For sport games enthusiasts in general and racing gamers in particular, F1 2010 was a pleasant surprise during last year’s E3 (2010)…if you found it. Indeed, we were lucky enough to stumble upon the one and only game station last year and have been hooked ever since. Our instant love for the game was not a mere coincidence since F1 2010 won the Best Sport game category at the BAFTA Video Games Awards, rightfully beating, in our honest opinion, the other usual front runners from EA Sports. The game’s recognition makes the sequel title, unoriginally named F1 2011, a must-see item at this year’s E3. Unlike last year, however, the game can only be played, for one third of a track, behind closed doors after an interesting presentation from the developers. Keep reading to peep in these doors!
The fruit of passion
The F1 2011 presentation was made in a relatively small room with none of the fancy bells and whistles you tend to find at E3 (sorry guys, no babes), other than a single racing seat hooked up to the game. While the overall presentation was direct and to the point, essentially highlighting all the improvements made from one year to the next, the developers‘ comprehension of Formula One racing was outstanding. Indeed, during the presentation and our personal conversations, they clearly had a knowledge of the sport that can only come from passion; a contagious passion that is clearly reflected in the perfectionist approach to the game development.
As is the case for most sports games, a new year brings the usual database updates reflecting changes since last season. F1 2011 is no exception since the teams, vehicles, sponsors, and tracks have all been updated thanks to an exclusive worldwide agreement with Formula One. The world of Formula One also brings technical modifications, however, that our fanatical developers just had to include in the game. For those familiar with Formula One, you already know that I am talking about the inclusion of the KERS and DRS. For the others, the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) stores energy from the vehicle’s braking to later exploit as additional acceleration whereas the Drag Reduction System (DRS) removes the loss of down force when following another car, thus allowing a chasing car to go faster than it would otherwise. These real technologies, with the potential of drastically altering races’ outcomes, will evidently be part of F1 2011 and add an interesting strategic element to the game (along with a couple of more buttons to press while flying through the track at 300 km/hr). Evidently, the AI will employ KERS and DRS as they see fit.
The older F1 2010, while being an impressive title perhaps due to its come-from-nowhere feel and lack of expectations, was far from perfect. Evidently, some of these imperfections are corrected in the new 2011 version. One of the weakest points in the game was the boring plain interface that players had to go through to access the various features of the game, from the interviews to the start of the grand prix. In F1 2011, the screens and interactions were completely remodeled to the point where the environment will change depending on the week’s grand prix you are competing in. Keeping in that immersive aspect of the game, more complete pre and post race scenes will now be part of the game, allowing players to experience the typically crowded start line before the beginning of the race or the winner’s celebrations at the end of the race.
Technical failures, which are common in real F1 races, will also be part of the game. The developers had to approach this feature carefully since players might not enjoy losing a 70-lap race in the 69 lap due to a random failure, regardless of how realistic or probabilistic the failure is. Consequently, the developers came up with a part deterioration system, where various parts of your vehicle will degrade depending on how properly the car is driven. This is an interesting way of rewarding drivers for gracefully handling turns or passes and sticking to the track rather than taking shortcuts through gravel. Massive AI improvements, reducing track lap times of computer opponents by up to two seconds, will make the game more challenging without the need to increase the realism settings of the game. Last but not least two new modes will ship with the game. The first is a classical dual-screen setup for two players to race together while still being from shouting distance of each other. The second is an online co-op mode, where two online players will be teammates for the same constructor. This co-op mode has great potential since it will put players in the shoes of real formula one racers by forcing them to strategically drive races as a team and compete within their own team to be the first driver.
Starting from such a good title in F1 2010, we have to admit that it will be difficult to ruin the sequel, F1 2011. In fact, when trying out the 1/3 of a lap proposed in the presentation room, the gameplay felt very close to F1 2010 (not taking into consideration, the elaborate, yet fussy, wheel setup). It is clear, however, that the developers are not simply trying to release yet another title with minor updates and that their passion is pushing them towards some ambitious features. With a release date of September 23 and an exciting presentation, we can only wait for what seems to be a great title so that we can follow the game’s tagline and “Be the Driver. Live the Life. Go compete.”