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Review

F1 2011 Review (PS Vita)

Team orders.

Blistering speed, deafening noise, fumes from a tightly balanced fuel mix and the acrid smell of overheated rubber. Formula 1 racing, like any competitive motor sport, is a sensory assault. It is possibly the most perfect sporting balance between driver, engineer and machine. 1,500lbs of polished carbon fibre, precision engineering and perfectly distributed ballast screeching down a smooth tarmac straight at 200mph and breaking hard into a tight corner is a sight to behold. Unfortunately, Codemaster’s F1 2011 on the PS Vita largely fails at synthesising this sensation.


Smoke and haze don't help the visuals much.
There is a lot in this game to tempt the PlayStation Vita-owning F1 fan. It has plenty of race modes, from quick races that allow you to drop right into the action, through full race meetings and championship modes, right up to a fully fledged career mode. There are car tuning and setup options which allow you to eke out every ounce of performance from the car and edge ever-closer to that perfect lap time. All of the teams from last season and all of the tracks are present too, it’s a complete F1 experience on a portable console.

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t play as well as it promises. Steering with the tiny analogue stick is incredibly twitchy and although the sensitivity can be turned down, I was never able to find the sweet spot between instant swerving, which didn’t allow for any amount of precision, and input that felt quite dull and hampered with lag. This makes for a generally  frustrating playing experience, even though it is probably true to the simulation.

The game simulates tyre heat and compounds reasonably well, with handling quite clearly changing to reflect what your situation is. If you’re playing the game on its easiest setting, you won’t care because the skill deficit handed to AI players and your boost in straight line speed makes it almost impossible to lose. For the tougher difficulties though, the simulation aspects of the game will make all the difference.

There are several control systems available if you dig through the menus. This enables you to switch away from the somewhat old fashioned setup with X and square as accelerate and brake to something that allows you to use the KERS and DRS (set to circle and triangle) without lifting off the go-faster button. The rear panel can be used to switch up and down gears, too, like wheel-mounted paddles. Unfortunately, that’s where the Vita’s special control schemes end. Everything else is fairly traditional, no tilt steering or touch screen menus here.


It looks much better in motion than in the screenshots but it's still not great.
Aside from new challenges in that game mode, and the scaling back of the graphical look of the game, it feels very much like the home console version. Unfortunately, for some the decline in visual fidelity will be enough to put them off. It shouldn’t be though, F1 2011 might not be the most impressive looking game but in motion, and out of the cockpit view, it’s not all that bad. Given the speed, generally narrow tracks and ultra-responsive handling, you’ll barely have time to glance around you anyway.

There is a decent sense of speed there too, something often difficult to replicate on a handheld device, but that’s let down by some very poor frame rates in the corners. It seems worse on some tracks than on others but it was a distraction no matter where it occurred. It’s difficult to tell if the game is having problems processing the scenery around the track as it renders onto the screen, or if there’s some problem with the physics but the juddering around certain corners was impossible to ignore.

Pros:

  • It’s a large scale F1 experience in your pocket.
  • Multiplayer and plenty of single player longevity.
  • Much more a simulation than an arcade racer, something unique at this time on Vita.

Cons:

  • Visually quite poor.
  • Bad frame rate issues are distracting.

F1 2011 has a lot of potential. It’s unique in the Vita’s launch line up as a racing simulation rather than an arcade racer and it has a wealth of options, including local and online multiplayer, which might have really given it appeal for F1 fans.

What is difficult to forgive though, are the distracting drops in frame rate at key times which make the game frustrating to play. This might be an issue that can be patched out, but for now the natural rhythm of the game is disrupted by a slow down just at the point where the game needs to be accepting precise control inputs. This is an issue confounded by the over sensitive steering, which makes it even more difficult to find a decent balance. Adjusting the difficulty down makes the game much more forgiving but far less appealing as it simply becomes almost impossible to lose.

Score: 6/10

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12 Comments
  1. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    Looks quite good graphically in the thumbnails… and then you click on one.

    Such a shame that it’s so borked in that way with the frame-rate drops effecting the simulation action as it does look to have all the components to make a great game.

    Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 09:39.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Agreed. Like an upscaled PSP version but screwed up for extra effect.

      Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 11:48.
      • tonyyeb
        Member
        Since: Aug 2010

        The PSP version looked better.

        Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 20:35.
  2. kjkg
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Those screenshots are poor. Even for a handheld, you would expect a bit more polish.

    Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 09:47.
  3. freezebug2
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    One of the Pro’s…simulation.
    Surely that’s a mistake on a handheld, they should have gone with F1 2011 Arcade aka. pick up and play. I can spend hours tweaking set ups in sim racers, but can’t imagine wanting to do that on a portable! Just my 10 cents ;)

    Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 09:54.
  4. tonyyeb
    Member
    Since: Aug 2010

    Sony should have prevented this poor effort of a game from being released.

    Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 10:13.
  5. minerwilly
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    I’ll say it again , Sony Liverpools efforts where far superior .

    Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 10:34.
  6. JesseDeya
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Oh god my eyes, I can never unsee those screenshots!!

    For shame Codemasters, first you botch this years PS3 release (pathetic frame rate, no AA or Aniso) and now you butcher the Vita title.

    Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 12:10.
  7. Origami Killer
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    It just looks dreadful! so jagged

    Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 16:51.
  8. w0mbat
    Member
    Since: Feb 2012

    well I’ve actually got the game and it’s great.

    Obviously not as sharp as on my ps3 but still impressive on the vita’s screen. If you fancy F1 on the Vita then I think it’s well worth a pop (and only £20 at zavvi) don’t let the constant comment whingers put you off…..

    @freezebug2, the default career challenge is very “arcadey” and perfect for a quick 10 min blast that will let you qualify and race a circuit in that time.

    Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 18:23.
  9. Sitorimon
    Member
    Since: Jul 2011

    Looks like F1 98’s black sheep in the f1 family :\

    Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 19:33.
  10. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Shame, real shame.

    Comment posted on 27/02/2012 at 22:50.

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