Review: F1 2011
Codemasters puts us in control of the most powerful cars in the world yet again. Does it have enough to lap its award winning predecessor?
- Worth The Time?Yes, precise racing like this can never waste your time
- Things LovedExtremely detailed and stunning cars and circuits, cars are fragile and realistically represented, realistic representation of the real life sport, the DRS and KERS systems, the addition of the Safety Car, the realistic and believable Career Mode, additional modes outside of Career, intense and innovative multiplayer components
- Things HatedGaps between difficulties are quite large, you may need a steering wheel to fully grasp the sensitive controls, steep learning curve for those not familiar with F1, AI never makes a mistake on the track, niche appeal
- RecommendationFor fans of the highly entertaining motorsport, this game should already be on your shelves. Racing Simulation fans are sure to enjoy the challenging and intense racing, but should be warned that it offers much less content than GT5 or Forza 4. It would be hard to recommend this game to people who have no knowledge of F1 whatsoever, as the learning curve may be brutal to those not familiar to the rules.
- Name: Formula 1 2011
- Genre: Racing/ Simulation
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: 16-player Online Multiplayer
- Platforms: PC, PS3 and Xbox 360
- Developer: Codemasters Birmingham
- Publisher: Codemasters
- Price: R550.00 (PS3/ Xbox 360), R375.00 (PC)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Blazing hot temperatures, burning rubber, break neck speeds and gorgeous super models. If you encounter all of these factors every two weeks or so, then you’re probably not sitting on your ass at home in front of huge TV right? Wrong. F1 2011 is such a real representation of the real life, fast-paced, money loaded motorsport that you’ll find it hard to remember that you aren’t one of the highest paid athletes in the world. From the glistening sun reflecting off beautifully detailed cars, to the technical aspects of the pit, F1 2011 straps you into a car of its own, and doesn’t let you leave until you’ve beat that fastest lap. Fans of the sport will applaud the numerous features and gimmicks that make this feel like the real deal, but newcomers to the franchise should be weary of a steep learning curve that they will have to battle with constantly.
At the top of this F1 experience you have the Career mode. This mode is near identical to the previous game, signing you up to one of the slower and more modest teams and giving you five seasons worth of racing. During these five years you are expected to achieve team goals, such as finishing in certain positions during races, qualifying above a certain position and even season long goals that you will constantly have to work at. Complete these objectives, and other teams will start taking an interest in you, offering contracts for upcoming seasons, which then forces you to decide what is best for your career. Your team will also set you Research and development goals, challenging you to set certain lap times in exchange for upgraded car parts and features. You will always have something to do in your F1 career whether it be on the track racing, or off taking interviews.
You will also be able to tweak your Career experience with multiple difficulty settings, lap distances and how long a race weekend lasts. For the enthusiast, there are long race weekends, which is the exact same format that the sport take. This weekend comprises of three practice sessions, the full three staged qualifying and then the race. Short weekends limit this to only one practice session and single staged qualifying sessions. then, if you really hate practice and qualifying, you can stick to just race days. Race distance can also be changed, with the ability to set three lap races or 10%, 20%, 50% or 100% percent of the full racing distance. Each distance has certain parameters though, with tyre and fuel strategies only kicking in on races of 20% or more. There may be four difficulty settings for each weekend, but unlike split-screen mode, you are not able to finely tune each setting. This is where one of the most frustrating issues becomes apparent.
F1 2011 suffers from major gaps between the difficulty increments. Let me explain; For the first few races I chose the Medium difficulty setting, just while I can to grips with the handling and new tracks. I soon grew tired of this level of difficulty, purely because I started setting lap time 3-5 seconds faster than anyone else on the track, which is tons in F1. Eventually, I would only have to do one lap in both Practice and Qualifying, as no other car could come even close, regardless of the fact that I was in a low ranking team. So, I rose the difficulty to Hard, in the hopes of finding more of a challenge. After numerous frustrating races, I found it increasingly difficult to even qualify two seconds behind the leader, never mind ahead of my team mate. Even after many hours of practice, I struggled to get it right, and it seemed that the difficulty was just too brutal for me at the time. However, going back to Medium would not help my cause, as lapping people after 6 laps of racing doesn’t really prepare you for the next step.
This jump in difficulty would be less apparent if the Ai wasn’t so, well “AI-ish”. Your opponents on the track will never make unforced errors, following paths in a strict and precise nature. This is sad, because it means you’ll probably never see one of F1 2011’s newest features: The Safety Car. A long asked for addition, the safety car will hop onto the track if there has been a sever accident, and either debris or cars are left stationary on the track. Driving behind a road car under s strict speed limit might not sound fun in game form, but it adds another layer of realism. Stress not however, as if the safety car annoys you, you can easily turn it off and enjoy uninterrupted racing bliss. Serious F1 fans will however enjoy the thrill, as a safety car at any point in the race will force a change of strategy, and keep you thinking on your feet.
Driving Aids also make a big difference to your performance on the track, but thankfully these can be changed on the fly, at any moment. Hardcore simulation fans will surely turn all of these off, but more fragile players should think wisely about how much traction control the need, and whether ABS is a good idea or not. Another thing you should take note of is how fragile your car is. Tap another racer in front of you, and risk an additional trip to the pits, effectively screwing your chances of winning. Spin of fast enough and risk ending your race against a wall or other racers. Steer off the track, picking up debris, and higher your chances of having a puncture. All of these and more factor into how carefully you must make your way through every lap, while keeping with the pace of the other racers. This makes each lap a new challenge, as the slightest lapse in your concentration could mean the difference between a podium finish and a ‘Did Not Finish”.
Strategy will also play a big role in your races, with the more difficult settings allowing you to determine when to come in for tyre changes, what tyres to change to, your fuel mixture and more. From the beginning of the weekend, you are given a limited number of tyre sets, each with a specific attribute. For example, prime tyres give good grip on a dry circuit and last long, while Option tyres give the best grip, but in turn wear down quickly. You must juggle your tyre sets effectively in order to be fastest in Practice, Qualifying and the Race, or lose out to teams with a much better strategy. During races you will also have to keep an eye on your fuel mixture. Use too much while pushing most of the race, and find yourself forced to reduce your speed gradually near the final laps. All of this information is conveyed simply and clearly, and having your pit manager update you constantly makes you never feel lost or confused. While racing you should also be aware of penalties that you could incur, such as rejoining the track dangerously, causing an accident, cutting corners and more. These penalties are sometimes inconsistent though, with the game not always making up its mind whether or not to penalise you for cutting a corner or not.
Codemasters have also done well to add new features that are present in this year’s season, namely the DRS (Drag Reduction System) and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System). KERS is at your disposal from the beginning of each session, and allows you to give a momentary boost of speed to your car. There is a limit as to how much you can use per lap, so careful distribution at crucial points during each lap could help you shave precious seconds off your lap times. It can also be used as an effective tool against overtaking opponent drivers, allowing you to boost just out of reach. DRS allows you to open up the flap in your rear wing, allowing you to reach much greater speeds at the cost of greatly reduced down force. During Qualifying, you are free to use DRS whenever you like, while you are only able to use DRS in races if your are at most a second behind your opponent, and only in specific zones. Use DRS at the wrong moments, and find yourself spinning head first into the nearest wall, as the reduced down force will not hold up well in any sorts of corners.
One thing that may be an issue, especially at the beginning of the game, is learning to control your car while still going at an average of 180 mph. Using a standard controller is perfect until it comes to very precise steering changes. It’s not entirely bad, but in comparison to using a steering wheel with force feedback, there is really no comparison. This becomes even more evident when driving in the rain. Get caught mid lap with heavy rain and Prime tyres, and you’re going to have to put on some exceptional driving skills to make it to the pits. Even with your wet tyres on, driving in wet conditions will be a challenged for even the most experienced drivers. Find yourself behind another racer on the track, and you’ll soon be blinded by a torrent of spray hitting your visor, requiring mass amounts of bravery on your end to keep up your speed and take the corner perfectly.
Visually, there aren’t many areas where I could point out faults. Cars have been given the best treatment possible, with the sun glistening on each on every surface, while rain slides off at blistering speeds, like some form of water art. All the tracks have been stunningly recreated, and it would benefit you to learn each and every one of them nearly off by heart. Monaco retains its beauty and unique sense of flavour, and the night circuit in Singapore is an extra special treat, with all sorts of skyscrapers lighting up the surrounding environments. There is one thing that should be noted though. F1’s visual aesthetics are meant to be seen while racing down the track at blinding speeds. Slow down and you might notice some not too detailed track textures, though this shouldn’t really bother you, especially since you’re never meant to go slowly at all. Another odd thing is that you never see any of the Driver’s faces. Whenever you see them, they will always have their crash helmets on, making only their eyes visible. While you are still easily able to distinguish each driver, this feels a bit cheap, and the lack of a podium animation is also puzzling.
In the audio department, F1 2011 really flexes its muscles. Cars sound incredible, roaring to life when leaving the pits, and letting you know that you are getting every ounce of power out of it when speeding down a straight. Impacts with walls and other cars sound fantastic, and I still cringe every time I hear my front wing snap off and shatter. The voice of your pit manager also creates a highly authentic feel, and fans of the sport will appreciate how accurate the information being fed to you is. Your pit manager will let you know how your lapping times are looking, if you are catching the guy in front or losing time to the opponent behind, let you know of tyre temperatures and engine status, and even send words of encouragement now and then. You’ll feel as if you have a real friend looking out for you in the pits, and it’s a really nice touch.
Outside of the Career mode, there are other distractions and feature that will help keep the life of this simulator going. New to the series is Proving Grounds, a time-attack based mode that puts you in a car, under specific weather and track circumstances, and a time to beat. This is a true test of driving ability, as you are not able to tweak car settings in any way, forcing you to adapt and work with what you have. There is also the traditional Time Trial mode, which allows you to set the car up to your fancy and fight for dominince on the Leaderboards. Split-Screen Multiplayer also features, allowing you and a friend to battle it out in single race events. Races are filled with AI opponents, and all the difficulty settings and driving aid options are also available. There is some visual degrade when plying split-screen, but thankfully the frame rate does not take a hit. So if your friend sucks ass and crashes all the time, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to suffer for it as well in terms of slowdown.
Online Multiplayer can pit you against 15 other players from around the world, with the added feature of AI opponents filling up empty spaces on the grid. Up to 16 players can take part in three-lap races, qualifying sessions, or tougher multiplayer games which include qualifying followed by a longer-distance race with pit stops. Having the AI fill the empty slots makes for some exciting long races, as they can provide decent challenges as well. The most interesting and innovative addition to online though, is the Co-Op Championship mode. In this mode, you and an online partner form a team in Career Mode, working together to accumulate Constructor Championship points. On top of that, you’re are also rivals, competing for Championship points and team favouring, which will grant you more advanced car upgrades over your partner. This forms an interesting dynamic, in which a sort of love/hate relationship forms. On the one hand you want your team to succeed, but on the other you strive for personal glory. In order to win, you’ll have to strike a fine balance between the two, while keeping ahead of your partner (Maybe Hamilton and Button should practice their teamwork in this mode).
F1 2011 is a fantastic sequel to a game that won numerous awards last year. It takes everything that was good in last year’s entry and touches them up a little, while adding a few things to create its own unique flair. While the AI still needs a bit of work to come off more realistically, and the controls need a bit of fine tuning, nothing can take away what this title has accomplished. There is simply no greater feeling than setting a time in qualifying and watch your opponents futile attempts to better it. That is why we love F1, and it is why F1 2011 is such a compelling simulator.