If a Formula One fan wants a racer that captures not only the passion of the motorsport they love, but the realism that drives it, they only have one place to go. Thankfully Codemasters have nailed both criteria so well, that one wonders if there would be any need for another developer to ever tackle the series.
Realism is key to such a franchise and F1 2011 delivers it in spades. With this iteration of the game comes the new car setups for this season, DRS, KERS and of course the now familiar Pirelli tyres. Now, I should preface the body of this review by saying I played F1 2011 with little experience of the games. However I am a huge fan of the actual motorsport. So, what I wanted from F1 2011 was a game that was accessible, that allowed me to progress confidently and one that delivered a real sense of being in the cockpit of an F1 car.
The inclusion of DRS (Drag Reduction System) and the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) are the clincher here. Nothing quite delivers excitement than slipstreaming a car through Curva Parabolica at Monza and then opening your rear wing to gain an advantage, leaving your fellow competitor trailing behind.
This of course helps greatly in both free practice and qualifying, throughout both sessions you are freely able to use the DRS as you please in order to post faster times. It allows for a greater level of tactics and pushes your skill vastly. In the same way that the excitement kicks in on the straights, the same happens if you leave the DRS enabled too long and enter a corner at high speed. The force feedback kicks in as the back end of the car sweeps out from underneath you and you end up in the gravel. (Note, I was using an Xbox 360 controller while playing on the PC.)
Thankfully there are no such dangers when pressing the KERS button for a little boost of speed, but the same tactics apply. With only a limited amount of KERS per lap, timing is crucial if you want to shave off precious milliseconds… and you do.
Ramping the difficulty up means that opposing drivers will become ever more aggressive and stick to the racing line with rigidity. They will hone their skills lap after lap while you’re sitting in the pits wondering whether to go with the prime or option tyres. So, any advantage you can get on the tarmac is worth not only using, but studying.
However, it doesn’t have to be a challenge. The difficulty, much like DIRT 3, is customisable. If you’re new to the series you can allow the brakes to do the job on their own and just steer in and out of the corners. To be honest, there’s little point as it won’t show you the world of F1 to its fullest extent. Perhaps the best way to start out is by keeping the AI on a lower difficulty and turning the realism (there’s that word again) up to 11.
By turning on tyre wear, full damage to the car and turning off the brake assist you can have a full experience without having to watch the gearbox’ of other cars scream off in front of you. But be cautious, a spin will end your race if you end up in the wall. Of course, you can choose the car setup, but you can’t choose the weather, which plays a massive part to any race.
The weather, or rather the rain, brings with it a whole host of new problems. Aquaplaning on the corners heightens your caution and the tyres soon become a prominence as they begin to overheat and you must dart through puddles in order to cool them. Of course you can take a different route and jump to slicks before anyone else attempting to gain an advantage.
As you can tell, every thought has gone into making sure each race is unique and true to its “real world” counterpart. There are a few issues, though – namely the AI. Examples of this can range from your team mate seemingly running into you on a corner, or blue flag cars not moving over when you come in to overtake. There are also the rules that the FIA place on drivers. If you choose to use the full ruleset then you will achieve a more authentic race, however the decisions made by the stewards often seem a little random – awarding a penalty for something that you’ve done many times without warning.
This iffy AI extends to your engineer who is meant to offer advice and information as you race. Sadly much of what is said is rather unhelpful or poorly timed. When he suggests that you “use DRS for a speed advantage” while you’re in first place, it’s best to just read the information on screen and use your own common sense. Thankfully the HUD is incredibly helpful and warns you about tyre temperatures and wear, fuel consumption and even pit lane information – such as what position you will exit the pit if you entered on that lap.
But what I’ve written there are just words that talk about features. Sadly it’s pretty difficult for me to actually give you a sense of the speed, handling and feel of the game with words. It is an experience to behold, though. The sense of speed, danger and urgency is always at the forefront of your mind. The juggling act of tyres is reminiscent of a Sunday afternoon conversation and the driver teammate challenges add a little extra as you strive to become the number one driver for your team.
Sadly I haven’t had time to dip into the Multiplayer, nor the co-op featured, but with over 17 hours put into the career mode and only one season in the can, the game definitely has legs. I set out to play a game that allowed me to closer experience one of my favourite TV pastimes and Codemasters broke all of my expectations. F1 2011 is a beauty to look at, a pleasure to listen to and an experience to play.
Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, 360, PS3
Platform Reviewed – PC
For more information on our scoring system, please read this page.