Formula One returns once again, with Codemasters' Ego engine remaining as the power plant at the heart of the experience. Due to the essential nature of the game, a superficial comparison of the new F1 22 up against last year's offering shows a lot of similarities: just like last year, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are offering up native 4K resolutions with Series S at the back of the pack with a 1080p resolution, all systems using dynamic resolution scaling to maintain performance. There's also ray tracing support, 120Hz features - basically everything you'd want from the experience - but thankfully, no porpoising, meaning that the game of the sport steers well clear of this year's controversy.
For console users at least, F1 22 changes where it needs to. Obviously, the new cars, liveries and drivers are in place, while the circuits are tweaked in line with their real-life counterparts, along with a small boost to detail. Similar to last year's offering, ray traced reflections are also part of the mix. However once again ray tracing features only engage in out-of-race sections on console, such as replays, which are accompanied by a drop to 30 frames per second. Interestingly, Xbox Series consoles (even Series S) appear to benefit from some in-cockpit RT reflections not found on PS5 or even PC - likely a bug or omission. The good news for PC users is that RT can be enabled throughout the gameplay itself, albeit at a huge performance penalty.
Another win all round: ray-traced transparencies are a new feature to F1 22, adding a reflective property to transparent materials such as glass. Most notably this appears across the new roster of supercars - where glass windscreens are included - and as such they're easy to spot in the game's new F1 Life exhibition spaces, across the main menu. RT transparencies are a neat extra flourish that work beautifully with the existing RT effects - such as reflections and shadows. It appears as a brand new toggle on PC, and is included on PS5, Xbox Series X and even the S model.
Beyond this minor variation between the machines, the differences are few and far between, bar a bizarre multi-colour artefact under cars in pre-race scenes - seen only on the PS5 build. But that's the extent of the differences next to Series X, and most other settings look identical. Looking to Series S, it's remarkable how close it is in overall look to its more powerful counterpart. Accepting it is running at a quarter of the resolution, at 1080p, it's pushing a very similar end result in cutscenes and gameplay. The only visible drawback on Series S is that ray-traced reflections are rendered at a lower resolution.
On the surface then, there are gains on console for this year's installment - if small. Perhaps the bigger additions overall this year are on PC with VR support making the cut. F1 22 is now compatible with a range of VR headsets on PC, nicely suiting the cockpit view. This is a PC-exclusive feature for now, with Codemasters telling us that there are no plans for PSVR2 support as yet, though hopefully the team will reconsider closer to the headset's release. Also new to PC is support for Nvidia's DLSS scaling technology. There are also plans to add in AMD's equivalent FSR 2.0 down the road, but for now VR headset support, DLSS and extra ray-tracing features show PC is in a great place. And honestly, for anyone wanting to use the game's top settings - like all the ray-tracing toggles - having DLSS support makes a big difference in keeping performance in check.
Last up is the topic of performance. To cut to the chase, both PS5 and Series X are perfectly handled, with the standard 60Hz mode delivering a nigh-on flawless experience, something that even applies during peak stress points. Heavy rain, the maximum car count, and driving on a complex track like Monaco doesn't move the needle and even Series S holds up with a solid 60fps.
A final word on the 120Hz mode - also known as the performance mode. This one's just for PS5 and Series X, and I did notice a discrepancy here which slightly favours PS5. In running the same stress points - on Monaco, maximum cars, wet weather - there's barely a blip on the PS5 reading. It's a rock solid 120fps, typically v-synced. However, it does appear that Series X has more issues in keeping v-sync. While still holding to 120fps near constantly, there's regular signs of screen-tearing on the latest build, but honestly, you'd be very hard-pressed to catch it in full motion at 120fps anyway. The refresh is too fast, and the artefact is too subtle. It's more of a nitpick really, and the frame-rate is practically locked to 120fps. VRR should, of course, clear this up.
On balance then, F1 22 feels more like an incremental step on console after last year's blowout of next-gen features, like ray-tracing and 120Hz. This time we get a suite of optimisations and fixes, and cool new features for PC such as VR support, DLSS - on top of improved RT support on all formats. On the plus side, as one of the most demanding racing games on PC it's impressive how fluidly PS5, Series X and S run it at 60fps. The only sore point is that F1 22 is missing the Braking Point campaign from last year - a story mode charting a young F1 driver's rise, via CG cutscenes. There was potential in the idea, it gave the series quite literal character, and it feels like it's been thrown away. In its place we get the F1 Life mode - an exhibition space for your cars - but hopefully we'll see a form of story mode return to the series. In the here and now at least, F1 22 doesn't revolutionise the series, but minor bugs aside, it delivers everything you'd expect from the game.