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Review: F1 2011 (PS3/360)

Go compete.

“We’ve had lots of Tweets from your fans,” claims F1 2011′s interviewer as you start up the main career mode. It’s a little cringeworthy, for sure, but it’s as good a method of getting the player to enter their name and nationality as any other, as the carefully chosen questions tempt out the required data to populate your save game. The man facing you (and his cameraman stood off to the side) forcefully demonstrate that Codemasters’ strength lies in modelling cars though, not humans, the lifeless figures that populate F1 2011′s more expanded off-track sections hardly L.A. Noire material.

They don’t have to be, of course, because F1 2011′s racing credentials more than live up to expectations, but it’s jarring to see a full pit crew and various press wandering around so poorly realised. If Codemasters were hoping that the increased pedestrian presence would improve immersion they only got it half right, the remaining list of new features thankfully much more substantial. 2011 is a more comprehensive game than 2010, but the question is whether or not enough has changed for the better.


The rain effects are as gorgeous as ever.
The presentation has certainly ramped up, even if it’s merely incrementally in some areas. The menu system itself is still as slick as ever (and I still adore the way you fill out your own F1 championship from blocks of bespoke races) and the off track areas, including your trailer and the new Parc Ferme sections, help to create a bit more of an atmosphere. They’re not perfect, as I’ve said, but they’re there, and the overall result is undoubtably positive for F1 fanatics.

Your own personal area features a laptop (with emails and race information), the ability to change your helmet and the option to view the race calendar. It’s not an essential improvement, but it’s consistent enough with the garage viewpoint (where you can consult the in-car computer and engineer as before) that it’s worth having. It’s not terribly different from what you’ve been used to in past titles, but all this (and the post-race sequences) at least try to offer a more complete experience. Certainly, nothing else has ever attempted to be an all-encompassing title the way F1 2011 has, even if it doesn’t always get it right.

Loading times are still a killer though (and one track, Singapore, steadfastly refused to progress past the loading screen in our build, no matter how many times we tried) – this is something that all of Codemasters’ recent racing games have suffered with and it’s surprising that they’re still as long as they are. Once you’re in the garage it’s plain sailing, but until then you’re left staring at a screen full of slowly scrolling statistics, at least on the PS3.


The game looks at its best with a packed grid of cars.
On the track, though, you’ll be glad to know that F1 2011 hasn’t lost its mojo. The handling, regardless of the amount of driver assists you’ve got going on, is sublime, and some tweaks to the physics (such as realistic traction on kerbs) make an altogether more believable drive. Naturally, the game’s most disposable on the easiest settings, where the brakes are automatic and the tyres at their most grippy, but hardcore racing fans will quickly want to dial down the settings to get the most of it.

The presence of KERS and DRS will impress devotees to the sport, too. KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) converts otherwise wasted energy from the brakes into acceleration (like a boost of power) and is illustrated via a little battery icon on the HUD. The speed increase is subtle, but can make all the difference if deployed tactically. The other new feature, DRS (Drag Reduction System) opens up the rear wing, losing downforce on corners but effectively giving a little more speed. Both are handled well (and mapped to a trigger and the Triangle button on PS3) but probably won’t be too obvious for casual gamers.

Other improvements over last year’s game include better, more realistic AI – although our build was marked as ‘work-in-progress’ in this area – which generally means that there’s less cheating in qualifying and the computer controlled drivers will be smarter with regards to tyre use. The race engineer communications are more useful too, giving you over-the-radio updates on your car and those around you, including information on fuel, pitting, pace and so on – this extends to online too, so in theory you can keep an ear out for what your opponents are up to.

Info:
  • Released 23rd September
  • Builds on last year's game
  • Most comprehensive console F1 game yet
Online itself is where the biggest changes are – there’s now a full grid of cars (with 8 AI drivers against 16 online players) which makes a huge difference to the game, but it’s in the lobbies where Codemasters have really worked hard. Balanced objectives now mean that weaker players don’t necessarily need to beat the better ones – F1 2011 will look at your ability, rank and car and give you realistic targets rather than just ‘come first’, and you can now instantly fill up the lobby with AI drivers and kick start a countdown once it’s half full, removing the waiting around that the last game suffered from. Those using assists will find themselves subject to weight increases once they rank up, too.

Offline the game now supports split screen, and there’s a two player co-op championship if you’ve got a buddy you can rely on. Finally, there’re two new tracks: India and Nurburgring, and some visual improvements, especially with regards to much improved lighting effects and enhanced track side detail. The framerate’s still not perfect, mind, and it’s not particularly a hugely impressive looking game even running at around 30fps unless you’re playing it in the admittedly rather fantastic looking rain, but fans will rest easy knowing that the developers have moved in the right direction, just a little incrementally.

Pros:

  • Improvements all around to the handling and AI
  • Better online lobbies
  • KERS and DRS are nice for hardcore fans

Cons:

  • The off-track stuff looks and feels a little basic
  • Visually roughly the same, frame rate isn’t perfect

Now the tricky part – is F1 2011 worth picking up if you already own 2010? That’s a question that only the individual can really answer – there’s certainly a good, extensive and solid game here but then a good chunk of it is clearly based on last year’s code and visuals, even most of the menu interface remains the same. The improvements are all for the better – that’s for sure – but perhaps we’d have liked to have seen more of them. Anyone that bypassed 2010 and held out for this years can relax easy, though, this is probably the best Formula One game we’ve seen for years.

Score: 8/10

Disclaimer: the review code we had was marked WIP in certain areas. The AI wasn’t fully finished and some features, like the safety car, will be finalised with a later patch. We’re expecting retail copies next week, so we’ll update as necessary.

Read more: #
45 Comments
  1. nemesisND1derboy
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    It’s a nice write up Alex, but unfortunately I can’t trust a review that’s not based on final, retail code. I know you want to get the review done and out there, but still…

    I’ll wait until your amendments so :)

    Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:03.
    • nemesisND1derboy
      Member
      Since: Apr 2010

      Having said that, it’s good that you put the piece on the bottom letting us know that it’s not final code. Other sites, such as EG, didn’t.

      Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:07.
      • nemesisND1derboy
        Member
        Since: Apr 2010

        So EG did get final code, which begs the question, why didn’t TSA? This is all quite strange. Surely Every publication should get the same code.

        Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:36.
      • nofi
        One for all.
        Since: Forever

        It’s not that the car isn’t there, just that the implementation isn’t finalised. Sorry for any confusion. Same with the racer AI – it’s not quite done.

        Once we get final (final) code we’ll take another look.

        Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:59.
      • nemesisND1derboy
        Member
        Since: Apr 2010

        Cheers peter and my apologies to Alex. It’s just all a bit confusing :)

        Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:59.
      • nofi
        One for all.
        Since: Forever

        No apologies necessary.

        This happens – the disk is marked as ‘review’ but there’s accompanying notes that signal what’s not quite finished. It’s only fair that we point these out.

        The car is in this build, but it’s not finished in terms of how it’s implemented.

        We’ll take another look this weekend if necessary – let me know.

        Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 15:01.
  2. SpikeyMikey23
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Cannot wait to pick this up nect weekend. cant wait to get back to racing with TSAsians and getting the awesome TSA F1 Champ back in swing. Enjoyable read. Shame you werent able to test the saftey car. Thats one thing im looking forward to seeing in action!

    Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:06.
  3. tonyyeb
    Member
    Since: Aug 2010

    For sure this is a good review.

    Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:07.
    • citizeninsane45
      Would happily punch a priest free of charge.
      Since: Oct 2008

      For sure, the comment of the week!

      Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:16.
    • tom_lord
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Apr 2009

      Ha, you beat me to it, for sure

      Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 23:33.
  4. wick15
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Fantastic review. I’ve been looking forward to F1 2011 for a while now. 2010 was brilliant fun online and that’s mainly what I’m looking forward to in this one. I’m not to bothered if the game is similar to last year. If the game is as fun online and as many TSA peeps playing it this year, I’ll be happy.

    Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:12.
  5. gazzagb
    Master of speling mitakse
    Since: Feb 2009

    Tempted to rent this first, then buy a couple of weeks later once its come down in price if its worth it. For me, Codies seemed to of focused too much on DiRT3, and so with F1 2011, they just re-released F1 2010 with new liveries on the cars.
    It was odd how they always said they wouldn’t put in the Saftey Car as they said it would be “too much effort to code”, and yet just a few weeks ago, they must of found that effort and put it in.

    Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:13.
    • teflon
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      F1 2011, and 2010, have been developed by Codemasters Birmingham, whilst the Southam studio developed Dirt 3. So there’s no real impact on either game from the development of the other.

      It’s also bound to be an incremental update. It’s like the difference between each year of FIFA games. only fairly minor changes, with the odd big change each year. One of those this year is the Safety Car. That’s a feature which they had planned for ’10, but pulled because it wasn’t ready yet. The chief game designer, Steve Hood, said after the announcement of it for ’11, that it was part teasing people by pretending they knew nothing about it until that point, and part waiting until they thought it was ready to be demonstrated.

      It’s like with Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. They only just explained how it would work in Single Player a few days ago.

      Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 15:44.
  6. citizeninsane45
    Would happily punch a priest free of charge.
    Since: Oct 2008

    Had this pre-ordered for a while now. Sold 2010 about 6 months ago so I am raring to go again now.

    Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:16.
    • iiekka
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      same sold mine a while ago ready for this version, will no doubt do the same for 2012 version, looking forwards to getting hold of this.

      Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 15:04.
  7. job
    Member
    Since: Jun 2010

    still prefer the ferrari f1 car in gt5 for my f1 fix. im a massive f1 nut but hate the official games because it copies the tv coverage so closely and how i watch f1 and how i want to play f1 are massively different for me.
    still looks significantly improved from the last game which can only be good for racing fans.

    Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:17.
  8. MICKY17
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    Good review, looking forward to next week :)

    Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:17.
  9. Zephyre
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    I know it’s asking a lot, but I’d have loved them to chuck a season or two of the lower tier racing, something like formula 3000 or another open wheeler class so you can learn the trade before you get chucked into a full F1 season. Can fully understand why they haven’t (models, licences etc) but would be a great addition

    Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:26.
    • SpikeyMikey23
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Awesome Idea. That would be great. So you have to win your way into F1. I enjoyed F3000 in Grid. Email it to them lol. Although im pretty sure that one of the codies community managers is registered on TSA. Perhaps he’ll spot this

      Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 14:36.
      • iiekka
        Member
        Since: Feb 2009

        no chance, as good as it would be i doubt the f1 licence would let them do it. id love to see some of the off season tracks they test at included and some classic f1 cars but again i think they cant because of bernies rules.

        Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 15:06.
  10. TheRook21
    Member
    Since: Sep 2008

    I did just scan the review – so apologies if I’ve missed it – at the top it states 360/PS3 – which version was this review done for? If it was performed on both it would be nice to have a summary displaying PS3 & 360 pro’s and cons e.g. if the framerate is a bit choppier on PS3 or the graphical fidelity is worse on 360 etc.

    Just a thought :)

    Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 15:03.
    • iiekka
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      ps3

      Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 15:08.
      • Zoidberg
        Banned
        Since: Nov 2009

        This comment is hidden.

        Comment posted on 17/09/2011 at 11:49.
    • nofi
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      PS3. Sorry, we don’t have a 360 review version yet.

      Comment posted on 16/09/2011 at 15:09.

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