F1 2011 Review

By Jason Paul - Posted Nov 16, 2011

F1 2011 is possibly one of the most genuine simulators of recent memory on a game console. It might not be for everyone, but diehard racing fans will not want to miss it.

The Pros
  • Realistic racing simulator
  • Co-op Championship is a great addition to multiplayer
  • Great graphics and sound make for a true F1 experience
The Cons
  • Steep learning curve for newcomers

F1 2011 Review

No, F1 2011 is not a game for fans of cars or for fans of mainstream racing titles. It’s a game designed distinctly for the Formula 1 racing fan. You’ll know if it’s your style by answering the following questions: Do you have the patience to adapt to a car, lap after lap, while the formidable AI breaths down your neck? Do you have the willpower to keep going after the small mistake you just made will probably cost you the race and many positions --and you know that as it happens? If the answer is “yes,” you’ll likely understand the subtleties behind why F1 2011 is possibly one of the most genuine simulators --and that’s not just a marketing buzzword-- of recent memory on a game console.


The Real (Virtual) Deal

F1 2011 is the complete progression of last year’s version. With few rule changes, venue updates, manufacturer changes, and driver changes, Codemasters’ dev team took the time to refine the foundation they created with F1 2010. F1 2011’s career mode consists of three core elements: racing, car progression, and lifestyle.

F1 2011’s racing is by far the closest any developer has come to creating a genuine F1 simulator. As racing drivers will tell you (including this one), there are several factors at play in the seemingly simple act of driving fast on the track. There are many techniques that are used by amateurs and pros alike that go into the perfect lap, and those techniques are fully present in F1 2011. As such, gamers weaned on Gran Turismo and Forza should curb their expectations, or they’ll have a rude awakening to the sensitivity of F1’s controls. The typical “braking at max capacity and then full throttle on the gas” strategy will take you from track to wall in no time.

F1 2011

How sensitive is it? The slightest input on the throttle could leave you facing oncoming traffic or keeping the car planted while in Turn 8 of Istanbul Park. Throttle control plays a major role on the track and that directly translates over into the game. Even with assists present that are not allowed in real life Formula 1--traction control, ABS--throttle control is very touchy.

It’s not just the throttle that’s delicate, but braking as well. Though it’s not as relevant in other racing titles, tire lock-up is a reality of racing that’s just as important here. As the throttle will probably have the sharpest teeth for most players, the brakes will be painful to those who have adapted to the mainstream racing simulator. Lock-ups happen at every F1 race and cost the drivers dearly in time, positioning, and most importantly tire wear (i.e. flat spots). In F1 2011, locking up the tire will ruin your lap, causing you to go offline and pick up debris on your tires, which causes them to feel like you’re driving on ice.

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Keep An Eye On The Rearview

The nature of F1 is defined by the nuances of the accelerator and braking, and they’re core to F1 2011’s gameplay. Although learning to maneuver an F1 car is certainly the most important aspect of the game, don’t forget you still have to race other cars. The racing A.I. in F1 2011 is initially too fast to cope with but easily contained at closer proximity. At the beginning of a race, the AI is lighting quick to the accelerator, so it’s almost impossible to pass them from the line. But with an overly aggressive driving style, you can make up many spots at the first corner.

Catching a further advanced A.I. opponent poses a slightly difficult problem, but the A.I. is often easily fooled or blocked once you’ve passed them. In the current real-life Formula 1 rules, a driver is only allowed one blocking move, but with penalties turned on in F1 2011, you’ll find that blocking the car behind you is a tool to maintain your position.

That’s an area in which the reality of F1 racing clashes with the “fun factor” of playing a game. While F1 2011 is a highly technical title, the lack of penalties indicates that it’s designed with a little forgiveness for fans of the sport. Some will find it a relief, while others will feel that it removes them from the authentically unforgiving nature of the real thing.

F1 2011

Live The Life

F1 2011’s career mode starts you off as a newcomer to the racetrack. You’re offered the option to join a few race teams, but they are typically the slowest in the series. After completing two races, you’ll discover the game’s car progression system. You must compete with a teammate throughout the mode just as much as you’re taking on other teams. Each time you race, you’re performance is compared to your teammate and then ranked according to your ability to reach the achieved goal set (i.e. beat a set lap time, finish the race above set position, etc.).

Depending on how you stack up against your teammate throughout the season, you attain new upgrades for your car before your teammate. It’s a system you see in real life Formula 1, however, Codemasters has added a new twist by creating competition between players, allowing users to play through the career with a real life friend as a teammate in the new Co-op Championship mode. The feature adds a new level of competition for both parties as car progression is handled the same: beat your teammate and be the first to get upgrades.

F1 2011 also introduces “Live the Life,” a story-driven career mode more similar to other sports games that puts you in the shoes of an F1 driver, both on and off the track. It’s rather half-baked in execution, since it’s mostly stories told through races and a series of impersonal menus with emails that seem designed to help the A.I. decide how harshly it’ll race based on your responses. It’s weak and certainly marks a sorely missed opportunity for a sport with such depth and human drama.

The multiplayer is pretty standard and somewhat similar to last year’s version overall, but it does feature some major improvements as far as conveying a true F1 racing experience. For instance, a race can have up to 16 online players with eight being AI controlled, making up a full grid of 24 cars. As in career mode, the paddock will send you data throughout the race as to who is pitting, who’s out of the race, or the distance between you and your competition. It’s fun, but with too many aggressive drivers on the track at one time, it can be very difficult to have a “clean” race. The Co-op Championship stands out here as the mode to choose for online gameplay and online racing with a friend, as long as everyone enjoys competing within the rules.

F1 2011

Drive Happy

F1 2011 is a welcomed improvement to last year’s model. Formula 1 fans will be more than entertained and pleased with the upgrades. General racing fans will have a slightly tougher time getting used to the controls but should look forward to playing a true Formula 1 simulator. So lean forward, stop talking, and go compete.