The winner of the current F1 season is almost a sure-thing, but is Codemasters’ latest F1 sim as well? With the introduction of DRS and KERS, improved driving physics, more realistic AI, a new collection of tracks, an improved focus on multi-player and the greatest racing challenge to date – it just might be.
When Codemasters gained the exclusive rights to publish Formula 1 games in 2009, fans had good reason to remain cautious. After all, F1 is a sport that many take seriously. It’s not a NASCAR, and it’s sure not a Dirt 2. With F1 2010 however, I think most would agree that the developer did a commendable job. The track design was spot-on, the cars looked great and there was a lot included that helped make you feel like you were in the F1.
F1 2011 can be likened to a FIFA or Madden where annual updates are released, rather than full overhauls. Things like graphics can be improved over time along with other game mechanics, but for the most part, an upgrade from F1 2010 to F1 2011 won’t feel like a major change as going from FIFA 12 to Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 would.
As far as I’ve been able to tell, there have been no notable graphics or audio updates implemented, as the game feels quite like F1 2010. The biggest changes have to do with the driver line-up, available tracks, driving physics, commentator, R&D, KERS, DRS, the return of Pirelli tires and the safety car, and a renewed emphasis on multi-player racing.
(Change to 720p/1080p, then go full-screen for best viewing.)
In addition to the in-depth career mode, spanning five seasons across the 19 official 2011 tracks, there’s a Grand Prix mode made for custom track rotation, co-op championships that can see you and a friend complete a full season together, time trials, time attacks which see you complete six super-difficult scenarios, and of course, standard online racing.
The career mode is about as customizable as a career mode can get. In addition to altering the difficulty, you’re able to change variables for each race as needed. At the default setting, 3 lap races are chosen with Intermediate AI. Don’t expect an easier difficulty to be that much “easier”, though. Team requirements become more difficult the better you do, so the game always remains challenging.
Adding to the “realism” factor, F1 2011 helps you live the life of an F1 star by making you deal with inane press questions, read likewise inane e-mails from managers and charm up the pit girls. Wait, I think that last one was a dream…
After most races, you’ll be asked a couple of questions by BBC Radio’s F1 commentator David Croft. Such questions deal with your thoughts on your team, your teammate, how you think you will do the rest of the season and so on. I am unsure of the consequences of answering these questions, though bad-talking your team might not be the best of ideas (I’m too kind to attempt it).
Each race consists of a practice, qualifier and the actual race, although the first two can be skipped. This is not recommended, however, as R&D upgrades are tied to the practices, and the qualifier has it’s own obvious benefits. Like almost every game on the planet, F1 2011 has a leveling system where you can earn XP if team conditions are met. This is another game mechanic that doesn’t seem too important, unless you value yourself by such things.
As before, you’re able to choose between preset car setups prior to each race or dig in and alter everything you can manually, from suspension to brakes to balance to aerodynamics and so forth. To help improve the car’s abilities, R&D challenges need to be completed. After entering a new track, you’ll have an option after accessing the engineer to do such a run, and if your requirements are met, you’ll gain that R&D improvement on a following track.
This is one game mechanic that hasn’t been implemented too well, and due to me overlooking the details (which have to be self-taught or learned on the Internet), I ended up having to scrap an eight-race season due to having no R&D work done up to that point. In order for R&D successes to count, you cannot skip to the qualifier afterward. Rather, you have to “Return to Paddock”, and then go back into the garage to continue through to the qualifier. Whether this be just odd design or a bug, it should be fixed.
As mentioned before, races are adjustable to be quick or long, with full races able to be well over 50 laps depending on the track, or in actual time, about 4-100 minutes per race. More serious racers will want to adhere to official F1 race rules, while those who might not want a career to span across 100+ hours can alter their settings accordingly.