Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Formula 1 2011 review // The latest edition of the annually updated racing game

Published by Lukeh

There is definitely a 'Fernando is faster than you joke' available here
There is definitely a 'Fernando is faster than you joke' available hereCredit: Codemasters

Formula 1 as a videogame has a long and illustrious history, right back to the days of Super Monaco GP and beyond. The license had been passed from developer to developer, with the likes of Bizarre Creations and Psygnosis/Sony Liverpool sitting on the developer saddle before a barren spell led to Codemasters picking up the license from 2009 onwards. Their Wii-only 'F1 2009', although developed out house at Sumo Digital, was a modest introduction - solid and enjoyable, but not the 'next generation' powerhouse that F1 fans were waiting for.

Cue 'F1 2010' - the first real F1 game from the experienced Codemasters Birmingham team - which finally brought f1 to the current level of gaming. It felt like the game ended up with a bit of a marmite reputation for the more hardcore fans, with many complaining at the amount of bugs and frustrations at little glitches ruining the experience, but personally I found it very enjoyable and a promising sign of things to come. That was then and this is now, and we finally have the new F1 2011 game out in stores across the world - but is it worth the update?

You get this subtle 'woosh' going along with your car as the engine revs scream higher and higher, a visible change in noise and a sudden pickup in speed.

The obvious is all in there. The new liveries (Mmm, that lovely Williams) are there, the new drivers, two new circuits with the Indian GP there as well as Nurburgring coming in for the first time under the Codemasters developed titles due to the Hockenheim-Nurburging swapping, and of course the new bits of tech like KERS, DRS and of course, dodgy stewarding decisions. What you immediately pick up on if you were a fan of F1 2010 is the change in handling. Gone are the days where throwing a car into a kerb would automatically result in facing the wrong way and ruining the entire race and in come a much more responsive and drivable suspension model which lets the cars ride the kerbs with much less risk and ultimately, to me, makes the driving experience a million times more enjoyable.

The handling model in general feels a lot more suited to a less arcade-y style than F1 2010 created and yet if you asked me a year ago, I wouldn't have called the handling model arcade-y at all back then. It's just when you feel these changes you can immediately appreciate how much better the cars feel to drive this year. It's all kinds of fun trying to deal with a serious case of oversteer or understeer, especially now that the cars are much less 'on rails' in regards to the fact the back end can really step out if you exit a corner out of shape or get it a bit wrong.

I'm constantly noticing how colourful the game looks this year too. Visually it seems to have had a fair upgrade which is lovely to look at but there's also some kind of weird 'cellophane' on the cars sometimes that give them a plastic look. I'm not necessarily complaining as the game looks incredible. When you're rushing down towards Eau Rouge at 200mph it looks absolutely incredible. There's no real slowdown and the attention to detail trackside is immense, although the Xbox 360 version still suffers from the odd moment of freezing for a second or two. This was quite common on last year's title and it's a lot less rare this year yet it still happens, which makes me think the EGO engine that Codemasters use for the game still seems to struggle with the 360 but that's just me speculating. It's a shame that little error happens though, especially when you're in the middle of a corner.

One of the key additions to F1 2011 are the big three - KERS, DRS and Pirelli tyres. In reality they've made quite a change to how F1 runs in 2011, with some absolutely crazy races and many strategical calls seeing 4, maybe 5 stops at times in races. Their virtual inception to Codemasters' game provides just as much as a change to the gameplay as you would imagine too. One of my favourite things about F1 2011 is that moment where you've got yourself onto a straight with full KERS available and DRS ready to activate. Suddenly, you get this subtle 'woosh' going along with your car as the engine revs scream higher and higher, a visible change in noise and a sudden pickup in speed. It's really well done and much more fun to use than I imagined, worrying that it would just be a boost to Mario Kart levels but when you're sitting in the middle of a race with a slower car trying to defend someone behind you using their DRS and KERS it's damn exciting.

The same rules apply as they do in reality - use DRS when you like in quali and practise, but only in designated zones in the race. From these additions you go onto the inclusion of Pirelli and their sets of tyres throughout. There were a few things about the tyres in F1 2010 that was pretty underwhelming. The tyre degradation was of no real significance, and you could pretty much scamper through a wet race on dry tyres which I found very odd. Basically, the Bridgestones were boring. Luckily for us, it appears a great deal of focus has been placed by the developers on making the tyres just as unpredictable as they can be in reality. I've had several races now where after a while my super softs have fallen off the cliff and even in the best of cars, they become an absolute pig to handle.

Combine this with the game making sure marbles on the track have a greater effect on a lack of grip with such moments as DRS and KERS greatly lessening the downforce and it can make for an almost terrifying combination when approaching a slow corner and locking up. Flatspotting tyres isn't in F1 2011 but I can see this being the next step for Codemasters as it feels they've really nailed down the deal of tyre simulation for the sport. Oh, and go and put some dry slicks on at a wet Spa. Go on. I dare you!

There's new time trials and little challenges to try which are pretty cool and a nice little addition to the game. In all honesty, don't expect too many changes with the career mode as it's incredibly similar. An immersive addition of little cut scenes as you prepare, celebrate and suffer from anguish before or after a race are nice little touches, and the little 'hub' of your motor home has evolved a little with emails replacing that very silly woman from F1 2010 but apart from that expect the same. I don't mind so much as I do very much enjoy the career mode as it is but it'd been nice to see more.

The press clippings and emails you get are a nice touch though. I can appreciate how difficult it can be to negotiate further with FOM's restrictive control on their license but I'm hoping we see pre-season testing, further implementation of the paddock and a greater variety in practise activities for future titles. Practise is still a case of simply of going out and beating a target time which is fine, but it'd been nice to have a bit more variety for truly testing new parts of the car or something. Crofty is back with his visual representation in the game as well as his voice now, which is kind of awesome, but like myself you'll be wondering why he's asking you whether you have chances of winning the drivers' championship whilst in your 2nd race at Williams as a rookie. The whole interviewing thing absolutely needs an overhaul for future games.

There's nothing like the competitiveness of beating your mate sitting beside you and enjoying every second (until you spin out and look like a total moron, of course)

There's still so much to talk about but I'm trying not to write too much as I'm sure you guys want a review rather than an essay! If you're interested, my favourite thing about the game as of yet is the multiplayer, preferably split screen. After last years' disappointment for a friend and myself that no split screen 2 player racing existed in the game it was utterly joyous reading a few months ago the announcement of multiplayer split screen racing. Even better is the fact it absolutely hasn’t disappointed at all, as split screen is ridiculously entertaining! It's nice racing online with friends but there's nothing like the excitement and utter competitiveness of beating your mate sitting beside you and enjoying every second (until you spin out and look like a total moron, of course). I'm absolutely delighted it's been added though, especially when the game runs so immaculately in the split screen.

Usually you expect a downgrade in performance with such powerful graphical engines these days and so few games seem to utilise the awesomeness that is split screen but Codemasters have hit the nail on the head with getting it working well. All we need now is a split screen championship and it'll pretty much be perfect. I've yet to try out the online co-op championship but I've heard very good things so definitely looking forward to that. Another feature I've yet to see is the safety car too, but I'm not too desperate to find out what it's like. I'm sure it's a bit odd but at the same time it's an essential addition if you want to ensure a realistic simulation of the game.

As I'm sure you can see, I'm really enjoying the game so far. My career mode has begun as, of course, Rubens' team mate at Williams and whilst I'm only a few races in with that fighting for results and having an actual challenge with the AI being a lot more feisty in their ways this time out had made for some epic battles, as I refer back to my previous comment of the DRS and KERS battles being ridiculous amount of fun to deal with. There's also an added level of strategy with the tyres and getting your calls right with how long your tyres last and that too adds a whole new element to the game. What matters to me though is that the game is fun, something that is absolutely ticking the box.

As with last year's release there seem to be so many people in forums across the internet complaining, picking our faults and almost as if it seems trying to notice bugs for the sake of it. It makes me a little sad I suppose as F1 2011 is more than playable in it's execution. Yes, it has it faults - the difficulty seems to go from not too hard to ridiculously hard, they've taken out 30% races due to a lack of testing it which is a bit fail, the game still decides to randomly throw out penalties at times, and the radio engineer is still totally useless - but these simply do not make F1 2011 a bad game, no where near it in fact. It's incredibly good fun, it's a definite improvement on the already good F1 2010 and there's no reason for this negative backlash that almost feels like déjà vu at times. So if you have an Xbox, PS3 or PC then I very much recommend you pick it up. And if you're sitting there simply pointing out faults and what Codemasters could do better on, I offer you a simply bit of advice - sit back, enjoy the game for what it is because it's the best F1 game for many years to come around.

Just for reference, I'm playing the game with a controller on the Xbox 360, with most assists off but automatic gears. I can't help my terribleness at manual gearing in games!

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