2022 is a big turning point for F1, whether in sport, but also in video games. Indeed, 2022 marks the beginning of a new era for the Codemasters license, since the Birmingham studio has now passed into the hands of Electronic Arts. Exit then what would have been Formula 1 2022, and welcome to EA Sports F1 22.
But the revolution does not stop there. The FIA and Liberty Media (the company that owns the rights to the F1 world championship) have significantly changed the regulations for this year. With this new formula (yes, the regulations are called the formula, hence the name of the discipline), the cars must meet much stricter aerodynamic constraints. Now, a lot of the downforce will be generated from the underside of the car (via what’s called ground effect), and more from the outer appendages. The idea being to generate less turbulence in the air, and to allow more overtaking.
F1 22: Indycars?
As you have surely seen, the look of the cars has nothing to do with it anymore. The front wing is much simpler (exit from the 10 complex-shaped support surfaces that you could see in Monaco), the rear one adopts a more rounded shape, while the famous “barge boards” placed after the front wheels (which diverted airflow to the sides of the car, and towards the engine cooling vents) simply disappeared. Conversely, many elements have appeared, like these fins placed above the front wheels, in order to limit the turbulence they cause. Moreover, since we are talking about the wheels, these have also changed, with rims that go from 13 to 18 inches in diameter. While this change was made for marketing reasons (Pirelli needs to sell tires, and modern cars have huge rims for aesthetic reasons), it has vast technical implications. The alloy of the rims being heavier than the rubber of the tires, the wheels become heavier by approximately 3Kg each, which increases the unsprung mass of the car by 10%.
But this unsprung mass has terrible effects on the behavior of a car. Likewise, the rim being farther from the brake discs, it is now more difficult to transfer the heat from the brakes to the tires, in order to keep them warm. This is particularly problematic, since the FIA has also lowered the temperature of the tire heating blankets from 90°c (their optimum operating temperature) to 70°c. In short, you have understood, F1 has changed radically, and this has given Codemasters developers a lot of work. Suddenly, EA Sports F1 22 ignores a lot of content available in the previous opus. If we will find the F2 championship and a selection of legends, the narrative mode called Breaking Point has for its part gone by the wayside. We will therefore have to console ourselves with the classics of the series, namely the online, the time trial, and the career. The latter always offers to drive for a team (by stealing the seat of an official driver at once), or to set up his team, which allows access to the traditional management system. You will have to take care of your staff, finances, sponsors, while managing R&D.
new destinations for F1
Content level, license game requires, we will find all the cars and drivers of the 2022 season, including last minute changes, such as the replacement of Nikita Mazepin by Kevin Magnussen in the seat of the Haas. We will also be able to discover circuits that have evolved, such as Albert Park in Australia and SPA-Francorchamps in Belgium, and entirely new tracks such as that of the Miami GP (which took place this weekend!). On the latter, we do not have much to say, except that it is still an artificial route made in the parking lot of a large stadium. The circuit is not very exciting, and when you turn on it, you frankly have the impression of being in Baku. Florida offers a few more curves, but overall this new track isn’t much of a selling point. Inevitably, all these new features required a lot of work from the developers. For example, just the pit stops were a nightmare. With the change in the size of the wheels, Codemasters had to redo all the motion capture of the mechanics in order to offer credible animations once in game.
The smell of jelly gum
Once behind the wheel, the behavior of these new single-seaters is not radically different, even if they look more like indycars. If you have sanded the previous episodes, the road behavior should not disorient you, even if we feel that the weight has increased. This overweight is especially reflected during rapid changes of direction or in chicanes at low speed, but overall, you will really have to go from one game to another to be able to realize it. What will transform driving the most is above all the new regulations on electric blankets. With tires at 70°C, entering the track is an ordeal, with rubber that offers almost no grip.
We don’t hide from you that the first out of the pits quickly turned into a spin. It will therefore be necessary to spend at least one lap delicately raising the temperature of the tires, via acceleration, braking and strong steering wheel movements. It’s all the more delicate, as once in the race, it becomes very complicated to sacrifice time to this task on the pit exit lap. Of course, the higher the realism setting, the more the problem will be present. Without any help from the traction control or the ABS, you will have to be particularly delicate with the gas and the brakes. Conversely, with the aids fully activated, the problem will not even arise.
However, once in play there are some small new features, including the possibility of being active during certain phases, such as the formation of the grid. We will now be able to bring our single-seater to its starting location, and if the slightest mistake will be penalized (being too far or too far back), this offers some prospects. Indeed, it is possible to place the car perfectly straight, or to tilt it to one side or the other, which will change our trajectory during the start. We can thus opt for an aggressive placement which brings us directly closer to the competitors, or play it safe by starting straight. Similarly, pit stops will now be a little more active with a mini-game that asks us to steer at the right time to make a perfect entry into the box. We admit to being not far from the QTE, and given the dexterity of yours truly on this kind of exercise, we mainly had to deal with longer pit-stops because of our reflexes. That said, everything is optional, and if you don’t want to go through these little extras, it is quite possible to keep the traditional formula of automatic pit-stop, or grid placement done by the AI.
In terms of content, we were able to try the Grand Prix (with Saturday’s sprint race) and do a bit of a time trial to climb the leaderboard a bit. After a few adjustments to the difficulty of the AI, we finally managed to find a car that was running at our pace, in order to stick it as close as possible, and see if the disturbances have indeed decreased. Unsurprisingly, we haven’t really seen any change compared to F1 2021. Should we question our level of driving, the equipment (a slightly old T300RS), or the game itself? Hard to say. Still, for those who love F1, the final game should indeed offer content similar to previous games, with the system for creating your own team, and all the management aspect attached to it. Finally, visually, the evolutions are not crazy, with cars still as beautiful, and pilots with a little more random modeling.
We are waiting for it… because we are customers!
EA Sports F1 22 is clearly an episode of transition that marks the advent of brand new regulations. The cars have changed, and the simple construction site that this represents will have had an effect on the development time. Because the series is annualized, Codemasters only has a few months left for each game, requiring small tweaks to be applied to each title. If you are a big fan of the discipline, the purchase is probably already budgeted for, but if you are a more casual enthusiast, it is possible that the somewhat raw aspect of the opus that is coming will not appeal to you. Anyway, we still have to wait some time before we see the final version of the game arrive on which we can perform our test. We should also be able to discover other circuits there, and thus better understand the changes made by this year’s single-seaters.