One could almost be forgiven for thinking, given much of the marketing material from Codemasters and EA, that Formula 1 isn’t the primary focus of F1 22. That’s because the new F1 Life mode and supercars add-ons were the subject of a lot of buzz from both companies and a lot of confusion and skepticism from fans.
The reality is that there have been a lot of changes and additions to the track side of the game that we already experienced in an earlier preview build of F1 22. These include the new broadcast and immersive options for formation laps, pit stops and safety cars, plus the inclusion of sprint races.
A newer and fuller preview build of the game has been given to The Race to try out and that means we got to take a look at the Driver and My Team career modes. The notable change is the different starting options for My Team, which can give you a winning car from the start and the budget to recruit one of the “icon” drivers from the start.
It was recently announced that three former F1 drivers have joined the list of iconic drivers recruitable for career mode – Jacques Villeneuve, Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg – although they are only available with the Champions Edition of the game.
Whether you love or hate the idea of F1 Life, the thing is, it’s part of F1 22. Prominently too, since the main menu’s F1 Life tab is even before the career mode tab, so it’s obvious that the developers do not want players to ignore it. But above all, this is the first time that we have been able to examine and try it ourselves.
The first two things players are likely to do in F1 Life is to dress your avatar in casual clothing from well-known brands such as Kickers, Puma, Sparco and Oakley. You can even choose to have your avatar wear headphones from Beats.
Options for t-shirts, pants, trainers, sunglasses and headgear in F1 Life go hand in hand with pre-existing options for racing gear such as racing suits, crash helmets and the gloves, used during races in career mode.
The range of decorative choices for your F1 Life apartment is also quite wide, including options for sofas, tables, flooring, wall art and lighting. All this may seem completely superfluous, but its purpose is to be a space to interact with players online when they are not racing, since you can also visit the apartments of other players. That said, F1 Life isn’t the kind of mode or addition to multiplayer that has been requested by the league racing and esports community.
What’s also odd is that, at least in this preview build, these real-world businesses only exist in F1 Life. It might seem obvious, but it’s worth remembering that in the My Team career mode, you sign deals with fictitious sponsors and their logos adorn your team’s cars.
It feels like a missed opportunity not to include these real-world brands as selectable sponsors in the racing element. The 2008 version of Codemasters Race Driver: GRID allowed players to unlock real-world businesses to sponsor their teams, and this game showed that having recognizable markings on your car is much more appealing and authentic than fictitious brands. If Puma and Kickers are happy to lend their name and put their products in F1 22, then why aren’t they also included in My Team?
F1 Life has been seen by many as an avenue for monetization, which is true – but these customization items are available through the Item Shop and Podium Pass in exactly the same way as car liveries, racing suits and helmets were in previous F1 games. There is also no obligation to engage with F1 Life. So if you don’t want to spend money on clothes and furniture, you don’t have to.
However, it’s worth noting that a pair of Beats headphones for your character costs 4,000 Pitcoins, which equates to just over £3 if you buy a lower denomination of in-game currency.
What hasn’t been locked behind a paywall are the additional supercars, apart from the two Aston Martin and Mercedes-AMG safety cars which are again exclusive to the Champions Edition version of F1 22. Instead, the eight different supercars are unlocked with tokens, which are earned by distance traveled with F1 or Formula 2 cars or even other supercars.
As well as being able to be displayed in your F1 Life apartment, supercars are also used for Pirelli Hot Laps events, which can be played anytime but are also woven into career mode.
Anyone who has played F1 2020, and in particular the invitational events involving classic F1 cars, will know this idea. Especially because the Time Attack and Checkpoint Challenge events have been postponed.
New event types include Drift, Medium Speed Zone, Autocross, and Rival Duel. The first two are self-explanatory, and autocross is a bit like a slalom challenge as it asks you to go through a series of gates scattered around the circuit with a time penalty for each gate you miss.
Finally, the Rival Duel is a three-round head-to-head race around part of a circuit against a single simulated opponent. The track segment used is the same for all three laps and the difference lies rather in the starting positions. For the first lap you start in front of your rival, the second you are side by side and for the third you are behind them to start. To get the gold medal, you must finish ahead in all three.
It’s shocking to go from powerful, lightweight, high downforce F1 cars to supercars because the braking distances and cornering characteristics are wildly different. Even from supercar to supercar, there’s a huge distinction between the heavier, happier Mercedes AMG GT Black Series and the more nimble McLaren 720 or Ferrari F8 Tributo.
As with the rest of the game, the supercar handling model is not a full simulation. It’s more grounded than GRID Legends because in this game almost every car has too much mechanical grip, which makes driving grounded but simplified. F1 22 is a step above in terms of realism but, given the focus on the new generation of F1 cars, the handling of the supercars isn’t flawless.
The interiors of the supercars have been modeled for you to drive using the cockpit camera, and they are not limited to Pirelli Hot Laps events as they can also be used in time trial game mode.
Unlike classic F1 cars in F1 2020, supercars cannot be raced against each other in grand prix mode. At the very least, that’s true in this preview build, and it may change at some point once F1 22 is released. The closest you can get to races with them right now is in the previously mentioned Rival Duel Events.
With the release of F1 22 just over two weeks away, it won’t be long before we see what the final version of the game looks like and how well F1 Life and the supercars are integrated into F1 22 alongside the heart of the game. Game.