Porpoising from the comfort of your sofa.
In 2022 Formula One entered a new era with drastic changes made to regulations and cars with the aim of encouraging more entertaining racing, so it's fitting that its video game counterpart should undergo its own equally radical set of changes.
Last year UK based racing game studio Codemasters was acquired by EA in a deal worth somewhere in the region of $1.2 billion, this left many fans speculating on the future of franchises such as Grid and F1. For some it was cause for worry with EA's track record of microtransactions and perceived low effort approach to major sports franchises and new acquisitions. For others the worry was that the F1 games would just become open-wheeled Need For Speed. Thankfully, those doubts can be cast aside as EA and Codemasters have come together to put out the best Formula One game that we've seen for at least the last ten years.
First things first let's discuss the obvious, the driving. It would have been very easy for the studio to copy paste the driving mechanics from last year's game into this game, it would have killed immersion and smacked of pure laziness but it wouldn't have been at all surprising (which says a lot about the state of the gaming industry right now), but this couldn't be further from a simple copy if it tried. It might sound obvious to say that the cars in F1 22 drive exactly how they look in real life, but it's worth talking about nonetheless. This year the cars are slower and heavier which absolutely comes across in gameplay, these changes might not be for everyone but I think if you're a fan of realism these will be the changes that should sell the game to you. As a general rule the changed cars also make for much better racing, against the AI at least (no amount of vehicle changes will fix the absolutely criminal driving from open lobby players), you can now follow cars much more closely without spinning it into the gravel whenever you get withing a second of the car ahead. Overtaking needs to be much more thoughtful now as well, gone are the days of every overtake being a wild lunge up the inside, going wheel to wheel with the AI is so much easier to do and yet more rewarding. Adaptive AI has also been introduced this year meaning that F1 might now have the best AI any racing game has seen for years which is nice considering how subpar the AI has been in recent years with games such as Granturismo and Dirt.
Last year a big disappointment for fans was that tracks that had been updated in real life weren't adjusted in game to match, that's not the case this year. Australia and Abu-Dhabi have had chicanes removed to add to the general flow of the track, while curbs and walls have been adjusted on tracks such as the Baku street circuit. You would expect these changes but given the lack of change last year it is nice to see them present this time round. The presence of the Miami autodrome right from the offset is excellent especially with the fact that Imola, Portimao and Jeddah were relegated to post launch content last year. It would seem that this is a result of a bigger budget after the merger.
Time to talk about the biggest changes, F1 life and the introduction of supercars. What I will say to preface this is that I'm a huge fan of this addition, it's a very creative change and a great sign of things to come from the EA merger. F1 life sees you use your ingame credits to decorate your home and customise your character in a similar style to what we've seen in FIFA's the Journey and NBA 2K's mycareer. It's not a super prominent feature but it's a nice little addition to add a novel element to the otherwise fairly one dimensional career mode. Now, with that being said, the supercars aren't that good to drive at all. I had very low expectations since it's just sort of a gimmicky add on, so I wasn't disappointed at all (to be fair I do really enjoy them). They feel almost entirely weightless and there's a really jarring absence of any controller feedback meaning you feel entirely disconnected from them, which is odd considering that they've done such a good job of making you feel so in touch with the F1 and F2 cars. You have access to the Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro, Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, Ferrari Roma, Ferrari F8 Tributo, McLaren 720S, McLaren Artura, Aston Martin DB11 V12, Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition, and if you have the champions edition the two safety cars, which to be fair is a very nice selection of cars. It might be nice to see some cars come into the fold later on like an Alpine A110 or maybe an Alfa Romeo 8c, but I wouldn't be too bothered if we don't see that. It's also absolutely worth noting that F2 makes a return, so if you're someone who wants to work their way up through the classes in your career mode then you'll be happy.
Esseentially F1 22 is more of everything good from the previous Codemasters games with some extra trimmings. Whether this is the finished article, I couldn't say, it's very possible that we'll see additional cars and tracks added down the line, but if this is it then I'd be very confident in saying that F1 22 will go down as one of the best driving games in recent years.
In a Cloven Hoof first, why not enjoy some gameplay, below is a game capture from the PS5 version of F1 22 with the Ferrari F1-75 in a hot lap around the updated Melbourne track.
On the Cloven Hoof podcast we use the rating system of "Better or worse than Morbius?" rather than a number rating. While F1 22 isn't a film I will still use this system, so is F1 22 more enjoyable than watching Morbius? Yes.