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F1 2011 Review | Codemasters Develop the Perfect Formula

Author:
Josh Clark
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Codemasters, F1 2011, Formula 1, Game reviews, PC games, Playstation 3 games, Racing, Simulation, Xbox 360 games

F1 2011 Review | Codemasters Develop the Perfect Formula

Platform:  Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3, PC

Developer:  Codemasters

Publisher:  Codemasters

Sebastian Vettel has made this year's Formula 1 championship less than nailbiting, so it was up to Codemasters to bring something truly special to the table with F1 2011. The KERS and DRS systems - not to mention the new Pirelli tyres and their artificial lifespan - have fundamentally changed the sport, leaving the studio with more to do than just add a fresh lick of a paint and rearrange the roster.

Thankfully, Codemasters have delivered on the promise of a 'more realistic' Formula 1 simulation, and in the most part recaptured the sense of glamour and occasion that come with the sport, making for a game that's infinitely more exciting than its current real-world counterpart.

Parc Ferme

Fans of last year's title will feel instantly familiar with the game's structure. As well as single races and the usual time trial options comes a comprehensive 'Career' mode, where the real meat of the game lies. Opting for 'Career' will throw you into the rookie world of Formula 1, where you will be given the choice of one of five starting teams, and informed that you have five seasons in which to work your way up the ranks and into the cockpits of the fearsome Red Bull, Ferrari or Mclaren Mercedes machines for the chance of snagging the Driver's Championship.

F1 2011 Review | Codemasters Develop the Perfect Formula

As with last year's title, you'll be spending your time between races in the team trailer, where you can access emails from your manager, view the current championship standings, and of course select the next race from the calender. It's a much prettier solution to the menu system, but a little less elegant, with a whole bunch of loading screens to sit through before you actually make it to the track. It's a minor niggle, and one that will quickly be forgotten when you finally get behind the wheel of the world's most fearsome road machines.

A Divn't Leyk That, Man

When you do get to the garage, you'll notice what I consider to be F1 2011's most heinous exclusion from last year's game: That Geordie bloke what did your engineering. This cheery chap, who was always quick to scream excited appraisal at you after a win, or chastise you for a terrible practice session has been replaced by a po-faced and lifeless Southerner, who simply mumbles brake temperatures and fuel mix settings over the team radio. A silly gripe, perhaps, but the enthusiastic Northerner brought a real sense of gravitas to your actions in last year's iteration.

Regardless, leaving the confines of your garage and hitting your first practice session immediately demonstrates where the biggest improvements in this year's title have been made. The handling is much more robust this time around, making the cars feel weightier and less jittery out of the corners. Curbs will no longer flick the rear end of the car out at the slightest provocation, with downforce imposing a much greater sense of grip and balance. The weight of the car itself also shifts as you throw it into the apex, acting upon the camber of the wheels and presenting a much greater sense of precision and authenticity.

F1 2011 Review | Codemasters Develop the Perfect Formula

Then there's the aforementioned KERS and DRS systems, both of which do a fantastic job of elevating the excitement level. Both are available at any time during practice and qualifying sessions, but DRS can only be deployed after two laps have been completed in the race, and only when you're no further than one second behind the car in front. Getting hands-on with these systems is great fun, but the game never really gives you any instructions on their use, relying instead on the fact that you must be a fan of the sport and already understand their advantages. A little more guidance might have gone a long way.

Overtaking is as satisying as ever, and competitors are much more aggressive in their response this time, meaning defensive manouvres are every bit as important as they are in the sport itself. Pirelli's terminal tyres add an extra layer of tension to races, punishing those that don't make a conscious effort to look after them. 'Out' laps are vital, with brake and tyre temperatures having a much greater impact on performance than they did in F1 2010 – you'll be nursing the car around the track until you've reached optimal temperatures, or suffer a collossal spin as a consequence.

F1 2011 Review | Codemasters Develop the Perfect Formula

When you do finish that all important opening race, you'll be treated to either a celebratory animation, or a dejected shot of your avatar being chided by the team, depending on how well you've done. This, unfortunately, seems to be the one big change Codemasters have made to the Career mode, with everything else staying pretty much true to F1 2010's sensibilities. Contract offers and their requirements are a little less cut and dry, but you'll still end up plumping for a lower offer as a result of holding out too long.

Lack of change aside, the Career mode is as thrilling as ever, and provides an extremely strong foundation for Codemasters to work on in future iterations.

A Beautiful Sport

The tracks themselves are much more vibrant this time around, with the greys and browns of last year's game moving over for a much broader colour palette. Spa truly is a sight to behold, with its dense forestry presenting a tunnel of spectacular green as you soar past it at over two hundred miles per hour. The cars, as they are in the real world, have become objects of desire; their glossy finishes and fighter-jet-like silhouettes rendered in beautiful detail. And that's without mentioning the weather effects, which to be frank, are some of the best I've ever seen. In short, F1 2011 is a fantastic looking game.

F1 2011 Review | Codemasters Develop the Perfect Formula

These luscious visuals do come at a cost though, with loading times interrupting the races themselves - infinitely infuriating when you're about to hit the apex of a particularly tight hairpin. Leaving the garage nearly always brings the game to a grinding halt as it renders the world you're about to traverse at a quarter of the speed of sound. Whether it's something Codemasters can fix with a subsequent patch remains to be seen, but for now we'll just have to put up with the frustrating issue that's been rearing its ugly head since last year's title.

I Get By With A Little Help...

One of this year's biggest additions is that of a co-op championship mode, allowing you and a friend to fight it out for the number one driver's spot, as well as the Constructor's title in a team of your choosing. For me at least, this mode is the highlight of F1 2011, upping the competitive stakes as the pair of you battle not just in the races, but also in practice and qualifying sessions to be the apple in your team manager's eye.

F1 2011 Review | Codemasters Develop the Perfect Formula

In addition, F1 2011 features the usual competitive multiplayer races, with up to 16 players (and 8 AI drivers) able to pit themselves against one another and earn experience points to level up your profile. Finding other players can be a bit of a chore, with each game featuring its own ruleset as decided by the host. Often you'll be spectating the last five laps of a race just to be a part of the next lineup, only for everyone to bail out and leave you sitting in the lobby alone. Still, this is more of a community shortcoming than any real fault of the developer, and the online options are enough to extend the time you'll spend with the game.

Pros

  • Unsurpassed vehicle physics
  • Absolutely gorgeous to look at
  • Co-op championship

Cons

  • In-race stuttering under loading
  • Career still lacks some flair
  • Where's the Geordie guy?

Despite some minor technical snags and a career mode that hasn't advanced too far beyond last year's offering, Codemasters have delivered the definitive Formula 1 simulation.  Fans owe it to themselves to get their hands on this game.

F1 2011 Review | Codemasters Develop the Perfect Formula

Add a comment6 comments
gmdlogan  Sep. 27, 2011 at 18:14

Never played f1 2010, would you consider that a must or should i get stuck straight into this?

MattGardner  Sep. 27, 2011 at 18:22

No, I'd say you can jump straight into F1 2011 with no worries whatsoever. Playing through this year's one myself and I absolutely love it!

gmdlogan  Sep. 28, 2011 at 10:25

I'm having this today me thinks. Love my F1. Can't believe they are having 2 and 3 week breaks this year. Seriously shoddy tv on sundays when its not on.

JoshuaClark  Sep. 28, 2011 at 11:02

@gmdlogan I'd totally agree with Matt. F1 2010 is a truly excellent game, but this literally takes everything and makes it better. Just jump straight in, you'll love it.

As a side note, I find MotoGP to be an excellent way to fill the Sundays Formula One has off.

Stelph  Sep. 28, 2011 at 11:05

Out of curiosity what is Josh Clarks position on F1 as a whole? Are you a fan? Just curious myself as I totally agree with all the comments you made, except personally I am glad the Georgie guy (who did nothing except get hugely overexcited or tell you you were catching the car infront when you could see you were) has been replaced with the much more authentic voice that calmly confers information and offers more technical advice about fuel mixes etc

This is a definate boost for all F1 fans so I am glad Codemasters have made that change more towards the simulation, that and fixed the previous irritating pit stop bug where your stops could last 10+ seconds more than your competitors for no apparent reason!

JoshuaClark  Sep. 28, 2011 at 11:33

Hi Stelph, I'm a huge F1 fan personally, and I totally see where you're coming from with this more 'authentic' voice. I suppose what the Geordie engineer did for me in F1 2010 is give you the sense that your team were a home-brewed bunch of guys there to spur you on, to win the championship not just for yourself, but for them too.

With this much more relaxed - and dare I say it 'bland' - gentleman, there's a definite lack of personality within the garage. I no longer feel like I'm racing for a team of tight-knit engineers, but for an emotionless, faceless group of professionals. There's no doubt that the advice he provides is much more advanced than it was in F1 2010, much more dynamic, but there's also very little response to a great victory, other than a slight nod to the excellent race you've had.

Who can honestly say being called a "legend" after a huge victory in last year's game by an excitable Geordie didn't put a great big smile on their face?

Oh and you're absolutely right about the pit stops too, infinitely better this time around.

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