Jumping into a Formula 1 car to outpace the likes of former champions Vettel, Hamilton and Button around Monaco isn’t something that ordinary folk are likely to do. Controlling these beasts takes years of practice, not to mention an intimate knowledge of the tracks that you’ll be flying around full pelt. This level of difficulty is reflected in the newest F1 game to reach our consoles, F1 2011. Offering an experience more intense than the vast majority of racing games, this simulation experience will put you behind the wheel of what feels like a genuine Formula 1 car. For the first time you will start to understand the fragility of these immensely powerful machines, knowing that the slightest mistake could cost you a wing, and the race.
The career mode of F1 2011 is where you will undoubtedly spend a lot of your time. The story is very similar to that of the game’s predecessor, F1 2010, in that you will find yourself struggling in one of the teams fighting for position at the bottom of the grid. Making your presence felt in this world of elite racing drivers involves gradually improving your performance and meeting team goals. Don’t expect to start the career mode winning races; it will take quite an investment of time for you to work your way up the ranks and into a winning team.
Codemasters hit success with F1 2010, even winning a Bafta for their efforts. It’s hardly surprising therefore that this latest addition to the series should be anything other than excellent. Some excellent improvements to the gameplay, including an all new co-op campaign mode in which you must choose whether to assist your teammate or focus solely on winning the coveted drivers championship, make this a title worth playing whether you own the last game or not.
As in F1 2010, if you don’t know much about Formula 1 you don’t stand a very good chance in this game. Although there are plenty of driver aids to turn on to help you get to grips with the incredibly precise controls, there is very little in the way of tutorials or explanations for the complicated racing terminology passed on to you mid-race by your racing engineer. If you have never sat down to watch a race then you will find the learning curve here incredibly steep. Put in the effort though and you’ll find that there are few experiences more rewarding than actually finishing a race, particularly when heavy rain makes the track near-impossible to navigate.
Some new additions from Codemasters help this new F1 game to align more accurately with the sport. For the first time you have access to KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) allowing a sudden speed boost roughly once a lap, and DRS (drag reduction system) providing the ability to increase your top speed. It’s yet more to think about while attempting to keep your car from spinning off at every curb, but the few tenths of a second that these engineering marvels provide to your lap times could be the key to victory. The inclusion of a safety car is another great inclusion to F1 2011’s gameplay. You’ll have partial control in these moments, allowing you to move side to side to keep up the warmth in your tyres. Safety cars can also be used to your advantage in terms of race strategy, providing you with the perfect opportunity to dive into the pits for a new set of tyres.
Unfortunately F1 2011 does suffer from the occasional frame rate glitch, depending which of the 19 tracks you are currently racing on. These occurrences are rare enough not to bother you excessively though, and the enhanced detail to be found on the cars and the tracks in general make up for any lack. You’ll have plenty to do in your valiant attempt to keep your car on the track, but try and spare a moment to glance at your car. Not only can you notice tiny details such as the flexing of a wing, but even the tyres will show degradation as they gradually wear out over the course of a race. Combine these enhanced visuals with some incredibly accurate engine sounds and you’ll soon find yourself immersed in the world of F1.
It’s obvious that Codemasters has developed F1 2011 with F1 fans in mind. Those that know nothing about the sport will struggle to conquer the severe learning curve. Once you do get to grips with the technicalities however, you will struggle to find a more challenging, realistic and downright rewarding racing title on the market today.