Last year, Codemasters led Formula 1’s return to gaming, and while it was easily one of the best F1 games ever made, it wasn’t perfect. There were no major faults with the on-track action, but off the track, particularly in the career mode, F1 2010 came across as bland and sterile, very much in contrast to the passion and glamour that is associated with the sport itself. F1 2011, of course, will aim to change that as well as add several new elements unique to the current F1 season, such as the KERS and DRS systems as well as the two new circuits – Korea and our very own Buddh International Circuit in Noida.
Unfortunately, the Indian Grand Prix was unavailable in the preview build that was available to us, so we had to be content with the seven tracks. More disappointment followed when we found that the career mode, which needs the most work over last year’s game, was also unavailable. What was available were all the teams from the current F1 season as well as both drivers from each team, albeit with outdated rosters (Karthikeyan was still in HRT). The new Proving Grounds mode was available to play, and it’s a great starting point with its set of time trial and time attack challenges that puts you through various scenarios, such as setting the best possible lap times around Spa in heavy rain. F1 2011 also adds split-screen and LAN (even on PS3) multi-player, which sadly we didn’t have the opportunity to try out.
Slippery when wet
The most obvious difference in F1 2011 is apparent without even picking up the controller. The visuals are significantly crisper than last year’s game, with sharper car models, cleaner textures, lush foliage, and the notable absence of Codemasters’ signature piss filter. The downer, however, was the framerates, which dropped noticeably when driving through the pit lane or chasing another car around the track in the rain as it kicked up sprays of water from the track. We fully expect this to be taken care of in the full release. The water effects were fantastic in F1 2010, but F1 2011 takes it to another level, as water splashes believably across the camera, and you’re perilously blinded as you drive close to the car ahead of you.
The Grand Prix mode is almost identical to the way it was in last year’s game, including the garage setting, where you can access vehicle setup options via the engineer and jump to practice sessions, qualifying and the race. You can also adjust your fuel and tyre strategies on the fly via the d-pad. All the same driving assists are available too, such as driving line (full or only corners), traction control, ABS, braking control and tire simulation. Both DRS and KERS were available in this build as well, and they worked just as you would expect. Beware, however, that even with all assists (except brake assist) on, this is still no walk in the park. In fact, keeping a disciplined driving line was near impossible, but we’ll put that down to the limitations of the standard console controller than a fault in the game itself. This, more than any other console racing game we’ve played in a long time, demands a good racing wheel. Having said that, it would be a shame if Codemasters didn’t tweak the controls a bit, because if it stays this way, those playing with the standard Dualshock 3 controller are in for a frustrating time.
I'm coming for you
F1 2011 isn’t a dramatically different game, and that’s testament to how good F1 2010 was. But be warned – this is a game for F1 purists only, and it’s those purists who’ll be excited by the inclusion of KERS and DRS, the prospect of playing on the new F1 circuits in Korea and India, and the promise of a deeper career mode.
F1 2011 is scheduled for release on September 22 for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.