virtual reality offers a whole new world of racing immersion

IIf you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a Formula 1 Grand Prix, you’ve probably wondered how terrifying it must be to have a driver like Max Verstappen nipping at the heels of your fragile supercar in the closing laps of the race. I’m here to tell you that F1 22 in virtual reality comes as close as possible to this feeling without putting you in mortal danger.

F1 22 is the latest entry in the annual sim racing series and from what I’ve played of its preview version, it’s shaping up to be exhilarating. It’s the first proper release since EA bought Codemasters for £1m in 2021, and while it doesn’t come far short of the complexity of F1 2021it adds new features where it counts and doubles the immersion.

Codemasters has already proven to fans that it feels like it’s hurtling down hills, so as you’d expect, the driving experience is just as tactile and exciting in this year’s game, with adaptive triggers and haptics you allowing you to feel every turn. You won’t notice too much difference if you play the F1 game every year, but slight changes have been made to handling and movement physics, as designers adapt to newly applied aerodynamic rules introduced in the 2022 season.

The preview version I played gave me access to the Imola, Miami, Silverstone, Austria and Texas circuits, so naturally I played them in order, adapting to the real world schedule and by creating my own championship ranking. New for 2022, the Miami GP (which took place last weekend) is hell, with daunting corners and plenty of overtaking opportunities. The difficulty of an all-new circuit was also a great opportunity to test out the game’s immersive new features, as my aggressive driving inevitably called for Safety Cars.

First of all, F1 22 introduced a few new settings you can tinker with before the main event. Adaptive AI can be set to Normal or Full and will adjust how your rival racers react to your position. It’s hard to see the fruits of this game given how close it feels to last year’s entry, but it’s a nice feature nonetheless. This goes hand in hand with the “realistic racing” options which you can turn on or off to make each team and each driver perform as they do in real life, depending on the results of the GP.

Once you’re actually racing, Codemasters has gone the extra mile to implement a few real-world systems that players were previously unable to control. It might sound like overkill, but now you can warm up your tires on the formation lap if you want. Lining up on the grid before the race will be a welcome addition for true enthusiasts, especially those with big rigs and racing wheels ready to go. There’s also a rotating mini-game added to the Pit Stop sequence, where you have to make an optimal entry or face a longer period in the box. I found it a little too stressful and turned it off, i.e. it does its job well and truly in a tight GP.

‘F1 22’. CREDIT: Codemasters/EA

I teased it earlier, but the most impressive part of the F1 22 package is easily virtual reality. If you have access to it, you should definitely give it a try, as it brings you much closer to the action. PR mentioned that the VR features implemented in the preview build “don’t represent final performance expectations”, which may explain why it was a pain to set up, but when I got it to work, it pleased me. really blew me away.

Using a Valve Index and a 2080 Ti, I had to tinker with the settings a bit to keep it from crashing, but after I managed to fix it, I didn’t want to play anymore F1 22 any other way. I used AMD FSR and reduced the graphics to medium, and from there I was able to comfortably enjoy the Grands Prix. Even though they weren’t at the highest level, the textures were crisp and the motion was smooth. I got really scared when the cars started going past me during the F1 Sprint – it’s extremely scary to see how close these drivers are to each other, even in a simulation. It makes your movements much more cautious and you don’t feel so tired from the lack of danger or the potential monotony when just staring at a screen.

‘F1 22’. CREDIT: Codemasters/EA

My favorite feature in modern F1 games is that you can use your microphone to talk to an artificial engineer while you run. This is how you can request information about fuel, vehicle damage and distance to other competitors, just like a real driver would. It’s a small feature, but it goes a long way to adding immersion, and it’s even better in VR, where you don’t have access to all perspectives. When an accident happened behind me or I broke the rules, it dragged me further into the moment when my engineer told me the why and how, because I couldn’t just press a button to see what was happening around me.

Hearing about a car being retired or a safety car being put on track really got my adrenaline pumping, especially when I thought I had won. In this year’s game, you can also drive behind the safety car, which is another significant addition to the immersion.

Getting to grips with VR racing meant a ton of bumps and bangs, and a lot of time stuck in the wall, my heartbeat through the roof. Fortunately, the flashback system offers plenty of grace in this regard, allowing you to get back on track before making that fateful overtake.

With the cockpit right in front of me, I also started noticing tiny details like the fur on Carlos Sainz’s gloves as he raised his hands from a racing incident (which I almost certainly had caused). However, I would suggest VR gamers to turn off the halo column, because although it provides a lot of protection on the trail, it just made me squint…

F1 22 is a beautiful game, and if you have the parts to make it work, it’s going to be amazing. Racing fans familiar with the series will get a lot out of its small but meaningful immersive overhauls, while newcomers can still have fun with simulated racing whether they’re inside a helmet or sitting on the couch. with a controller. Even if you’re completely new to the sport thanks to the excellent Drive To Survive, the Codemaster series will be a great accent for your fandom, especially if you love the racing genre.

F1 22 will be released on July 1, 2022 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC

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