14th October 2011 - F1 2011, the sequel to F1 2010 (oho, I did some digging here!) is a sports-style game. It's not really about being an ambassador to those uninterested in racing or Formula One, and it's definitely not interested in introducing people to games. But these aren't necessarily drawbacks, as games like Skate pulled off the trick to really drawing in the enthusiasts – so what about F1 2011? Let's have a look...
Gameplay is, to put it bluntly; brutal. Even on the Medium setting, I was really pushed hard to get into the podium positions in the early races, and I'm no racing game slouch. This, however, does create a sense of immersion rare in today's racing games. We’ve become too used to Forza and Need for Speed, where the hardest races are still possible to ace.
F1 2011 makes it clear from the outset that you'll win some, you'll lose some, but you will always just have to do your best, no matter the situation. This, along with the high level of strategy in the gameplay, really does give a sense that you have to use everything at your disposal and every possible way to get an edge on the competition, just to be competitive. Just like the real thing.
The handling and feel of the cars has also been improved since F1 2010, with cars feeling a bit more planted and predictable, and the weight of all the aerodynamics pushing the car down at high speed does come through to you, which is definitely an improvement in itself.
Two other new additions are the KERS and DRS systems. KERS is basically a power boost that you can only use once in a lap, and DRS lowers the rear wing, dropping the down force for a quick blast up the strait. However, points must be deducted here for them simply never working. It's bad enough that the game pretty much doesn't tell you what they are or how to activate them, and it's worse still that, when you hunt around in the options menu to find the controller layout, find the buttons, then try using them – they do nothing.
Where things go a bit pear-shaped is using a controller on the outside views – it's very difficult to tell when and where the car's going to understeer, and harder still to effectively gauge your speed without using the speedometer. These don't sound like massive issues, but try it – use the outside view with a controller, and see how many times you end up in a gravel trap, with your controller through the screen. It is incredibly frustrating.
One of the major aspects to make the difficulty what it is, is the AI. Codemasters has really brought their A-game here, making the AI difficult without making it frustrating to drive around, like Polyphony Digital did with Gran Turismo 5 – unlike the latter, the AI doesn't just crash into you all the time and never let you overtake. The AI is both challenging and fun to drive around, which makes the difficulty a challenge, rather than an annoyance.
Finally on the gameplay front, the penalty system – the helmets must be to keep drivers from ripping their hair out. Actually, there's a personal recommendation from me; wear a helmet, keep your hair safe! The penalties may be realistic and all that, but it doesn't mean they aren't frustrating.
The graphics are a mixed bag here. First of all, let's establish that the screenshots you may have seen leading up to the games release are not indicative of the game's actual look at all. It really doesn't look that good. It looks fine, sure – but it doesn't really look great. The cars themselves look wonderful, with beautiful reflections and delicious curves aplenty, but the drivers, the equipment and the tracks just look a bit under developed, sometimes even a fair bit substandard on the people. Nothing special there.
This is definitely a game designed to be seen at 150mph. And what better place to do so, than on some of the best tracks in the world, which are all modeled accurately, and do look like the real thing.
The menus all look great, with a clean, easy to understand theme throughout, and the HUD is also great, apart from the lack of a half-decent tachometer. One feature I really like is that you can see the sectors on which you need to improve, on the mini-map! It really does help, knowing where you really need to get the hammer down, and knowing where the accidents are before you're near them.
There really isn't that much else to say about the graphics. The bottom line, here, is that it's not a bad looking game, but there are times where it really doesn't look up to scratch, and times when it does look pretty appealing.
Audio is pretty good, the sounds of all the Formula One cars screaming around some of the best tracks in the world really is one for the bucket list. There is no music while you drive, which is actually a good thing. The music in the menus does the job and that’s about it.
The voices are done actually really well, with your mate in the pits, giving you info and instructions on the fly sounding great, and rarely exactly repeating dialogue.
Overall, the audio, while racing, is absolutely fantastic. The scream of the cars tearing round the tracks, the thump and crunch of the crashes, the scratch of the gravel traps – they all sound awesome!
If we ignore F1 2010, F1 2011 is a fantastic title in itself. There are heaps of races to do, with each one being as short or as involving as you could want it to be.
If we slot F1 2010 back into the equation, it's noticeable that F1 2011 is, essentially, just an upgrade. An excellent upgrade at that, adding many new features and improvements, but still an upgrade.
There is an awful lot of single player content to be enjoyed here, and you won't be running out of career mode in any kind of hurry.
Overall, the sense of accomplishment that I'd earned every podium finish I had in the game the hard way, that I'd given it my all and come out on top – was a brilliant feeling. F1 2011's difficulty and pressure really make an immersive, heart-pounding, sweat-inducing, finger-breaking package. And that's how a Formula One game should be, white knuckled, loud and rewarding.
Winning an F1 race is a feeling that really leaves you satisfied here, and it's no cakewalk. There aren't really any game-breaking faults here, and, if you're into Formula One, you'll have an especially great time – although you may find the opposite if you're not a fan, unless you have a fair bit of patience.
If you have cash to spare with Forza Motorsport 4 just released, F1 2011 is worth picking up.
+ Intense, with a great sense of speed
+ Gives a glimpse behind the scenes
+ Lots of improvements over F1 2010
+ Great weather effects
+ Heaps of play time
- Very steep difficulty curve for casual drivers
- Graphics sub-par on drivers & equipment
- Virtually no proper introduction for KERS & DRS
Reviewed and Written By Frankie Main