HIGH The supercar challenges ahead of race weekends.

LOW The lack of engaging innovation.

WTF Ferrari dominating the 2022 World Championship.

After the exciting chaos of last year’s Formula One World Championship, this season has seen a reboot of the real-world sport with technological regulations overturning most consistencies of the competition and every racing weekend providing new surprises. I was quite eager to see how the annual videogame series would negotiate this new era — does a reboot of the real sport also mean a reboot of the game?

I’m afraid the answer to that question is an unequivocal ‘no.’

The F1 franchise is a sophisticated racing simulator, featuring driver and management career modes as well as individual and multiplayer racing, with huge emphasis on a variety of options so that simulation settings, racing camera angles, and rules can easily be changed on a whim. Players can get immersed in their own F1 championship stories or just race for its own sake while tweaking many options that accommodate their preferences.

However, this foundation is an old and stable one that we’ve already encountered and covered in previous editions. The question most pertinent to annual franchises is always “What’s new?” Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like much. What’s worse, some of my issues with previous installments have been cemented or even exacerbated, and some highlights removed with no replacement.

Let’s start with the biggest change. 22’s starting menu page is replaced with F1 Life, a hub from which to enter various modes, meant to be highly immersive to players via collectable non-F1 ‘supercars’ and driver accessories.

While this is a genuinely fresh layer, lingering in the hub did not appeal as I mainly play for the actual F1 competition while not being a more holistic car racing fanatic. Despite that, this would still be an inoffensive and even positive addition if not for the constant request to connect to EA’s servers. I never intended to do so in the first place, and reminders kept popping up every time I left a mode and returned to F1 Life. This ‘major’ addition turned into live service torment.

Other changes lie within the racing itself. Pit stops may now involve a QTE that impact the swiftness of the stop, AI drivers more often make race-ending errors and are more adaptive to the player’s driving, and a bunch of tracks have been re-added. Furthermore, due to F1 Life, collected supercars can be used in challenges ahead of race weekends in career modes, and these challenges are both welcome invitations to the tracks and more frivolous changes of pace from the intense racing.

These positives are far too little, however, when considering the lingering issues that have not been solved — or even worsened.

First, the AI is slightly more adaptive, but remains dreadful when compared to real drivers. I also noticed that the AI difficulty had to be reduced significantly compared to previous games, and not because my driving got worse — they’re very consistent with their lap times, hardly making any of the slips that human players make, and can only be matched on optimal one-lap runs.

I was able to eventually establish a challenging difficulty, but it remained frustrating to race AI opponents. Races are therefore less enjoyable, as the AI keeps a steady line and pace, but reducing the AI difficulty further would not remove the issue, as I would then easily beat the AI on good laps. The issue is not difficulty, but instead it’s the overly consistent, error-free driving. The only area where the AI deviates from this is in overtakes or duels. Ironically, the AI is reckless in these instances and will crash into the player or into the wall, taking themselves out. It’s not remotely realistic.

This recklessness is made worse by the lack of an adequate penalty system, which in actual F1 keeps drivers in check. Here, most bumps are resolved with warnings which do little to punish dangerous driving, and there is no setting to increase stringency in this regard.

I also find that other issues have to do with a lack of ‘fluff’ that could make the experience more immersive and realistic – things like more sophisticated press simulations (which have been mostly removed, and were never very convincing), more detailed driver animations, and more realistic office management simulation. The constant emails communicating that the driver MUST beat their teammate become very redundant, and they sound silly in the first place.

In F1 2021, most of these issues were omitted in an experimental – though not fully-realized – new driver career mode that came complete with cinematic cutscenes, scripted storyline, and even a hilariously accurate simulation of post-race Twitter discourse. I had desperately hoped for something similar with improvements, but there’s nothing of the kind here. In fact, there’s hardly anything story-wise to immerse the player into the culture of F1 — a shame, since narratives are what I like most about it.

F1 culture is highly peculiar, the drivers and cars are spectacular in the heat of racing, and there’s always a story going on, usually characterized by volatility – the cars can break down, drivers can make race-ending mistakes, teams can destroy their chances at victory with nonsensical tactical decisions (Ferrari’s underwhelming performances in the actual 2022 season provide an example) and world events can play spoiler, such as when Russia was removed from the calendar, or when drivers miss races due to COVID infections. This unpredictability makes everything about the sport perpetually fascinating and none of these peripheral elements are translated here.

This is the first installment of F1 since the reboot of the real-life competition, but it is also the first installment I’ve played that does not feel like a worthwhile reboot in the slightest.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Codemasters and published by EA Sports. It is currently available on PCPS4/5 and XBO/X/S. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 35 hours of play were devoted to single-player modes, and over a season of the driver career mode was completed0 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains no descriptors. The rating summary reads as follows: This is a racing game in which players can drive Formula One cars on real-world tracks. Players compete in a variety of game modes that include Career, Time Trial, Championship, and Grand Prix.

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are present, but only for the dynamic racing line (the ‘ideal circuit line’), not for the overall display.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. While this game’s races are playable without sound as the distance to other cars has a clear visual indicator, I find navigating menus and contextual info onscreen, especially in the story mode, to be difficult because the text is very small.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

David Bakker
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