Minigames, Multiplayer, Rear Touch Pad Support & Sony Pressure
Codemasters were naturally keen to showcase the console versions of F1 2011 at their recent British press event, but they'd also brought the Vita version for us to try out. Since I'd already had a go over at E3 last month, I was keen to pin down exactly what we can expect from the handheld port. Codemasters' Andy Gray was on hand to answer some of my questions, which shed new light on the Vita version's functionality. They "just want to make a good F1 game" regardless of format - and with this admirable sentiment in mind, the handheld version will provide a refreshingly hardcore racing experience despite pressure from Sony to include absolutely every feature that the PS Vita has to offer.
See below for the brand new (and exclusive?) details, questions and answers - as well as new intel about the rear touch pad support and new bite-sized challenge modes.
According to Gray, the Vita version will offer most of the functionality of the full console release - including full seasons and 100% race distance. Multiplayer, however, has had to take a major hit and is limited to four players either locally or via infrastructure mode.
It's not a straight port, obviously, because you can't have things like sixteen player multiplayer. Multiplayer is restricted to four players both ad-hoc and infrastructure modes. But pretty much, wherever possible, it is a full conversion of the game so that you'll have the ability to do full race distances if you want, the ability to do full weekends, even a whole season. You can do all 19 races, qualifying and 100% distance.
However, to make the Vita version more relevant for handheld gamers, F1 2011 will also contain a number of challenge minigames that will be perfect for short score and time attack sessions.
There are some additions that make it more friendly for handheld gaming, for when you've got five minutes on a train, on a bus, or, like, ten minutes while you're waiting for someone to get ready. Real, snappy, bite-sized gaming. There'll be challenge modes like "set this lap time" or "overtake X number of cars.
One of the most interesting things we discovered at E3 was that F1 2011 would use the Vita's rear touch pad as a 'flappy paddle' gearbox; splitting it into two halves so that players could change gears with a simple touch. When I pressed the subject, Gray suggested that Codemasters had looked into it but categorically denied that it would make it into the final build. However, Dean Smith, who is a key player in the handheld version, categorically confirmed that the feature will be optional when it hit the shelves. We'll try and clear up this issue, but for now, our money is firmly on the latter.
Interestingly, Gray also stated that Sony had been putting "considerable pressure" on Codemasters Birmingham to utilise tilt controls and other Vita-specific control methods... but that they had discarded the notion out of hand as it doesn't offer enough "fidelity" and feels "tacked on". Before you reach for the pitchforks, it's important to point out that all console manufacturers attempt to convince their third party partners to showcase new hardware features (such as Kinect and the 3DS) - and this is nothing to worry about.
When we first looked at the tech, we tried to use it in a way that wasn't tacked on. The thing that's important to us is to get a good F1 game on the Vita. If that means just using the analogue sticks and the buttons then so be it.
F1 2011 Vita is graphically excellent, extremely responsive and impressively meaty even at this early stage. We'll keep you posted about future developments - and we can't wait for Codemasters to bring their flagship F1 series to handheld platforms.