Game Rant’s Robert Keyes reviews F1 2011
UK developer Codemasters has always been a big proponent of racing games and earlier this year saw the release of DiRT 3, a game we very much enjoyed for it’s off-road antics and solid gameplay. Now, their new biggest franchise based on the current season of Formula 1 is out.
Does F1 2011, their on-road racing sim live up to to the high standards set by its predecessor, while still offering an improved experience? Read on for our review.
F1 2011 is a strong, all-encompassing racing simulator that is extremely faithful to the sport, but it’s held back by two shortcomings. It does not deliver enough to differentiate itself from its predecessor in the annualized series and it’s just too damn hard to play.
While F1 2011 is without a doubt, a hardcore racing game series, Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport it is not. Even on the easiest difficulty, with all of the handicaps turned on, F1 2011 is frustratingly difficult to play and succeed. The game successfully recreates the Formula 1 racing experience from the ground up for players, but unless purchasers of the game are very familiar with the series or are hardcore fans of the sport, they may find themselves giving up on the game’s steep learning curve.
F1 2011 is one of the most comprehensive racers on the market, recreating the Formula 1 experience on and off the track. Beginning in career mode, the player starts by being interviewed by the press – this is how Codemasters lets players create their character and choose their racing team, followed by news headlines about the signing and a reminder that the player is one of the dark horses to look out for this racing season. Players can’t help being pulled in to the experience at this point, and it’s only the beginning.
Next, the player is introduced to their own office and out the window the team’s colors, racing team members, race car transport trucks can all be seen. Within the office, there’s a laptop where the emails, standings and track info can all be examined, but it’s deeper than that – players can receive contract offers and press snippets here as player progress their career.
The calendar on the wall shows the tracks and races, and there’s even a helmet on a shelf which allows player to select different designs. The office alone, a minor part of the overall experience, emphasizes the attention to detail Codemasters places on this series and immersiveness the game offers to willing participants. The same applies for the in-car experience.
Very simple-to-use and intuitive menus and presentation help newcomers who may find themselves experiencing the opposite when sitting in their car and viewing the customization options. Everything from gearbox ratios and suspensions to break pressure and aerodynamics can be altered. Change tires, talk to the engineer about objectives for each track and let the race begin. Each change to the car does make a difference, so study up and prep the vehicle for the racing conditions and track design accordingly or you’ll be at the back of the pack.
Managing fuel and tire life, to properly time pit stops on lengthier races and complete bonus objectives bring the reality of F1 racing to life, and off the track, earning reputation and car upgrades bring opportunities to join higher level teams.
Graphics are not F1 2011’s selling point and if you’re new to the genre, prepare to be punished on the track. Even on the game’s easiest difficulty, it’s incredibly challenging to place well in qualifiers off the bat – Even with the sport’s new rule changes which add new game mechanics.
For the first time in the series (and the sport), F1 2011 adds a few new features which for a little more spice to the racing, especially the practice and qualifier rounds. KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) can be used for a little acceleration boost when needed and DRS (Drag Reduction System) does the same in helping overtake opponents – like in reality, it can be used anytime in practice and qualifiers but is restricted on race day.
This however, is also where the game hurts itself and F1 2011 is a rare example of a title that would benefit from more accessibility. Users are forced to practice and qualify before each race if they wish to have a chance.
F1 2011 isn’t revolutionary but it succeeds in delivering a competent and in-depth racing experience, handcrafted for its niche market, as large as it may be. Should the dedicated put in a lot of time to master the craft, each little victory, even passing a car is an epic moment of glory and that gratification is hard to come by it other racing sims.
The way to really enjoy the game for many players will be to take to playing with human players. F1 2011 supports competitive play for 2 player splitscreen and up to 16 online. Video game racing does not get more competitive than this and the game works with a hiccup when playing with others. The most fun however, is the new co-op championship mode where two players play together for a full season on the same team. F1 fans should find endless replayability conquering the championship with a friend and trying out different teams.
F1 loyalists who follow the racing team dynamics and the top Formula 1 drivers, will love a lot of what F1 2011 has to offer but the game’s actual racing will be a deterrent to the unfamiliar. For others, the handling of the cars is much improved of its predecessors and the in-car experience is still unique to this franchise.
The varied tracks of Formula 1, combined with some very cool weather effects make for a lot of high-intensity maneuvering. Little details from grass and mud on the tires when going off-road to radio messages from the race team updating the player on car and track conditions all succeed in making F1 2011 one of the most authentic racing experiences available.
We applaud Codemasters for their attention to detail and authenticity to the sport but for F1 2012, the “Easy” difficult setting is exactly that.
F1 2011 is currently available for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. The game requires a VIP pass for online play – it can be bought separately for used game purchasers.
Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.