The real F1 2011 season has been fantastic this year. Sure leader Sebastain Vettel may have dominated, but the amount of overtaking has reached an unprecedented level, thanks mostly to the introduction of KERS and DRS, two driving aids. The first F1 video game in years was released last year, F1 2010, to positive reviews, as fans got to play as their favourite drivers, racing around all the circuits they know and love so well. So, the combination of the two, an excellent season and added improvements to an already excellent game, mean this could be THE best version of an F1 game ever.
There’s been some amazing looking trailers released for the game prior to it’s release, making it look amazing an a real improvement on last year’s title, especially in the wet, with dark, moody clouds and shadows reflected back off the wet surface. However, this is a lie! The graphics, if anything, have taken a step back, not looking awful as such, but nowhere near as good as I personally expected. Textures aren’t brilliant, but the cars do look good, especially in changing weather patterns. Graphics aren’t everything in a game, but it was something that I felt needed to be adressed, as I was let down in that department.
The gameplay itself is very satisfying, yet similar to last year. Driver AI is much better, and allows for a more exciting race, however, the balance between difficulty levels is quite bad. On ‘Intermediate’, a player can be expected to get on pole and win a race without any trouble in a HRT, one of the worst cars, whereas one level up on ‘Professional’, all other drivers tend to be 2 seconds quicker per lap, giving the player an unfair advantage. The career mode is familiar, allowing the player to build his/her way up through the lower teams, and upto a Ferrari or McLaren, over the succession of 5 seasons. It’s nice to see something which worked well the first time round returned unharmed. The post-race interviews, however, still remain a pain, and have no real function, or at least seem that way.
Also, both on and offline, the awarding of penalties is still as puzzling and random as ever, on several occasions, I was shoved off the track, and had to navigate back onto it via the grass, only to be hit with a penalty for ‘corner-cutting’, It can be frustrating, and sour an otherwise enjoyable experience. The introduction of the Saftey Car is hardly noticeable either, as a variety of settings have to be changed to allow it, and even then it took me a good few races of deliberate shunting (offline, may I add!) to even get it to come out.
KERS and DRS, are the game-changing mechanics in the game. KERS, is a boost button, giving the driver 80BHP for an extra 7 seconds a lap, whilst DRS, is a device which enables the rear wing to spring open and gain speed, whilst in certain situations. The addition of KERS is noticeable throughout races, as the player figures out when is the best time to deploy it on different tracks, it can help the overall race strategy, as rivals can be passed fairly easily with it. It’s a nice feature, as it employs more of a tactical edge to races, especially online against real people, you have to stay wary of oncoming drivers, using the boost wisely to help defend attacking moves.
DRS, is more noticeable in qualifying when it is free-to-use. On many occasions, have I span off trying to use the device whilst going round a corner, even the slightest movements can send the car twitching across the width of the track. In a race, it is deployed on certain straights, when a player is 1 second off the driver in front. It’s nice to use, as a bonus for catching a driver, as it is basically, a free pass. However, it cannot be used in the wet, and only after the first 3 laps of a race, meaning in the popular ‘Sprint’ mode online, it is hardly ever used, due to many DRS zones coming on the start/finish line, a shame really.
The multiplayer options improve on lasts years meagre offering. Split-screen, allows two players to race on the same console, a feature a lot of people wanted after last years no-show in ‘2010’. A co-op championship mode, allows two online players to become teammates, and battle it out for the drivers championship against an AI field of drivers. It’s a nice feature, and very good for those with headsets, as the communication can make or a break a race. And the standard online multiplayer options of ‘Sprint’, ‘Endurance’ etc, all return, to complete a fairly good all-round package for the game, important after the basics of last year.
All in all then, a good game with only minor improvements on the previous years version. For hardcore F1 nuts, it’s must-buy, only if for all the extra circuits, drivers, DRS and KERS. For those wanted a good racing game, again, it’s a purchase. However, for those content with what ‘F1 2010’, offers, then stick with it and get the inevitable 2012 edition, as there really isn’t enough int his for you.