Review: F1 2011

F1 2011 • PS3 (version reviewed), 360, PC  • RRP £49.99 • Out Now

Eau Rouge looks impeccable

As with every yearly iteration of a game, we can safely say that the new version is better. But can F1 2011 transcend the minor tweak and be worth shedding more money out for on the sequel? Sort of; let me explain.

With F1 2010, Codemasters brought back F1 to major consoles to great rapture; this was the first proper F1 game for four years since Sony lost the licence and it looked great. The cars looked real, the tracks (most of them) felt like they had some life to them, but tit was the dynamic weather effects that took the plaudits.

However, there were a lot of issues upon release, leading fans to criticise Codies for releasing a broken game; for example, AI drivers wouldn’t pit when they had to, you’d end a race with the HUD saying you were 3rd, only to be 9th in the results, fuel loads would only affect you, excessive punctures and corrupt save files. In short, Codemasters had a lot to prove with the new game and thankfully, there are far fewer bugs and glitches in the game. Of course there will be some, because that seems to be the norm these days, but they’re far less noticeable and game-breaking, bar one, which I’ll get back to.

But Codies have done more than just fix bugs in the space of a year; they’ve had to keep up  with the new regulations in the sport which means KERS (a 7 second speed boost to use each lap where you please) and DRS (to aid overtaking on long straights) and both work nicely.

Quite possibly the best weather effects in gaming.

The handling this year is poles apart from 2010, and this year you can actually manouevre them, rather than being jumpier than Mario at a trampoline party, and the tyres, while not to the generic pound-store durability of the Pirellis in real life, actually have a noticeable drop off. Finally, driver AI is more impressive this year too, with drivers acting more like their real-life equivalents (complete with Alonso’s hypnotic eyebrows). And the weather is stunning once again. 

Multiplayer is where the game shines though; the grid jumps from 8 to 16 human players at a time and this makes a big and fun difference to races, meaning you’re more likely to have someone to battle than have everyone run away up the road. The co-op championship is a nice touch too, meaning you can drop in and out when you feel like it with a friend over the course of 19 races.

However, there are some issues. The cars don’t get properly damaged; the most you’ll see is a missing wing and wheel while the bodywork remains untouched. Also, the career mode is still very cold and clinical and while there’s less emphasis on the ‘live the life’ aspect this year, it still falls short as you quickly skip through the menus to get to the track.

You don’t get to go here. You live in the truck.

Two other small bits irked me too; there’s no ability to watch the AI drivers race and when you’re fighting them for a world championship, it’s nice to know what happened to them, while the car performaces don’t echo real life too much, with Ferrari dominating and a lot of drivers out of position. I’d also liked to have seen some unlockable tracks, for example Hockenheim and Jerez just to give you something to aim for, but as ever with F1, there are licensing issues with that.

Now for that issue I said I’d get back to. If you’re a 360 or PC player, carry on because this doesn’t affect you. Sorry PS3 owners, but you’ve been jipped again; the frame rate is appalling. F1 2010 had its frame rate issues around Monaco and Singapore, but for some reason, the PS3’s graphics also stutter in the wastes of China and Turkey and in pitlanes. And for a game that’s about getting into a rhythm lap after lap it almost ruins the experience.

Games need to improve dramatically between iterations to be worth your hand-earned pennies year-in, year-out, rather than resign you to a two-year cycle to actually find improvements your notice. Luckily for F1 2011, there’s just enough to warrant a purchase, thanks to the fixed bugs and the expanded multiplayer experience. However, unless significant improvements are made to the cold and clinical career mode, it may be worth sitting out next year’s game to wait for more noticeable changes in 2013. Oh and PS3 users, sorry.

Verdict: 8/10
You won’t find a more realistic racing game around, but be wary of its foibles.

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