The latest installment from Codemasters brings authenticity and some truly epic racing.
As I head out of the Paddock on my first practice run around the Melbourne track of the Australian Grand Prix, it became very apparent that it had been a few years since I had last played a Formula One game. Driving around the track as quick as I dared, the corners of this famous course came flooding back to me, reminding me where they were and when to break and turn. If only I could have remembered how to handle the vehicle as well, maybe then it would have been far less embarrassing.
But still, for the novice drivers out there, like myself, there is plenty to tweak and make the game easier. All manner of assists are available, such as the ever useful racing line which shows not only were it is best to drive, but also when to brake and accelerate, and even automatic braking which leaves the player needing only worry about holding down the throttle and steering. Whilst F1 2011 may be the most serious driving game available, it remains accessible to the new player, encouraging them to improve their game at a steady pace. And there would be plenty of time to do this, as a quick game F1 2011 is not.
The single player game revolves around race weekends. These consist of a practice day on the given track, followed by qualifying and then the actual race. This goes on for each of the 19 Grand Prixs in the season. The player will race through five seasons as they try to become the best driver in the world. During the practice and qualifying days, the player can speed up time once they have learnt the tracks and managed their best time and the actual race can be cut down to as little as three laps. But even taking each race weekend down to it’s minimum, it is still a fair chunk of time, and if the player chooses to simulate a real race weekend, they had better order their food in, because they will be there for hours.
The car handling has been tweaked since the last installment and, whilst I can’t make a comparison myself, I can happily say that the cars handle beautifully. Don’t get me wrong, this is a simulation and the player will be dealing with incredibly powerful machines that most normal humans wouldn’t even be able to drive out of the Pits. These machines are like wild beasts and give an incredible sense of speed when hurtling full throttle along a straight. But, as they should be, they need to be treated with respect and carefully eased around corners. It is very easy to push a little bit too hard for a small advantage and spin the car into a barrier.
Two new additions since last time I played are the DRS and KERS systems. The Drag Reduction System adjusts the rear wing when activated and the Kinetic Energy Recovery System uses Kinetic energy to boost acceleration. I will be honest at this point and say that I rarely used either of these systems, as I was spending too much time concentrating on staying on the road to press the needed buttons.
From their base of operations, which happens to be a trailer, the player can check out the race calender, catch up on emails and even change their helmet design. They will be given objectives to reach by their chosen team during each race, such as achieving a certain position, and be able to participate in research and development challenges which, if successfully completed, can add some very small tweaks to the players car.
The dynamic weather in the game is both impressive to see and has a massive effect on the gameplay. There is nothing quite like hurtling around the track at high speed in the pouring rain, and it makes the players choice of tyres all the more important. The player will get an email at the beginning of the race weekend with the predicted weather conditions, allowing them to plan ahead. Of course, with heavy weather comes dangerous driving conditions and Codemasters have seen fit to include the purely optional safety car for an added level of realism.
In addition to the hefty career mode, there is the Grand Prix mode which allows the player to create their own custom season with as many races as they want and the online options. Players can compete in truly epic races with 24 cars on the track, eight being controlled by AI and the other 16 being real-world players. There is also the rather brilliant co-op championship in which two players take on the career as partners, rivals within the same team.
There is very little to complain about with this package. The game is incredibly serious and caters to the serious racing fan, whilst also easing new players into the worlds most popular motorsport. If I had to find a problem to highlight, it would be that the loading screens last a little too long and that there are quite a few of them. But that is not really a big deal, especially when the races can last such a long time.
Fans of the motorsport have a lot here to be excited about, whether they be racing experts or complete novices. If you are not a fan of Formula One, then you wouldn’t even be looking at this game. F1 2011 is a serious game that quite easily caters to all fans of the sport, and is a must buy for racing fans.