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F1 22 review: Dramatic driving is back

(Xb/PS/PC) **** Age: 7+

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This year’s F1 season has produced more drama than we’ve seen in yonks. Think of the new Verstappen vs Leclerc rivalry or Mercedes going into reverse. Not to mention the amusing if painful phenomenon of “porpoising”, where cars bounce up and down on high-speed straights due to different aerodynamics introduced by 2022 rule changes. Apparently, it hurts like hell for the drivers.

Codemasters’ latest edition of the videogame equivalent omits porpoising, presumably because it will be fixed by most teams soon enough, but faithfully reproduces pretty much every other aspect of the F1 circus bar the Bernie Ecclestone faux-pas.

The amended rules mean this year’s cars are heavier with wider tyres, so they drive more deliberately and predictably than their predecessors. But the increase in downforce that leads to porpoising also allows for closer battles and more opportunities for overtaking. All of this is reflected in Codemasters’ updated handling model, resulting in noticeably less skittish cars without squeezing out the wheel-to-wheel spectacles that we’re seeing on the real tracks.

The 2022 version adds hot laps in supercars – surprisingly hard to control compared with the F1 cousins – and some useful team management options. Less welcome is a new lifestyle mode in which you customise an apartment, an avatar and a range of supercars.

It’s meant to represent the glamour of an F1 driver’s existence but perches on a slippery slope of microtransactions called – oh my aching sides – Pitcoin. It’s not as obnoxiously greedy as something like FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode – everything earned or bought is purely cosmetic. Aside from its forced introduction as you start up the game for the first time, it can be completely ignored. But it does vindicate fears that parent company EA – which bought Codemasters last year – would put F1 on the same course as its other sports franchises.

F1 22 omits last year’s story mode Braking Point, which also took a leave of absence in 2020. Not everybody enjoyed this playable yarn about a plucky young driver forcing his way into the big league from Formula 2 but its sabbatical is certainly not compensated for by the new lifestyle mode.

If you’re after arcade thrills, you should seek your jollies elsewhere, despite the variety of optional driver aids that can make F1 almost a cakewalk. But for purists, petrolheads and even weekend TV warriors, Codemasters replicates the complex strategy and nailbiting racing of 20 snarling machines competing at 300kmh.

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