An image of a McLaren 2022 F1 car along with a generic, custom liveried F1 22 car. In the middle there is a divide, with the text 'casual vs hardcore'.

Should F1 22 be a Sim? The Casual Fan vs The Hardcore Simracer

F1 22

Today’s topic: Should F1 22 be a sim? There is probably no racing game franchise on the market that has a target audience as diverse as F1. While professional esports racers compete for hundreds of thousands of euros in F1 Esports, the games are also widely popular among casual gamers.

But having to please both audiences leads to great challenges for the developers. Which type of player should the franchise be developed for? With the newest edition, F1 22, on the line, two of our editors discuss their hopes for F1 22 and which direction the franchise should take. Casual or close to real life?

Meet the Editors

Luca – plays F1 with his racing wheel, previously a Logitech G29 but now a Fanatec GT DD Pro. What he enjoys most is organised online racing against like-minded people.

Maik – he watches most F1 races and likes to grab his gamepad and jump into an F1 car in the game. His favourite part of the game is My Team where he can try to be a successful F1 team manager and driver.

Who do you most agree with? Discuss with us in the comments and tell us your opinion!

F1 22: F1 Life vs Virtual Reality

OverTake: There are two new main features coming into F1 22. One of them is F1 Life, which is based around collecting supercars, outfits, and other cosmetics. The other one is Virtual Reality. Which one are you more excited about?

Maik: F1 Life! I believe that this feature makes a great addition to the game. A part of the fascination about Formula 1 has always been that shiny lifestyle that surrounds the entire sport. The success of Drive to Survive, which primarily focuses on what is going besides the racetracks, has proven that again. So, if done right, I believe that F1 Life will make a great addition.

Luca: Hmm. I find it hard to believe that people will grind for the items, even though I kind of enjoy the cosmetic aspect of F1. We’ve seen the liveries that can be used on the My Team and Multiplayer car come through the likes of the item shop and the Podium Pass, but Codemasters really overestimated the amount of people who cared for it. I’m cautiously optimistic about F1 Life but I don’t see the main playerbase caring too much.

OverTake: So you would advocate for the developers put a focus on Virtual Reality rather than F1 Life in the future?

Luca: Yes. My hope there is that the cockpit camera is improved exponentially, since traditionally you can’t really see the wing mirrors. For a casual player, there will be more emphasis on F1 Life to try and squeeze the most amount of money out of the system, but since the majority of competitive players are on PC, Virtual Reality better be up to scratch.

Maik: But this group of players who can actually make use of VR is very small. And that is also my main concern. Virtual Reality is an exciting addition which has been long overdue. However, in order to play in VR, you need the respective hardware.

That’s why I’d be happier about the developers creating a fresh and exciting atmosphere around the races with F1 Life first, before polishing the VR feature.

Upgrading Realism for F1 22

OverTake: F1 games try to recreate the reality of Formula 1 as well as possible. But what are the games lacking in terms of realism at the moment?

Maik: When it comes to the handling, I feel that the games are already in a very good spot. The cars feel good and I am able to customize the amount of help I get from the game. What bothers me during the races is the behavior of the AI when it is trying to overtake or defend. It just does not feel natural.

Also, I have the feeling that during 25% and 50% races, it is extremely easy to outsmart the AI with the strategy. It does not adapt, it is predictable. That tension from teams having different strategies is completely missing at the moment. 

Luca: I have to disagree in one point. Yes, the F1 games capture the F1 experience like no other game. But as far as realistic handling goes, the audience that is deeply rooted in sim racing will always find the game lacking.

With the handling model being more inclined to understeer and lean more towards trail braking to get lap time, it can leave a sour taste in the mouth and it will discourage players from taking speed into corners which is what these cars are supposed to be good at doing.

Maik: So you are not confident with the handling model as it is, Luca. Are there many people who share your opinion?

Luca: When it comes down to the core gameplay, there are plenty of serious racers in the community and we constantly hear their complaints about the game not being realistic. The majority of the audience aren’t those who spend thousands on a sim rig so it’s impossible to cater to everyone, but even then there are still shortcomings with the way the games are made.

On top level sims like iRacing, rFactor 2 and ACC, the feedback you get from the wheel is so important. One wrong input can be the difference between getting a tenth or putting it in the gravel, and it’s undeniable how satisfying it is. We can’t expect Codemasters to develop one handling model for controller users and another for hardcore ultra-realism loving sim racers. However, currently it’s still too favoured towards the former for it to be truly enjoyable for the latter.

Maik: It is a difficult task to balance the needs of sim rig owners and gamepad players at the same time, I agree. And while I hope that the experienced players will get their wish fulfilled with good handling, I hope it does not hurt the casual gameplay too much. Do not get me wrong, I want the cars to feel realistic.

But at a certain level of realism, things become difficult to handle for a casual gamer with a simple gamepad. I mean, there is a reason why nobody plays iRacing or ACC with a gamepad. My hope is that the new handling model brings more realism to the game but allows all players to race without assists, no matter which input device they use.

F1 Esports and League Racing

OverTake: F1 is also home of one of the biggest esports racing communities. Do the F1 games need to become more realistic in order to keep their relevance as an esport?

Luca: The F1 competitive community does exist in its own bubble due to how different it is to simulated titles. Former McLaren and Ferrari F1 Esports driver Enzo Bonito is an alien on the hardcore sims. However, whilst he wasn’t terrible on the F1 games, he wasn’t on the level of the typical crop of F1 gaming specialists like Jarno Opmeer and Brendon Leigh.

Esports racing is very much unlike any other kind of esport, where it all exists together as a collective and the top players are the ones who can transfer from one platform to another and remain competitive. It’s not impossible to be quick on both the F1 games and on other titles (case in point, Sebastian Job), but it is rare. Trying to bring the handling model more in line with sim titles would allow for more crossover.

Maik: I believe that part of being a good racer is always to be able to adapt to the circumstances that surround you. In the field of esports this also counts for the rules of the game. So, if an F1 game has a weaker handling model like F1 2021 does, that is something professionals have to deal with and be able to control. I don’t think a semi-realistic handling model will hurt the esport.

Luca: With that being said, the F1 competitive gaming community is already very strong even if the handling model doesn’t change. It’s a good thing that it’s more accessible for people who are just getting a start in the competitive scene and can hone their craft before going to more simulated games. 

Maik: Absolutely. Nevertheless, I hope that the new game will also satisfy F1 professional esports racers. That way they get to have great races, which we can then enjoy watching!

New Features for F1 22 and the Future

OverTake: Finally, what does an F1 game look like that pleases both experienced and new players?

Maik: I believe that the franchise must create new ideas around the actual racing. My Team probably was the best feature in the past decade. The story mode was an interesting idea, however the execution was not very good. I want Codemasters to keep on experimenting with such new features to keep the annual 60 Euros worth it.

Luca: Keeping the immersion is also one of my points. Besides that, Codemasters need to seriously improve the online gameplay. If they do, it should go some way to appeasing all sides of the community. Unfortunately, you can’t ever satisfy everybody. But, the majority are more casual than competitive, so it has to be accessible.

Maik: I agree. Concerning the gameplay, Codemasters and EA need to take the feedback of esports professionals, real-life F1 personal and casual gamers into account to create the sweet spot in gameplay that F1 has been trying to find for so long.

What is your opinion? Should F1 games be developed for sim racers or casual gamers? Let us know in the comments or tweet your opinion at @overtake_gg!

Born and raised close to the Nürburgring.