Review: F1 2011

Review: F1 2011

The wind’s in your hair as you hurtle down a track at 200MPH, taking breakneck corners at ridiculous speeds and zooming past your rivals. It should, in short, be exhilarating. But is this year’s top Formula 1 sim, F1 2011, capable of replicating the true exhilaration of the Formula 1 experience?

The answer lies in just how much of a fan of Formula 1 racing you are. You’d be hard pressed to find a game that replicates the true feeling of being a F1 driver like this game does, but the enjoyment only really comes if you’re a Formula 1 fan to begin with and are interested in an accurate simulation. Other, casual racing fans won’t find a whole lot to interest them here as Formula 1’s structure is constructed with the common F1 fan in mind.

F1 2011, however, is not a bad game. In fact, at times it really is quite impressive and the level of detail that has been poured into the cars, the tracks and the overall presentation of really feeling like a top formula 1 driver is pretty decent. For a huge racing fan, there’s a strong, robust package here that allows you to play not only as your own favourite F1 drivers, but also allows you to create your own driver and take him to the lofty heights of Drivers Championship stardom.  I’ll admit something though – I’m not much of a Formula 1 fan, and a lot of this game went over my head as a result. Speaking from a ‘casual fan’ standpoint, I have to say that, while I enjoyed F1 2011 for a good amount of the time, repetition and some strange and rather seemingly pointless menu inclusions detract from the experience and can frustrate.

f1 2011


The Formula For Frustration

The main frustrations come from the career mode of the game, which is just a tacked on, half-hearted attempt at truly feeling what it’s like being a F1 driver. In this mode you’ll go from race to race, playing through around twenty to forty minutes of practice/qualification races before you can be unleashed upon the track for the actual race which, while it is true to real life F1, rapidly becomes a chore in a game. In between events you’ll also read emails on your computer (which usually only offer congratulations on a victory/tell you what the weather that day is like) and you’ll also get the opportunity to customize your car slightly with different tyres and adjust the overall balance of the car in the pit stop. In addition to this you’ll also get interviewed between races by an interviewer who’s always the same bloke and will ask you three totally pointless questions which seem to do absolutely nothing whatsoever even though you have multiple choice answers. While this is all well and good and replicates the feeling of a F1 driver’s career, the fact remains that when you’ve spent over around half an hour on one track, answered some stupid questions about your team banding together and then vied for the fastest lap in qualification, you’re going to be utterly and totally sick of it and want to finish your race as quickly as possible unless you’re a total F1 fan and determined to love the game no matter what.

This is especially true if you’re playing a race and doing the whole entire circuit with the massive amount of laps a Grand Prix requires. Thankfully, however, you can choose to do a race in much shorter format, generally requiring 3 laps to complete after the lengthy qualification process is finished.  Of course you could go the whole hog and do every lap of the Grand Prix if you really wanted, but that would take a very, very, long time. Long enough to grow a substantial beard.

Another seemingly useless addition the game is a reputation level up system where you gain points and level up in terms of reputation which, while is nice to see yourself growing in the ranks, appears to give you absolutely nothing whatsoever except more lucrative sponsorship opportunities once the season concludes. It all screams ‘unnecessary’ and I feel that if Codemaster’s fleshed out the career mode much more robustly and offered incentives for playing it, the game would definitely benefit as a result.

F1 2011

Grip The Wheel, Hold On For Dear Life.

Racing for Experts

If you can get past all these frustrations though, F1 is a decent game at its core. It just happens to have so much fluff around it, the core is hard to get to. That said, the races themselves are pretty fun to do if you’re just playing casually and on the non-career modes, and I’m exceptionally impressed with the level of shiny detail the cars have. The tracks, meanwhile, are a little bit lacklustre in terms of presentation; I noted some distinctly blurry looking crowds, and even had instances where the track almost disappeared entirely because of the pouring rain. Regularly you’ll also find yourself spinning around in your car because you haven’t had turned a corner correctly or are using the wrong type of tyres for the weather which, again while being realistic, tends to grate significantly on your nerve endings after you’ve span round for the umpteenth time and then lost your first place position and end up finishing in about 16th. This happened to me quite regularly. I get it though – this game is all about replicating the real thing as closely as possible and F1 obsessives will no doubt lap it up but I, speaking from a casual racing fan standpoint, have absolutely no concept of what most of this game is telling me about, and this isn’t helped by the severe lack of any tutorials whatsoever.

Of course, where would a racing game be without a multiplayer component? Well F1 has one, but it’s just exactly the same as playing the single player component apart from you’re playing against more relentless, real people instead of AI controlled cars.  The same game modes are offered including Grand Prix and quick matches, but the co-operative championship mode is exclusive to the multiplayer and allows you to complete in a championship with a chum, if you’re that way inclined. Personally I found the multiplayer component to be even more frustrating than the single player component – it’s hard to have fun in a game that punishes you with time penalties for accidentally cutting corners because someone unceremoniously smacked you out of the way using the massive power of their Formula 1 car. If, however, you’re relentlessly competitive and a massive F1 fan, you’ll probably lap it up and have a great time smacking everyone around the various tracks the game offers.

A Realist’s Dream

Despite all my annoyances, grievances and hair-tearing instances with this game, I can see how a total Formula 1 fan would absolutely lap up every aspect this game has. Here you have the opportunity to be your heroes in the most realistic presentation the series has ever seen – you can do everything from answering interview questions to struggle around totally soaking wet tracks using complex named things such as KERS and DRS (which apparently improve the car’s performance, but it’s never really explained just how this occurs). In short, the new physics system and accurate portayal of the sport will simply have intense fans of Formula 1 foaming at the mouth for a go at this game – rarely if ever will you see such detail poured into making sure this was as accurate a simulation as possible, and as a driving simulator for the hardcore fan, this game succeeds.

See, this is what Formula 1 boils down to everyone. This is as true to life a simulator you’re probably ever going to get for the Formula 1 sport, but the fact is that unless you’re a massive fan who knows the ins and outs of F1 driving including terminology, how to cope with huge speeds and how to compensate for the massive bends in a F1 track, you’re going to struggle to have enjoyment from this game. Basically consider this a game of two halves: you have the die-hard F1 fans that will lap up the highly realistic simulation, physics, handling and sounds, while the more casual, common racing game fan will find themselves lost in a sea of strange terminology and lack of tutorials. F1 can be a thrill ride – you just have to ensure you know what the game is talking about first.

Score: 6.8/10

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