GSY REVIEW | X360, PS3, PC Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | 9:50 AM

Gamersyde Review: F1 2011

Gamersyde Review: F1 2011

F1 2010 was released last year on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. It was a long awaited opportunity for Formula 1 fans to enjoy their beloved sport after several years without much to put their hands on. The game was much appreciated by players and the press, which kick started the genre again. In this regard, the release of F1 2011 together with the current season is no surprise. Now is this year’s game an actual evolution or just a mere update of the previous release? Find it out by reading through our review.




Known territory

The career mode in F1 2011 starts out similarly to last year’s game as a curious journalist interviews the player in order to know more about him. First name, last name, team he decided to work for, ambitions, etc. Some of the answers given to the journalist will tailor the early career a little by having an impact on the difficulty level for example. Everything can be set up to suit everyone’s needs in the options menu which is just as comprehensive as last year. This time again the players’ motor home will be their headquarters. Emails received on their laptop will provide them with information on their ranking, weather forecast or any job offers that will be sent out after players achieve a number of personal goals. Indeed it should be kept in mind that the point of the career mode is to move up through the hierarchy in order to have access to the most prestigious teams. Victory is far from granted at the very beginning unless players choose the lowest difficulty level, which removes a great part of the game’s appeal.

Free practice and qualifying sessions are obviously still in the game. This naturally requires quite a significant involvement with regards to playing time. True-to-life players still have the chance to enjoy each of these sessions in real time, while others may shorten things out as much as they want to. Track conditions are often subject to changes and players will have to cope with losing their reference points, which makes the experience a little more exciting. The classic post-event interviews return and still offer drivers the opportunity to stay on the right side of their teams while making sure they remain diplomatic enough to avoid turning other teams off. These sequences highlight the average quality of face modeling, which is something we already noted earlier on. We know that F1 2011 is a racing game, but we believe that more efforts in making this part of the game livelier and more credible would have made the experience more immersive. It is a shame to see no changes in this area compared to F1 2010. Codemasters also added short cutscenes showing the pilot being disappointed or happy with his team, a pleasant addition for sure, but not that significant after all.



What’s the good news?

This new game has obviously been updated to fit with the current season. DRS and KERS have thus been added in. DRS offers higher top speed by reducing rear downforce. It can be used anytime during free practice and qualifying sessions. However during races it can only be activated according to a certain number of rules. First, players have to wait until the third lap – even in 20% duration races – before they can activate it. Moreover its use is limited to specific zones of the circuit – typically one or two zones per track. Finally players will only be able to use DRS if there is the gap between them and the driver they are chasing does not exceed one second. Obviously, if the latter is in a similar condition he can also use DRS. All these conditions are not always met during an actual race which prevents from taking too much advantage of the system. Moreover, players must be careful and should not consider using DRS in corners during free practice or qualifying sessions since the lower rear downforce will make the car lose grip and potentially spin.



KERS can be considered as an overboost device that offers more power to the car. Contrary to DRS, it is not limited to specific zones or conditions so it can be activated anytime. However, only one gauge a lap is possible and it only offers a power boost of a few seconds (6 approximately) so players will not be able to take advantage of it over long distances to catch up with other drivers. DRS is available from the beginning of the career mode, contrary to KERS which is not mounted on all cars from the start. Team Lotus cars do not have KERS in the game since the team did not have the device at the beginning of the current season.

The safety car was also one of the features that people were expecting. While its presence is confirmed in the retail version, unfortunately it had to be removed from the build sent to the press because of some problems. Players will have to wait a little more to find out if its addition will have any impact on the tactical approach to the races. Codemasters know how much the fans are expecting here so we have no doubt they have been very attentive when developing the Safety car code. However, we can only take their word that everything works fine in the final build.



Driving thrills

The driving model depicted in F1 2011 is a successful mix of arcade and simulation, similarly to F1 2010. It is still possible to use a number of driving assists in order to make things easier for the less experienced drivers. This allows everybody to adjust the handling to their style and needs. The most realistic setting requires feathering the throttle and being attentive with the brakes in order to avoid losing control of the car. Once players are more familiar with the handling the races turn into relentless sensation-packed battles. The best way to play the game is obviously to use a driving wheel, but rest assured that your standard controller will do the job just well, provided you always pay attention. Accelerating and braking are clearly more precise with a wheel though.

The cameras are still the same which is a good thing since they were very convincing already. We prefer using the on-board TV-like camera that is located right above the helmet since it offers higher visibility. However the cockpit camera is still perfectly usable while being even more dynamic. We suggest using it only after having a good knowledge of the track though. Driving on curbs now seem to be possible without literally taking your vehicle for a spin, which allows for even more aggressive driving. Of course, this does not apply to racing on a wet track, as things get a lot trickier then.



Speeding is even more thrilling under the rain, especially with dynamic weather changes returning from F1 2010. Lower track visibility under the rain raises stress and requires players to find the right balance between caution and risk taking. On the dry it is crucial to be careful with the brakes when ABS is turned off in order to avoid locking the brakes all the way to the sand trap. Feathering the accelerator is very important too, especially in the wet since the car will be more prone to spinning. The sensations change in a significant manner depending on the weather conditions and the car being driven. For example driving on the dry appears much more aggressive than on the wet, which basically means that the way you race always depends on the weather conditions.

Pit stops are still crucial in races exceeding 10 laps. And a sudden shower obviously deals the cards again or can also cause multiple crashes. As we are talking about twisted metal, we noticed the cars still suffer from very little to no damage in case of very mild contact, even in the most realistic setting. Brutal head-on shunts can obviously be fatal but the race track rarely turns into a terrible mess despite the sometimes contact happy AI – the first corner in Monaco can be a significant proof of such an attitude. That said, we noticed that AI players more often act as gentlemen drivers, and we realized we were to blame for the accidents we got involved in. Sure, if you try to do stupid things such as driving in reverse or not moving on the starting line, you will witness a few oddities. On the downside, accidents did not always seem to have serious impacts on the handling to me. For example, losing the front wing did not translate into a significant lack of front grip in corners.



Mixed results after technical inspection

I played F1 2010 on the Xbox 360 and I remember playing a good looking game. Now this time around, I must say Codemasters’ PS3 review code appeared somewhat confusing to me. First thing, I found the graphics and visuals in general to be quite blurry – both on the track or in the menus. Secondly, there’s also some tearing in the menus or during replays. And last but not least, the framerate is rather low for a racing game. It is true that, last year, console players could experience irritating framerate drops from time to time, but the overall display remained smooth on the 360 – aside from a few freezes now and then. Therefore, I am surprised to see such a difference with the PS3 code provided by the publisher this year.

I am not the saying the game is unplayable though, since the framerate drops have been fixed for the most part, but we are still far from the gold standard titles on this console. We hope this will be addressed in the retail version since it does impact the overall visual appeal of the game on this system. Fortunately the tracks have been nicely modeled and offer an accurate re-creation of their real life counterparts that makes the experience credible. The weather related effects are very well executed this time again, and we can even say that the environments tend to look best when it is raining. Now unfortunately aliasing is too often a problem not to be mentioned. After a few races we did not pay much attention to these technical hiccups but we are still surprised by such regression on the graphics front. We have yet to see what the final version looks like on the Playstation 3, as well as on the Xbox 360 and PC versions. We should be able to add videos of the three versions of the game soon this week, so stay tuned. We will update the article if necessary.

The music selection used in the menus is probably not going to be remembered, but it is quite consistent with the overall atmosphere of the game. The journalists have been tackled with uninspired efforts but this is something we can cope with since this is not an adventure or a RPG title. Being on the race track is a different story since Codemasters did their best with the engine sounds that range from low pitched growls at idle to symphonic howls at 18,000 revs, creating a mechanical orchestra one can only find on a Grand Prix event. Overall, the audio aspect of the game is very similar to that of F1 2010 without much novelty.



Verdict


Similarly to yearly releases found in other sports games, uninformed players will probably consider F1 2011 to be a mere update of last year’s excellent version. Fans of the sports will appreciate the increased immersion afforded by the tactical possibilities offered by DRS and KERS, in addition to the work on suspensions and tires. Let’s also keep in mind it is possible to enjoy the career mode in cooperation with a friend, which is a significant new feature for Formula 1 fans. As a conclusion, we can say that F1 2011 is an evolution of last year’s game that will be appealing to fans of the genre. However, there are probably too few novelties for the more casual drivers. Nevertheless Codemasters still managed to improve on the previous game nicely. F1 2011 will easily replace last year’s game provided the multiplayer mode is as good as promised.

Developer Diary #4

All comments

Commented on 2011-09-21 09:57:10
Many thanks to Balita whose help with the translation was more than welcome. :)
Commented on 2011-09-21 10:04:59
I saw an ad for this game in the ODEON cinema when I went to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy a few days ago. I thought it was a live-action ad, but nope that was all gameplay! The graphics were stunning.

Too bad about the bad PS3 port.
Commented on 2011-09-21 10:08:47 In reply to digi_matrix
There's a chance this was due to the review code. I should receive copies of the final game today or tomorrow.
Commented on 2011-09-21 12:38:50
Codies ruined Flashpoint Red River on PS3 too. I hate tearing... GT5 is too long in my PS3 now!
Commented on 2011-09-21 12:52:26
If you hate tearing how did you manage to keep GT5 in your PS3? That has the worst tearing i've seen on any game this gen. (Apart from Darksiders on 360 but it was quickly patched)
Commented on 2011-09-21 13:40:18
Lol, yeah, i now what you mean! Even prologue looked better, but there are not manny good driving games for PS3! My hope for a RBR2 game is pretty small...
Commented on 2011-09-21 13:57:12
I think we'l need to wait for GT6 for a truly great sim on PS3.
Commented on 2011-09-21 14:43:16
why do codies put that awful contrast/sepia filter on their racing games? would look much better without it. its like the comedy "next gen" filter that naughty dog have in their uncharted games as an ulockable. as a joke, sure, it's funny, as a forever on filter? urgh. maybe it can be turned off in the menu?
Commented on 2011-09-21 16:40:51
I witnessed the framerate problems at Gamescom too. No way they will be able to iron them out on the retail version. That's a real pity because I really had high hopes. Framedrops are a real gamebreaker for me personally. Still can't understand why they are not able to make this game work at a steady framerate on consoles. I mean...steady 30 on consoles must be possible right?
Commented on 2011-09-21 17:13:05
"uninformed players will probably consider F1 2011 to be a mere update of last year’s excellent version".

WHAT? LAST YEAR'S EXCELLENT VERSION? ROTFL...

I'm a fan of F1 and play videogames about this sport from 90's, F1 series by Codemasters is ridiculous.
Commented on 2011-09-21 17:23:22 In reply to forever_freedom
ROTFL myself then. :)

Last year's edition was excellent, except for the many bugs people had to deal with. I know a lot of diehard F1 fans who also happen to love racing sims who loved it.

Sorry to hear you did not feel that way.
Commented on 2011-09-21 18:38:47
Driftwood is right, last years was excellent.
Commented on 2011-09-21 19:16:37
How do you guys decide what to review?
Commented on 2011-09-21 19:44:58 In reply to Tinks
Well, clearly, it depends on when we get the games. When the publishers send us a copy in advance, we have time to review it. When they send them the week of their release, we only make videos so you know what to expect somehow. Sometimes, when we really dig a game, we review it even after release, but the thing is it takes time (remember the review is written in French and then translated) and we don't have much of it.
Commented on 2011-09-21 20:36:18
I played the PC version and it good, as good as last years version, though it has one big issue - No crossfire support.....yet. On a single card (6950) I get 73fps max with everything on high, 8xAA @ 2560x1600. Framerate drops to 12fps max with Xfire enabled. Crazy I know.
Hopefully a fix will be released soon.
The game seem VERY similar to last years version. Seems like a bit of a lazy update to me.
Commented on 2011-09-22 06:36:56
Thanks for the Review Driftwood and Balita for the translation ;) Awesome job.

My copy of the game is already on its way, can't wait !!!
Commented on 2011-09-22 12:27:40 In reply to PT_G4MER
thanks man ;)

as for the game being a lazy update, I'd say it really depends on...
1- how they improved mechanical grip feedback which was not sufficiently informative last year
2- how credible the pirelli tyres behave as this is the main differentiating point in my opinion

now seems the graphs have not improved, yeah... as long as it remains playable and visually comfortable I think I can deal with it. I'm too lazy to run rFactor again and fiddle with steering wheel settings anyway :p
Commented on 2011-09-22 16:09:29 In reply to balita
Got it yesterday and fiddled around a long time with the wheel settings (Fanatec). Not perfect but better now.
IMO the look of the game is worse than last year, removing the filter completely didn't do it much good. Despite people saying the physics are much better, for my taste you can be way too aggresive (TC medium, everything else off). Did a few laps time trial in Abu Dhabi, got to no 1 on the leaderboard (not many players on there last night) quickly and without trying hard I came within a second of my time in F1 2010, which took me many hundreds of laps to achieve.
Will give it another try tonight and hopefully it will grow on me...

About the game
  • F1 2011
  • PC, X360, PS3, 3DS
  • Published by Codemasters
  • French release: Available
  • US release: Available


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