with your very own team, the career modes are the real meat of the game, letting you get into the nitty-gritty. All 22 official rounds are included, but you can also get into choosing upgrades for your car, hiring your second driver, managing budgets, and much more.
Pirelli Hot Laps will appear at certain times throughout a season, letting you take to the track in a supercar to tackle a challenge. You might need to race another driver, achieve the highest average speed in a sector, or beat a time while passing through gates — there are a handful of objectives to master, and you can play them during your career or separately.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about F1 22 is its flexibility. Whatever experience you want from it, you're given a lot of room to bend the game to your liking. It's not like you can turn it into Mario Kart, but the sheer amount of options you have is very welcome, allowing newer fans to enjoy the game just as much as the most dedicated F1 followers. This applies to the handling as well as race weekends; you can shorten things to one-shot qualifying and a five-lap race, or go the whole hog. You can participate in events like pit stops and safety car incidents, or you can have these presented to you broadcast style and concentrate on the real action. It's impressively easy-going. The lack of a story mode is a shame, as it's a great starting point for casual players, although it's reportedly coming back next year.
The F1 car's handling in general does feel different from 2021, and it should. With chunkier wheels, adjusted wings, and altered body design, among others things, the cars are heavier and more prone to understeer. Compared to the previous game, getting around a circuit — especially more technical tracks like Monaco and Azerbaijan — feels slower to us, because there's more a sense of wrestling for control. Having said that, F1 22 is still ultra-fast, highly intense racing that feels incredibly rewarding when you thread the needle just right.
Out on the track, the game looks excellent, with good car models and track detail. Unfortunately, when you're not behind the wheel, the visuals start to falter. Human NPCs are behind the curve, and sequences like the podium scene or opening shots of a circuit are prone to screen tearing, and they have a reduced frame rate — a bit jarring when you've been driving at a flawless 60 frames-per-second. We also had to endure one or two game crashes, and spotted a handful of unusual visual glitches, although this was prior to any day-one patches. It can feel a bit sloppy, in other words; the focus is on the cars and the racing, as it should be, but it can feel like the remainder of the game isn't given the same attention.
Overall, F1 22 is another high quality simulation of the motorsport, with great handling and detailed, engrossing career modes. While the presentation is strong and the game generally looks and sounds great, some aspects like character models just aren't quite where they should be, and F1 Life doesn't add all that much to the experience. We encountered more bugs than expected, too, although we expect patches will iron those out in due course. It's got it where it really counts, then, but some extra polish would put it higher on the grid.