Codemasters has finally brought the world’s biggest motorsport into VR, ignoring the real-world drama for some thrilling racing. It’s a strong adaptation, though it doesn’t quite take pole position. Read on for our full F1 22 VR review!
It’s a tough challenge keeping an annual sports series fresh, but Codemasters has made a fine crack at it with F1 22. For the first time in the series’ history, we’ve got an official Formula 1 game playable in VR, providing you’ve opted for the PC version (sorry PSVR owners). Similar to Star Wars Squadrons, VR support is entirely optional but crucially, it covers the whole game, letting you jump in and out at your own convenience. This is possibly the most ambitious entry yet, so it’s deeply unfortunate that F1 22’s performance doesn’t always hit the mark.
Before getting into the VR specifics, it’s worth laying out for regular drivers what’s changed in F1 2022. There’s some big overhauls beyond your standard roster updates. The 2022 season’s seen some major regulation and aerodynamic rules changes, which Codemasters has accurately reflected. Car physics have been overhauled, steering feels refined, and you’ll find a new adaptive AI system that reflects your performance, which feels slightly hesitant to overtake at times. Formula 2’s 2021 season is represented, and we also have the 2022 calendar’s newest track, the Miami International Autodrome.
As for VR support, its slightly limited but you’ll find it where it counts. There’s no interface adjustments here for the menus and you can’t choose a 3rd person view like in the flat game, placing you directly inside the cockpit but only when racing. You’re not locked into place with the camera, meaning you can end up going through the car if you veer too far from where you synced up. You probably won’t be too surprised to learn that your standard motion controls aren’t supported either, this requires a standard gamepad or steering wheel. Wanting to go all-in, I chose the latter, using a Hori Racing Wheel APEX that did the job nicely.
Once I’d started racing, I was taken aback. As a lifelong F1 fan, the game really captures that rush of a grand prix’s opening moments well in VR for me. Between wider tracks like Monza to the narrow streets of Monaco, I felt that suspense once the lights went green. Across the years, F1 has always been home to some close fights. Hamilton vs Verstappen, Schumacher vs Häkkinen, Prost vs Senna, each era has that fierce rivalry that went down in racing history. When going toe-to-toe with Lewis Hamilton and Charles LeClerc, desperately trying not to cause an accident as we went round corners, you feel that sense of presence.
This is a game that demands your full attention, VR or not, and wins feel especially thrilling for it. Once you’ve got your headset on, you no longer have that benefit of seeing cars sneak up behind you without actively checking your wing mirrors. Instead of a HUD, speed statistics are presented through the cockpit steering wheel to keep immersion maintained, and you can radio in for updates. When it rains, water drips down your visor and vision is never terribly obscured by it, nor by spray from cars in front. F1 22 ticks many of simulation boxes and truthfully, I’ve never had this much fun with a serious racer.
Unfortunately, F1 22 has some VR performance problems at launch that I didn’t noticeably spot in flat mode. For full context, my gaming PC uses a Ryzen 7 2700X and GeForce RTX 3070, which hits the recommended requirements for VR, and I used a Meta Quest 2 through both Oculus Link and Virtual Desktop. However, until I turned down the visuals from the automatically applied graphical settings, performance stuttered quite badly at points. Driving through the first chicane at Monza, crashing into the back of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and taking us both out because the headset’s image bugged out isn’t ideal. Making matters worse, that wasn’t a one off, so I’m hopeful that’ll be fixed in a post-launch patch.
Beyond individual races, there’s plenty of modes to pick but unfortunately, Codemasters has ditched Braking Point, F1 2021’s new story mode. Still, we’ve got trusty Career Mode, where you can play one of the existing 20 drivers between the 10 teams. Alternatively, you can start your own custom team through MyTeam, the choice is yours. Multiplayer’s packed with local splitscreen (though obviously not in VR) and online play, the latter providing casual and ranked options. Solo players looking to shake things up can setup your own grand prix weekends or season calendars, alongside time trials. Lastly, “Pirelli Hot Laps” introduce new challenges that’ll earn XP towards your “Podium Pass” for new cosmetics, ranking your performance between Bronze, Silver, and Gold.
Each of these works well for the most part. Going head-to-head with friends is as thrilling as ever and while I dabbled in creating building up a career in Esteban Ocon’s BWT Alpine proved great fun in my playthrough. For those after something different, you’ve also got playable supercars, like the Aston Martin DB11 V12 in time trials and the Hot Laps, which handle differently with steering and braking. It’s a novel experience and I had fun with them, though it felt out of place. You can’t race them against other supercars either, a missed opportunity.
I’m just not enamoured with the game’s big new mode, F1 Life. It provides a new hub area that other players can visit, letting you customise both your living area and avatar, all bought using Pitcoin. There’s a virtual showroom for a closer look at the cars, and you’ll buy supercars here too. I only wish it was more interesting, there isn’t much to do and to some degree, it feels like an excuse for further microtransactions. Thankfully, F1 Life isn’t key to the wider experience, so it doesn’t detract too heavily.
Otherwise, F1 22 is a visual delight and Codemasters has clearly put in the work for this presentation. Both the cars and tracks look incredibly realistic on high settings with strong attention to detail. Once I’d switched to the lower settings for VR, it consistently hit those higher framerates too. If you’ve played previous entries, you’ll find that it’s not a huge leap visually from F1 2021 but in all fairness, it’d be hard to improve on what’s already here. This remains quite a vibrant experience.
F1 22 VR Review – Final Impressions
Codemasters has captured Formula 1’s more thrilling aspects brilliantly in VR for F1 22 and I’ve never felt so immersed in a racing game before. While I’m sad to see the story mode go and didn’t care hugely for F1 Life, I can see F1 22 appealing to both long-term series fans and newcomers seeking a fresh racer. Hopefully we’ll see a post-launch patch will fix these performance issues but if you’re happy to compromise for the moment, F1 22 is a great choice that comes recommended.
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