F1 2011 Review
F1 in all its glory.
When it comes to certain games, the developers are always very careful not to piss off the loyal mob of fans that the franchise has. Should they even make the smallest adjustment that disrupts the gameplay or changes anything too much, they know that heads (and hides) will roll. F1 2011 is one such game, and for the most part delivers a superb racing experience for fans of the sport.
It’s very hard for me to look at F1 2011 as a mere racing game because it simply is more than that. While other racing games have a plethora of cars on offer, shiny tracks to race on, and the promise of a near-infinite supply of nitrous, F1 2011 instead focuses on two things; the car and your driving. With cars that hug the ground and travel at breakneck speeds, it’s no wonder that F1 racing is such an incredible experience. But just how good is the game compared to the real thing?
The short answer is that anyone who appreciates the sport of F1 racing will instantly fall in love with this game. Be warned though, the game will take some learning for new players, and it’s not as easy as other racing games you may have played. The start of the game introduces you to the game’s Career mode, where similar to other racing games you customize your driver and go through a rather quaint TV interview to deliver a bit of background on yourself and comment on your racing plans. You’re then taken to an area where you can answer emails from your in-game cohorts, check out your stats and leaderboards, or even customize your helmet. Once you pull up the race calendar, you can see which tracks are available and head over to the track. It’s important to note that unlike other racing games, F1 2011 doesn’t allow you to simply drive off and start racing – you need to run through several practice laps which determines your starting position for the actual race. Some players might get a bit annoyed at this, but it’s honestly what you can expect from a game as serious as this. Once you’ve selected your track, you head over to the garage where you can tweak your tires, check out further information about the track, and then proceed to race.
Once you’re finally on the track, the real test can begin – controlling your car is a careful exercise that will demand your complete concentration. Of course you can always flip into the main menu and turn on all the driving aids, but this totally defeats the purpose of the game. As your car screeches and swerves around the track, you can almost feel the force of the car as you try to keep it on course, and it’s an absolute thrill. The slightest tap of the analogue stick or accelerator instantly translates to your car, and the overall feel and handling is a dream. Some exciting weather conditions also challenge your driving prowess, and you also get to see some fantastic rain effects. As a change in this installment, the game includes DRS and KERS, which are terms that would be lost on most people but alter your racing experience. DRS allows you to modify your car’s rear wing, which can have an effect on your car’s drag and control, while KERS is a slipstream boost that you can use to edge past the competition. These inclusions will of course appeal to diehard fans, but to the casual gamer they might not register as much.
Should you not wish to plod through the game’s career mode, there is a Grand Prix mode available where you can queue up a series of tracks and race up against other drivers. Or you can indulge in the online multiplayer and go head to head against some rather ruthless drivers. Unfortunately my first few matches were a bit of a bust as most of the drivers seem to think they were playing Carmageddon instead of F1, and repeatedly swerved into cars or caused incidents. Thankfully, the game was quick to black-flag them out of the race, so more serious drivers could continue. With online, splitscreen, and LAN options available, there’s a strong multiplayer component here that’s good for racking up a good number of gaming hours.
Graphics-wise the game does pull off some neat tricks – the weather effects are the showstoppers here, but there are also some other points to note such as gravel and grass sticking to your tires when you head off track, and then slowly fading off your tires as your regain speed. The audio is limited only to your engineer’s commentary as you race around the track, coupled with the deafening noises of your car’s engine. While the gameplay is on top form, there are a few issues that I found in the game. For one, even though game data was installed to my PS3, there were load times of at least 20-30 seconds between each track, which after a while got a bit annoying. The race interview segments also showed a small bit of clipping, but I was willing to overlook this as it was often short-lived. And while some gamers may complain that the game isn’t as friendly as other racing games, one has to accept the argument that this isn’t just a racing game – it’s F1 racing, which is serious business.
F1 2011 is a must have for fans of the sport, and is a marked improvement on last year’s release. Though new gamers may take some time to learn the ropes, the ultimate satisfaction is in being able to tear around the tracks without missing a beat. If you’ve ever wanted to give F1 racing a spin, this is as good as it’s going to get.