I have never watched a Formula 1 race, let alone played a Formula 1 racing game. Now, I’m not shy to the racing genre of games. I love me a good racer, arcade and simulation alike, but knowing that I was going into an F1 racing simulator headfirst without any prior knowledge to the sport, I was a bit nervous to tackle this review. Now, I have to say, I’m glad I did.
Codemasters knows racing games. It’s a known fact that if you’re playing a Codemasters racer, you’re playing one of the best. F1 2011 is no exception. F1 2011 has you playing through 5 seasons of Formula 1 racing. You start off small time, with just a few teams to choose to race for. Soon, you’ll be making it up the ranks as a top F1 driver and even get offers from other prestigious teams to come and race for them. That is, of course, if you’re good enough.
The game boasts a full career mode, as stated above, that has you racing in 5 seasons for different teams. These races include practice, qualifying, and of course, the race. You can tweak your car to your liking in the garage during pit stops. Keep in mind, when in the pits, the timer is still running in practice and qualifying. Everything is done in real time. You can accept challenges from your teammates, and even help improve your car with Research and Development while performing the best you can. After races, you will be interviewed by reporters. During these interviews, you are given response options. How you answer will affect how your team, as well as prospecting teams, thinks of you. In between seasons, you can be offered to sign with other teams. It’s all very customizable, and gives the player a lot to work with.
The driving is the star of this game. The cars control beautifully, and after a few adjustments in the garage, you can really make your car fly. These F1 cars handle the best I have ever seen in a racing game, and with the addition of KERS and DRS, it gives these real life racing upgrades a somewhat arcadey feel in the racing simulator. For those of you who don’t know, KERS and DRS are new rules in real Formula 1 racing that allow for more exciting racing. KERS is a performance boost in the engine that gives more horsepower to the motor. You are only allowed a few seconds of KERS per lap, but it does make racing a lot more interesting. KERS is best used when trying to overtake another car, especially when you’re taking curves.
DRS is only allowed during a race when you are one second behind the car in front of you. When you activate DRS, you shift your rear wing down to make it more aerodynamic. This will allow you to gain higher speeds much faster than normal. DRS is best used in straight-aways and is automatically turned off when you apply brakes. KERS and DRS can be used at anytime during practice and qualifying, but during races, it is limited. Both of these new enhancements make the game that much more fun, adding another layer of strategy to a race.
The game is running on the Ego engine, and I have to say, this is one impressive engine. The weather effects are some of the most realistic I have ever seen, and the game looks beautiful, even at 200MPH. Everything about the game just runs smoothly, and the visuals never suffer from the in-game action. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t any faults. The character models are a little off at times, but in a racing game where you will spend 90% of your time in a car, you won’t be bothered too much.
The game also offers up a multiplayer component as well. This is not just your quick race kind of deal. F1 2011 offer full on circuits with up to 16 players in races and an optional 8 extra AI controlled racers. Another fantastic piece of the multiplayer is the co-op team circuits. This allows you and a buddy to race for the same team and make your way to the top of the season accruing points and helping each other out in races. The amount of things to do in the game is astounding. One very nice touch: there’s even split-screen multiplayer for local racing.
The complete package is so well done. The presentation is well thought out just like any other Codemasters racing game. During the loading screens you’ll get stats on pretty much everything you have done in the game, and the music gives off a nice ambiance during. There are also licensed tracks that play in the garage during pit stops.
The one thing I do have to criticize about the game is the AI difficulty. There is a difference between the difficulty and the AI difficulty. You can actually customize the difficulty to your liking by turning off certain things such as the race line, anti-lock breaks, and stability control. The AI difficulty is where the game takes a bit of a turn. You can set the AI to multiple settings. I played the first few races on easy just to get a feel for the game. To me, it was almost too easy. I won every race and the AI just seemed to not push their cars at all. When I bumped it up to medium, all of a sudden, I’m qualifying 20th place and finishing 12th in the races. There is no good middle ground for the AI, but in a racing simulation, you expect to have a somewhat difficult time. Luckily, with the other difficulty aspects in place, you can still tailor your experience to your liking and still find a somewhat balanced performance. Just be aware, the AI is in it to win it.
There is also time attack mode and a quick race mode for those of you just wanting to get your quick racing fix. Also, for those of you wanting to race as your favorite F1 racer, you can do that as well in Grand Prix mode. Here, you can do a full season just like in career mode, but as the driver of your choosing.
For a guy who has never even watched a Formula 1 race in his life, I have to say, this is possibly one of the best racing simulators I have ever played. The racing feels so spot on, and the dynamic weather effects and track conditions really give it that authentic feel. The KERS and DRS can be a race changer and give the player a ton of options when racing. The career mode will last you at least 20 hours, and after that there is a robust online aspect that can last you even longer. If you’re a fan of Formula 1 racing, this is a must buy. If you’re a fan of race simulators and have never played an F1 game before, this is the one to get.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.