Replay Value: 8.9
There is a level of demanding realism I’m prepared to handle. Then there’s F1 2011, which not only remains extremely faithful to the ultimate in precision driving, it also forces you to learn fast. Codemasters does an unbelievable job of presenting the Formula One sport; the realism and authenticity is incredible in some instances, the multiplayer is one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have (provided you play with dedicated racers), and the depth is almost overpowering. Despite a few drawbacks, simulator fans will be impressed.
The visual presentation excels when we’re driving through rain or watching the debris fly during a particularly harrowing crash. The wet-weather effects are amazing and the detail given to each and every car on the track is admirable. On the other hand, longer races in normal weather expose a bit of drabness, and there are definite collision detection problems when you get up close and personal with an impact. But the good definitely outweighs the bad, as much of the game looks exactly as it should. The environment and effects can really blow your hair back.
The audio work is even better, despite the merely average soundtrack. The sound effects are restricted to the screaming F1 engines, crashes, and a few other ambient pieces, but everything gels beautifully. Whether it be flying down a straightaway at 200 miles per hour or downshifting to take a particularly sharp turn, this sport has never sounded clearer or more realistic in a video game. Some will say all the engines sound the same and the developers don’t have to master much else, but it’s not quite that simple. Every sound detail is accounted for.
If you played last year’s installment, you probably know what to expect because F1 2011 isn’t altogether different. But wait just a second— you still have to prepare for a brutal challenge; it’s even steeper and more demanding in just about every possible way. Success requires practice, dedication, and a fair helping of veteran skill. When you first start, you probably won’t get very far. You really have to buckle down and focus and the good news is that Codemasters has solidified the control and therefore, the authenticity has been ramped up.
The cars don’t feel as light or loose as they did before, and they actually stay on the track this time around. Still, you can’t just assume you’re a master because the second you do, the game’s realism pops up and slaps you in the face. It’s not enough to know each and every turn on the 19 tracks available, and it’s not enough to practice solo. The AI simply won’t let you get away with a lapse in attention; they will exploit any opening you give them and if you won the race, you won. It wasn’t because you were racing brain-dead opponents, that’s for damn sure.
But let’s talk about the new features for a second. First up are the KERS and DRS systems, which unfortunately remain a little vague for the uninitiated. This is one of those examples where the developers could’ve helped out the players a bit more. But nevertheless, these are good additions: KERS is a power boost you can use once per lap, while DRS alters the angle of the car’s rear wing. This can have a positive impact on drag. Now, the experts will really appreciate these features but most gamers will probably say they have too little effect; the time bonuses gleaned aren’t exactly huge.
So that’s sort of hit or miss, depending on how hardcore you are. But I did like the safety car, which comes out after an accident. Not only does it give you a little break from the ceaselessly challenging racing, but it also adds to the depth and diversity. You may have to change your fuel mix, and you can also pit if necessary. The safety car can be turned off if you think it interrupts the action too much but personally, I left it on most of the time. This leads me to the following point- I don’t want to give the wrong impression; while tough, you can alter the settings.
This means you can experience this simulated racer almost however you see fit. You can get a little help with steering and braking if you need it; early on, I’d actually recommend it until you gain a firmer grasp of the gameplay. It would help to jump online or play with a friend, too; the game supports up to 16 players and a co-op function, which is extremely appealing. There’s no shortage of ways to increase your ability and provided you remain patient and diligent, the rewards will be wonderfully fulfilling. You just gotta test yourself.
Lastly, there’s the great damage modeling, which is both accurate and effective. Incurring damage will have a nasty impact on your car’s performance, and you’ll soon learn what sorts of “injuries” will hurt the most. For instance, if you rip your front wing off, your control will be looser; you’ll have less grip. Plus, if you keep running over debris, your tires will begin to lose pressure and there is the occasional puncture that can really ruin your day. All this contributes to the overall realism and simply asks the player to do one thing: learn, experiment, and learn some more.
For the simulator fans, that’s not boring in the slightest. F1 2011 is an accomplished and accurate representation of the real-life sport. The control is much better this year, the new additions increase the authenticity, the multiplayer (especially co-op) enhances the experience and allows you to ramp up your driving skills, and the reward for your dedication is more than adequate. The graphics sometimes fail an up-close inspection, the AI can be a little too unforgiving, and parts of the game can look and feel bland, but those aren’t crippling factors.
For those who require a hardcore simulator and are willing to put in the time, this is the game for you.
The Good: Fantastic weather effects. Spot-on sound effects. Incredibly deep and realistic gameplay. Multiplayer encourages and speeds up the learning process. Pinpoint accuracy captures the sport nicely. Longevity is off the charts.
The Bad: Collision and impact visuals can suffer a little. AI and overall difficulty can feel overwhelming. You almost need a force feedback wheel to play it properly.
The Ugly: “Wait…do I need to have driven an F1 car in real life to win a race?”