The naming convention changing for the Formula 1 release this year isn’t the most visual sign that this will be the first proper official F1 title to be released since EA acquired Codemasters.
While the acquisition took place before last year’s release, this year’s F1 22 is the first to have real EA influence and it showed during the preview presentation led by Lee Mather, the senior creative director for the F1 games, who has provided more details about F1 22, including the all-new F1 Life feature.
While it wasn’t included in the preview build of the game given to The Race, some early screenshots showed options for customizing your driver outside of a racing context.
So you can earn t-shirts, pants, sneakers, sunglasses and hats, as well as furniture for the apartment area that F1 Life mode revolves around. The best racing game comparison to draw from is Test Drive Unlimited 2, which had a similar array of customization options.
The goal of F1 Life is to act as a multiplayer hub between races. It will also be a place to show off the supercars you have unlocked.
McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin will all have road car models in the game that will be driveable. The exact cars involved have not yet been officially announced, although the McLaren 720s were briefly seen at the end of the game’s Miami trailer and the McLaren Artura was shown during the presentation. In addition, both safety cars will also be drivable.
In many ways, the supercars act as replacements for the classic F1 cars that did not survive the transition from F1 2020 to F1 2021. That’s because events using these cars will be integrated into career mode in the same way that the classic car invite events were in F1 2020.
Time attack, checkpoint challenge and chase events all return from F1 2020 but now feature the supercars instead of old F1 cars. Besides these events are autocross, drift, average speed zone and rival duel. The supercars and two safety cars will also be available to drive in the time trial, but are not known to run in more conventional races in Grand Prix mode.
While we haven’t been able to try that side of the game yet, there are many new features that we got to see in action in a preview build of F1 22.
The most visually interesting of these are the new broadcast and interactive options for formation laps, safety car periods and pit stops.
When the broadcast option is selected, the game takes control away from the player and shows the action, usually from cameras along the track. For the formation lap, it shows you a shortened version of it, while showing the TV tower image of everyone’s starting tires and the expected race strategies – intentionally similar to how real TV broadcasts of races are presented.
The option to broadcast a safety car has more practical benefits, as it reduces the time spent waiting to race again. Once you’re overtaken in the back of the safety car train, you’ll get a few photos of different drivers on the train, in one case an image showing which driver was the presumed championship leader and where they were running on the track, before taking control of you. getting the car back just before the safety car goes back into the pits.
During these broadcast-style sections, you’ll get a few lines of commentary to see the feel of a race unfold. These could be from David Croft or, new to F1 22, Alex Jacques, with players being able to choose who the commentator is.
Others who will lend their voices to the F1 game for the first time are Natalie Pinkham and for other areas there are Jacques Villeneuve, Jean-Eric Vergne and Sascha Roos. Longtime race engineer Jeff in this year’s game will be replaced by former McLaren mechanic turned presenter Marc Priestley.
The broadcast sections are optional and you can opt for the interactive versions of formation laps, pit stops and safety car periods instead. Added to the formation laps this year is the requirement to manually park in your grid slot.
Done incorrectly, the game will reset your car to the correct position, but you can also use this extra freedom to your advantage by parking at a certain angle to try and cover an opponent at the start.
The amount of additional interaction for pit stops is minimal, however, as in both options players still have to slow down in time and apply the pit lane speed limiter, then deactivate it again once they leave the pits.
To some extent the pit stops have had some degree of interactivity in the previous few F1 games as you have to build up the revs and accelerate away from your stop. New for F1 22, however, is that you have to time when to change in your box, which is done by a simple push of a button. How good your time is will affect the speed of your pit stop, with the potential to see the pit crew struggle to change the tires or front wing.
During the presentation, Mather revealed that a team’s pit crew can be upgraded in driver and my team career modes.
Other changes to the career mode include the addition of a new practice program called AR heatmap. From what little was shown, it seems designed to teach players the racing line around each track, as you’re scored based on how strictly you stick to the ideal line around each corner.
Departmental events have been reworked and there will be some scenarios that can have short and long term effects. An example given was a problem with a team’s facilities, which can be ignored but means that it will cost more in the future to fix than if you solved the problem immediately.
Another minor change relevant to my team’s career mode, as well as multiplayer, is that there are four different paint finishes for your car’s livery. They are glossy, satin, matte and metallic.
Sprint races have been added to career mode for the appropriate Grands Prix, but players can choose to run a sprint race weekend format on any circuit in Grand Prix mode.
Unsurprisingly, the cars’ handling has been reworked with updated tire model and suspension physics designed to accurately replicate the new, heavier generation of F1 cars. What showed from The Race’s hands-on experience with the game is that you have to be much more delicate on the throttle than in F1 2021, as it’s much easier to turn in low gear without modulating your throttle input.
Anyone hoping for a continuation of F1 2021’s Braking Point story mode in this game will be disappointed because it won’t be included in F1 22. The reason Mather cited was that it takes a two-year development cycle to add a story. hence the lack of one in F1 2020 despite the short F2 story in F1 2019 and then Braking Point in F1 2021. That means there’s a chance we’ll see a brand new story mode in next year’s F1 game, but one sure won’t be included in this year’s release.
With the game’s full release in less than two months, it shouldn’t be long before more details about F1 22 are revealed. That includes iconic F1 drivers, seven of whom have been included in F1 2021 and more will be added for F1 22.