Codemasters created a brilliant, accessible simulation with last year’s F1 2010, their first outing with the license garnering some great reviews (the Metacritic average is around 84%) and expectations that this year’s game will improve on the niggles that hardcore fans had whilst still making it playable by gamers of all skill (and interest) levels. From my time with the game at E3 behind closed doors, that certainly seems to be the case.[drop]First up, the new. There’ll be twenty circuits, including recent additions like Nurburgring and Delhi, each of them visually much improved over 2011 with richer graphics, better lighting and denser trackside scenery. Pirelli tyres are in (with better representations of wear) as are the much requested KERS (Kinetic Energy Reduction System) and DRS (Drag Reduction System). KERS is handling nicely, with a small battery icon on the HUD showing the remaining boost which, thankfully, isn’t accompanied by a cheesy burst of motion blur when it’s used.
The car liveries are updated, too (although we weren’t allowed to take photographs for licensing reasons) and any tweaks to the cars are – we’re told – represented in the game. They certainly look the part, although it’s the hugely improved paddock and other staging areas that impressed us the most: the garage visuals are much better, with a deeper sense of atmosphere, and the UI has been streamlined a little so you can jump to other areas quickly.
Likewise, the game now supports parc fermé, better reactions from the crowd and – thankfully – less ambiguity in the press sections, which are now backed up with meaningful newspaper quotes so you can track your off track progress as easily as your racing.
The car dynamics have also been the subject of tweaks, especially with regards to the AI drivers who now behave far more like human drivers, and there’s better feedback on damage levels, failures and even how you and your team mate are doing via the radio system. And speaking of team mate, F1 2011 now sports a fully comprehensive co-op campaign mode, so if you’ve got a buddy you can opt to take on the rest of the pack in the same overalls and livery, for the entire season.[drop2]Online is improved too – there’ll now be a full 24 pack line-up (Codemasters are currently pushing 16 players and 8 AI, but hope to improve those numbers for launch) rather than the cut-down affair last year, and offline gamers can look forward to a split screen mode that although we didn’t get to test looked solid enough. Gamers are wanting more split screen action these days and it’s good that the developers have picked up on this.
Our time with the game behind the wheel was rewarding – we do have hardcore racers here at TheSixthAxis but personally I’m not the biggest F1 fan – but with a proper force feedback rig this latest iteration was a much better ride than 2010. The racing pack seemed more dynamic, the connection with the road a little tighter and the option to use the KERS (which provides a nice HP boost for a few seconds) meant those long straights fly by quicker than ever before.
All in all, we’re confident that racing fans will lap up this one, which is currently pitched at a September release date.