Reviews: Codemasters take a peek at pole position in the battle of the racers with their amazing F1 2011
This year's F1 season has been dominated by one driver, but it seems that the racing game market is full of competitors for pole position. Having seen what the likes of Gran Turismo 5
and Test Drive Unlimited 2
have to offer and with Forza Motorsport 4
arriving to Microsoft fanfare, F1 2011
is ready for its flying lap. It's already been a pretty good year for car fans and with this incredible new F1 title in stores now, you can finally see somebody beat Sebastian Vettel, even if you have to step forward and do it yourself.
Following on from the success of F1 2010
last Fall, Codemasters have rebuilt the entire game from scratch to improve the game's already stellar handling and have bumped the realism and difficulty up a notch. What F1 2010 did right remains. The career mode is solid and contains everything die-hard Grand Prix fans will expect, like a full weekend of Practice, Qualifying and Race sessions with many ways to approach car set up and tyre choice. There's a constant trickle of pressure for you to beat your team mate throughout the season, which is extra fun with the new co-op career mode. Also kept is the ?be the driver? style interviews and immersive aspect, with more to do there, but kept to a minimum.
New features include the much sought after split screen mode, which runs smoothly and without problem. the multiplayer numbers have been bumped up to 16, with the option to put in a further 8 AI controlled racers. The competition is fierce online already with many players claiming that the steering wheel adds performance, which I can confirm is entirely down to player preference and not a game bug as my lap times are almost identical with a wheel or controller. What the wheel does allow players to do that is tricky with a controller is change gears, turn, brake, accelerate and activate the dashboard options at the same time, but hardened racers will manage just fine with the pad.
There are three major new gameplay features in F1 2011, two of which are new to the real life sport this year. The first is a system called KERS
which crazily takes its inspiration from video games. It's a type of turbo boost system that gives drivers extra horsepower for just under 9 seconds every lap before recharging for the next lap. The other is the Drag Reduction System
, which is a neat design element of the 2011 F1 cars where a slot in the large rear wing opens to a flat position to allow for better wind resistance and faster straight line speed. Combining both of these new car abilities makes your car feel like a rocket for a few seconds and is a powerful technique for passing stubborn drivers who won't get out of your way.
The other big introduction in F1 2011 is one of the sport's major game-changers, the Safety Car
. Fans have been begging Codemasters to include this feature and they've really delivered in a big way here. The principle is that if there is a major crash or debris in the way of cars on track, the stewards release the Safety Car to slow the pack down. Overtaking is banned while this is going on and often drivers will use this window to change tyres or stay out in front of the pack, hopefully with slower cars between them and rivals. Tactics come into play in a big way thanks to this inclusion and with more sporadic and random AI behavior races that seemed to be over due to a massive lead at the front can now be much closer fights if something goes amiss somewhere on the track. As a fan of the sport, i was dubious about this feature's implementation, but the developers have really pulled it off spectacularly.
All of the drivers from the season are there, including defending World Champion, Sebastian Vettal and his rivals, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber right down to the back of the grid with guys like Jarno Trulli and Vitantonio Liuzzi. The exception to this is with those who joined mid-season, like Daniel Ricciardo or Bruno Senna, who for licensing reasons are omitted. To further reinforce the authenticity of the game, the cars are individually modelled and textured and actually carry over characteristics of the real-life cars. The Mercedes GP car is faster on straights, the Red Bull is epic around fast corners and the HRT is brutally slow. Changes you make to your setup have a huge variation on performance, which is true to the spirit of the real sport, where turning a wing plate angle a few notches can improve your lap time by as much as a quarter of a second. Gear ratios and fuel mixes can decrease that timer by a further second if you're clever with your KERS system use.
The one gripe that can be made is the lack of track variation from F1 2010. This is obviously out of the hands of the developers, who must stick to the yearly race calendar. In this year's game there are two new tracks, the brand new Indian GP track near Delhi and the alternate German track, the Nurburgring GP circuit, which racing fans will know from Forza and PGR amongst others. The omission of the Bahrain track from the game makes sense in that the race didn't actually happen this year, so this year's game has the same number of tracks as last year's. For the next game it would be nice of Codemasters to include some of the test tracks, like Mugello or Paul Ricard, or even some of the Grand Prix circuits of the past like Imola, Estoril or even the classic Monza with the historic banking section. Something like this will keep fans happy for F1 2012
, otherwise there's very little they can actually improve from this game.
The added depth of information in F1 2011 is exceptional. Tyre details include how many laps you should expect to run on them and unlike the F1 2010 Bridgestone boots, the new Pirelli tyres actually wear down quite significantly after powerslides, damage and long life. Handling is drastically different on low threads and driving in heavy rain is an exercise in taking your life in your hands. What is clear about the design of F1 2011 is that it's these details and depth that make it the exceptional and authentic racer it needed to be to appeal to hardcore fans.