F1 2011 is the sequel to the highly popular Formula 1 installment from last year by Codemasters. Last year’s iteration was good, very good, but suffered from a few issues that were promised to be ironed out this year around, along with a few new features.
As one would expect, all the drivers you either love or hate are included, along with all tracks from the 2011 season. More interestingly, however, is the use of KERS and DRS within the game. For those of you who may not be fans of the sport, but are fans of racing games, I’ll try to explain. KERS is your Turbo boost/NOS button which refills at the beginning of every lap. DRS opens your rear wing and trades car stability for a fast straight line speed. As per the rules of F1, you can activate KERS and DRS at any point you wish during practice and qualifying. This is also the case for KERS during a race, however, to activate DRS you’ll have to meet specific requirements. Don’t worry, these are explained to you, and when you’re able to activate DRS you’ll see the button flash green on your HUD along with a handy beep through your speakers to let you know it’s ready.
Being able to use KERS and DRS effectively, especially during qualifying, is paramount. Use neither of your available toys and you will find yourself languishing at the back of the grid by a large margin. Qualifying itself is remarkable, purely qualifying for grid position should not be as exhilarating as it is, however you will find yourself pushing your car to its limits, trying to hit the perfect racing line in an attempt to shave 0.1 second off your time and climb the grid.
Weather conditions play a great part in the game. From changing the settings of your car to give you more downforce, to having to change your braking zones, and sometimes your racing line, you’ll have to battle to keep your car in a straight line. Too much gas coming out of a corner, and you will spin out of control before aquaplaning into the wall. Istanbul has a very twisty track, and my race there in my first season was in heavy rain. It was incredibly tough to keep the car going, but never left the realm of “fun”, which is what a game really should be about.
In last year’s installment, I had a few issues with the game itself. The first corner of any track would result in huge slow down and the frame rate chugging along, unable to keep up with the 23 other cars on the track. This is fixed this year, and your entire racing events will stay smooth. Also, I had an issue with A.I. cars hitting me, yet I’d be the one who received a penalty. Penalties are a lot more fair this year, and you won’t get penalised for the slightest of bumps with another car. Should you spin another car out, though, you can fully expect a 10 second penalty, or worse, risk disqualification.
The only complaint I would have about the game, is that on Medium difficulty, it can seem a little too easy (I managed to lap the entire field in a 50% race in a Force India car), however, bump that difficulty up to it’s hardest, and take away the assists and you’ll soon be celebrating snatching 13th position. Such is the beauty of most Codemasters racing games, you can make them as easy as you want (where the game almost plays itself) or as difficult as you want. Of course, should you mess up, there’s always a handy rewind feature, which seems to be the standard for most racing games these days. Also, there was a strange moment during my career mode where I had to retire from the race at Monte Carlo, only for my team boss to praise me for my apparent podium finish. This is only a slight issue, however, and doesn’t actually detract from the game itself.
The online modes consist of 4 multiplayer events, along with the newly added co-op mode. In your multiplayer events you have Sprint, which is a 3 lap race in dry weather with simulation options set to minimum for you arcade racers who need a quick fix. The other three events have tyre wear and track simulation enabled, and these are Pole Position, Endurance and Grand Prix. Pole Position gives all racers 20 minutes to post the fastest lap time with dynamic weather effects, Endurance has a race of 20% distance where the grid order is set randomly and Grand Prix gives you a 15 minute qualifying session, followed by a 7 lap race.
The co-op championship mode is fantastic. You and a friend take to the season as team mates. This is exactly the same as your single player career mode, but with the added bonus of playing online with a human team mate. You can change the settings of the career mode as you see fit, much like in single player, so you can have a short race weekend with only 3 lap races, or you can go the full hog if you so desire with all three practice and qualifying sessions and a 70-odd lap race. If you do go for the latter, please, make sure you stock up on cans of Monster…
All in all, this is an absolutely fantastic racing game. If you’re a fan of Formula 1 as a sport, or even racing games, I suggest you grab a copy of this.