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F1 22 is making key changes for a "new era for the sport"
Formula One is always evolving, and the F1 games are evolving with it. We catch up with Senior Creative Director Lee Mather to find out how F1 22 is tweaking things under the hood.
A new year means the return of Formula One to our TV screens and the imminent release of a new F1 game. Each year, the game engine – much like those of the cars themselves – gets a little more sophisticated, a little cleaner and the most up-to-date statistics are filtered through, making for a doubly exciting season for fans of the big race.
The 15th entry in the series, F1 22, will release on July 1 to coincide with the Silverstone race weekend, bringing with it a whole host of new features and exciting enhancements to last year's engine. We spoke with Senior Creative Director Lee Mather to find out just what makes this one so special and what fans can look forward to on release day.
Mather has worked on the F1 games for over a decade. He's worked his way from a design team member on F1 2010, back when Codemasters weren't exclusively making racing games, to where he is now at the launch of F1 22. "Cars are the thing I love most," he says, "so to not be on one of the racing teams at Codemasters would have been torture."
Under the hood
Some of the key things that returning players will notice immediately on booting up F1 22 are the number of big steps forward the team have made across all aspects of existing gameplay. Although new and shiny features are important, the core of the game is what keeps players coming back for more year after year, and Mather is confident they've got it right once again. "There's a number of changes we've made to the on-track experience, the physics experience, and how the cars feel," he says, "It's kind of a new era for the sport, and it's very much a new era for the game."
In their mission to provide fans with the ultimate experience, the Codemasters team closely aligns with F1 regulations and rule changes. Mather tells us: "We've concentrated on replicating the rules as they are for the cars this year – they're a little heavier, the air is generated more under-body than it is over-body, and you've got larger wheels and tire packages with more unsprung mass."
There has also been a concerted effort to improve the tire model suspension in the game physics engine as well, and Mather says that "anybody who's played previous F1 games will notice the difference on the track." Much of this improvement comes from acute attention to the real-life handling of these cars, and F1 22 pushes the tactile responsiveness of modern gaming technology to its limit. Players will feel a more defined positive front end to the car and experience the feeling of slick tires and varying degrees of grip at different angles.
(Pit) stopping and starting
Having worked on the F1 line of games for so long, Mather says he empathises with long-term fans and aims to keep things fresh and exciting year after year. This is where some of the most interesting details about F1 22 come to light – in neither the old nor the new, but that space in between.
"We focused on three core parts of a Formula One race," he explains, "the race starts, the formation lap, and the pit stops." What the team landed on was a series of variants, allowing fans to choose between different modes that best suit their style of play. The Broadcast mode allows those who want a streamlined experience to sit back and enjoy a cinematic view of the race, automating pit stops and the formation lap and lining up cars on the grid slot as though watching on TV.
Alternatively, players can have full control over the formation laps and, in a new mode for this year, can drive their car into the pit box and position their car however they want, priming for an offensive or defensive start. "We wanted to give players the opportunity to pull into their pit box," says Mather, "There's a timing game involved, and you have to train your team." For example, if you've not focused on training your pit crew, their timing may be a little off, or they may make errors that will impact the rest of the race.
Players can also expect a more personalised experience with the F1 Life mode, which has been introduced as a space for them to make the game feel like home. "The player now has a space that's theirs," says Mather. Although this won't affect gameplay progression, it will allow players to dress their characters and set a location, giving them a space to recover from the edge-of-their seat action of each race.
A global event
Along with the new regulation changes, the new F1 season also introduced a new circuit: the Miami International Autodrome, set in the Hard Rock Stadium complex in Miami Gardens. The new Miami track is also a point of pride for the F1 22 team, which was built using a sizable collection of data points, including high-quality photography and CAD data.
The track provides a challenge for fans – "Formula One cars are not at their best on the Miami track, and I think that's a good thing," Mather reveals. "There are tracks that show them in an absolutely perfect situation, and then there are ones with aggressive curbs and height changes that really put the car out of its comfort zone, so I think it's a really fun and interesting circuit."
Similarly, with the Monaco Grand Prix taking place this weekend, fans can expect to experience the thrill of that particular circuit in F1 22 when it launches. The game incorporates many of the iconic features from the street circuit, including the challenging hairpin turn and incredible coastline views. And for people who have seen the Grand Prix on TV but are new to the game, Mather advises they "start slow and build up". "Monaco is one of those where it's so difficult, and then it suddenly just clicks," he adds. "There's something heroic about getting Monaco right."
F1 22 will launch on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X and on PC via Steam, EGS and Origin. The digital Champions Edition will be available from June 28, and the standard edition from July 1.