F1 2011: The F1 Fanatic review

F1 reviews

F1 2011 is Codemasters’ second official Formula 1 game for major formats.

The original was generally well-received, but wasn’t without its flaws and some embarrassing bugs.

With the new title Codemasters say they’re offering more than just an updated roster of 19 tracks and tweaked rules.

Safety car

The attention-grabbing addition for 2011 is the safety car. This is part of a revised race environment in which Grands Prix can also be red-flagged if the track is sufficiently blocked.

As in real life, when the safety car comes out you have to queue up behind it and not overtake until it returns to the pits. A rather heavy-handed automatic control system keeps you within the rules while the car is out.

This continues to govern until the Mercedes SLS AMG is back in the pits. When the field is released your opportunities to get a jump on the car in front are rather limited.

F1 2011, Codemasters, 2011

Queueing up behind the safety car

Still, it’s good to see Codemasters have responded to the huge numbers of fans who were crying out for this feature.

Those who are not so keen on the idea may be disappointed to learn the safety car period cannot be skipped. However the safety car is only ever out briefly – not as long as in real life – so you’re quickly on your way again.

KERS, DRS and more 2011 tweaks

Among the other new inclusions are the Drag Reduction System and Kinetic Energy Recovery System. Now more than ever it’s worth making sure you’re totally happy with you control system before you dive into a race, because you’re going to be jabbing a lot of buttons.

In practice and qualifying DRS is one of the most entertaining new additions to the game, as you dare yourself to open it earlier and close it later, risking disaster if you do.

Obeying its implementation to the letter, it even slams shut as you head towards the Monaco tunnel or Eau Rouge in Spa.

The same attention to detail has been paid to the implementation of KERS, which is not available if you drive for Lotus, HRT or Virgin.

Given that, it’s surprising to see another of the new rules for 2011 is absent: the 107% cut-off time in qualifying is not enforced.

Last year Codemasters admitted exaggerating the qualities of the Bridgestone tyres to make them more of a feature in the game. But this year the Pirelli tyres appear to have been toned down – I was easily able to do half a race distance on super-softs at Montreal without the lap times dropping off.

F1 2011, Codemasters, 2011

The Indian Grand Prix is the new addition to the calendar

The new Indian Grand Prix circuit is present and I hope the real Buddh International Circuit looks as good as the virtual one does. The only other major update among the circuits, aside from the disappearance of Bahrain, is the new pits at Silverstone.

The cars and tracks are rendered in crisper, more detailed graphics which create a more convincing environment than before. The team-specific steering wheels are especially good, complete with functioning LED KERS meters.

But by far my favourite new feature in the game is the menu option for ‘engineer verbosity’. This allows you to tune out the yammering voice in your ear, who waits until you’re trying to judge a braking point in streaming rain to tell you your engine temperature is fine.

I also like the choice of driver nicknames which include ‘legends’ – the first names of all the F1 world champions.

See here for a summary of the major features in F1 2011:

At the wheel

F1 2011 ticks a lot of boxes for its appearance and faithfulness to the current rules. But just as important is how it handles.

The new generation cars are decidedly less twitchy and punishing than in the previous version.

The cars feel softer, with noticeably more pitch and dive in cornering and braking. Without the real-world sensations of movement, these act as a substitute for the player’s senses and help you judge when the car is on the point of snapping out of control.

In the two easiest modes, which have a decidedly ‘arcade’ feel, even the most ham-fisted player will find it nigh on impossible to get the car sideways in the first place.

Playing in the tougher difficult settings you’ll find the car tricky though not unpredictable in its movements. You at least stand a chance of keeping the car under control when it starts to break traction.

Weaknesses

F1 2011, Codemasters, 2011

Two rivals merge to create Vitaly Vettel

For all the progress Codemasters have made with the game, some niggling drawbacks remain from the previous version.

Top of the list is your inability to see what else is going on during a race. The new Race Director feature makes a small improvement in this respect by allowing you to keep tabs on the running order.

But, at the end of a two-hour race, you want to be able to go back and see the collision which took your closest rival out, how Lewis Hamilton ended up out of the points, and if anyone hit your front wing when it came off.

This limitation is also evident in new video walls positioned around the track, which only ever show what’s happening from your point of view.

F1 2011 Codemasters

The video walls repeat your perspective

I expect this drawback will, for many players, undermine their belief in the authenticity of the racing in F1 2011.

It’s partly because much of the F1 2011 world is so believable that bubble-bursting moments like this are so disappointing.

The performance of the cars and drivers, for example, is much more even than in real life. In half-a-dozen races I only saw a Red Bull on pole position once, with such unlikely figures as Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg heading the field.

The damage model still leaves a lot to be desired. This may be partly because Formula One Management forbid Codemasters from allowing the car’s survival cells to be damaged.

The cars seem unrealistically sturdy and react unconvincingly to contact with barriers and other cars. The way they shed parts like wheels, wings and suspension elements on impact is rather unconvincing.

F1 2011, Codemasters, 2011

Cars 'vanish' to avoid contact

At other times the game goes out of its way to keep you from crashing – ‘vanishing’ your car if you drive into the path of a competitor.

Of the criticism that was levelled at the previous game, the most deserved was that concerning the bugs that affected it. Many of these were fixed in a subsequent patch and I observed none of the previous pit lane problems when playing F1 2011.

However I did see more than one instance of two cars occupying the same space on the track and merging into each other, suggesting Codemasters haven’t quite nailed it yet.

The drivers’ artificial intelligence is occasionally very impressive, making opportunistic passes and defending its position. But it does go wrong sometimes – on two occasions I saw drivers stopping after minor collisions.

And while I’m having a whinge, why are Renault called ‘Lotus-Renault’, when none of the other teams’ title sponsors are mentioned?

Improvements

F1 2011, Codemasters, 2011

Heidfeld falls prey to a DRS attack

The penalties system has been improved and interferes with the racing far less in the easier modes.

You will find it places much greater demands on your self-control as you crank up the dificulty levels, which is exactly as it should be. However it does tend to dish out needless penalties for ‘blocking’ when the car in question has crashed.

Codemasters have also expanded and improved the multiplayer offering. You can now race against a rival on the same machine using split-screen more. Online races can now feature 16 human players plus eight computer-controlled cars giving a full grid.

Codemasters haven’t tampered with one of the strongest features of the previous game – the weather. The rain effects and clouds still look great, and the frequency with which they appear suggest Codemasters are keen to show them off.

What has been changed in this respect is how dry-weather tyres perform on a wet track. Put on a set of slicks and join a wet track and you’ll find your car spinning its wheels on the exit of corners, unable to stop in braking zones and unwilling to change direction at all.

And many will be glad to learn the in-game timing now shows your split times during qualifying and the gaps to the other cars around you during the race, which is more more intuitive.

Verdict

F1 2011, Codemasters, 2011

A Monza pile-up triggers the safety car

The latest iteration of Codemasters’ F1 franchise offers a lot to tempt back players who bought last year’s title, particularly those who enjoy online gaming.

But it seems many of its shortcomings seem to stem from the restrictions and complexities of the F1 game licence. That’s why there’s no support series or other cars to race in, no tracks beyond the 19 on the F1 calendar, and no classic cars from seasons past.

You can’t even connect it up to last year’s game and carry on your career from the end of 2010 into 2011.

Codemasters have produced an entertaining title and continue to refine and expand their simulation of F1 racing. But for several reasons, some not of their making, there’s still a way to go to transform this very good game into a truly great one.

F1 2011 goes on sale in the UK on Friday and is already available in some other regions.

F1 Fanatic rating

Have you played F1 2011? Share your opinions on the game in the comments.

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F1 2011 by Codemasters

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126 comments on F1 2011: The F1 Fanatic review

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  1. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 21st September 2011, 17:26

    I also like the choice of driver nicknames which include ‘legends’ – the first names of all the F1 world champions.

    This is very good for me! :D

  2. Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 21st September 2011, 17:37

    Not convinced about the safety car – I know there’s all kinds of strategy surrounding it, but it sounds like having half-time in a football game to me. I’m sure Mercedes-Benz are very happy about it.

    Is there a Magic Paddle? :)

  3. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 21st September 2011, 17:37

    I’ve been playing a little bit this evening on my PC and I’ve noticed a couple of things.

    The handling is almost the exact opposite of last year’s iteration and as Keith accurately said, it feels ‘softer’. But I can’t help but feel they’ve gone a little overboard with it, because I continue to lose traction in medium to high speed corners whilst in 6th or 7th gear. The slides are easily manageable, but it doesn’t feel very convincing. The developers seemed to be very proud of the fact you can ride the kerbs without spinning, and I can confirm this is the case although, once again, they may have taken it a bit too far.

    I can’t wait to get it on PS3 and race some F1Fs properly, though!

    • icemangrins (@icemangrins) said on 21st September 2011, 20:04

      In 2010, with the steering wheel though, it was fun though riding the kerbs using the controller was very frustrating. There were times I shut down my PS3 when I couldn’t manage even a single fyling lap.. it was so sensitive.

      Screen shot of Indian GP is funny though. Michael is in P8 coming into Turn 1. Did they use the current form card while programming the pace of the car?

      • I think the game suffers a bit from not being for one specific platform.

        They are trying to balance between console and PC and with a racing game that isn’t Need for speed… It’s difficult.

      • What worries me more is that none of the cars appear to be in shadow, when the track they are on clearly is.

        • Nice spot. Pro eye looking at it, I guess!

          Funny enough, the ones really next to the grandstands are in shadow, but the ones a bit further on the left (or right from their perspective) such as Massa or the Sauber further back. As if they used a light source position far to low and not behind the grandstand.

  4. I remember cars vanashing to avoid crashes happened only in multiplayer mode in F1 2010, which was very frustating, and I’ll assume this is the same in F1 2011, but the pictures you posted show these “collisions” in replay – which doesn’t exist in multiplayer, right?

  5. F1 2011 is Codemasters’ second official Formula 1 game.

    I thought F1 2009 was official as well? 2009 + 2010 + 2011 = 3.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st September 2011, 17:47

      Added “for major formats” in case it wasn’t obvious that’s what I meant.

      • Lachie (@lachie) said on 22nd September 2011, 5:16

        If im not mistaken, Wii is the top-selling console this generation…. does that not make it a major format?

        • unoccprost said on 22nd September 2011, 6:26

          No. Wii was just wii.

          360, PS3 and PC are considered the major consoles given the extra cpu power, graphics ability, actually able to do HD, etc…

          While the wii may sell more it lacks the development potential of the others and hence can’t be worked in when multiplatform writing.

          Hence you can get Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood for 360 and PS3 but not wii because of the different ‘experience’.

          Similiarly there are racing games for 360 and PS3 (Forza and Gran Turismo) but only mario cart for wii. It simply doesn’t have the power to run it

          • Whatvever you may say, the Wii is a major console format. Just because it’s graphic processing power doesn’t match up to the 360 and PS3 doesn’t mean it should be discounted.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd September 2011, 12:24

          I didn’t say “all major formats”.

      • It was strange that ’09 was published only for Wii and PS and ’10 wasn’t published for Wii.

        • unoccprost said on 22nd September 2011, 15:17

          2 different formats, two different styles.

          You can get a PS3 to render 720p and then put it onto 360 and it will also render 720p. You can write something that a PS3 can do and then write it for 360 and it will do it as well.

          NO matter how hard you try the Wii doesn’t have the power to process those calculations.

          The Wii’s power is more similiar to the PSP. The PS3 is similiar is power to the 360. THe PS3 slightly more than the 360 actually.

          Naturally you can’t get a Wii to do everything in the same time a 360 does it UNLESS you make it within the Wiis capabilities, in which case the 360/PS3 game would seem weak and underdeveloped.

          As I said above there are numerous example including the Assassin’s Creed games as well as the Battlefield games and Call of Duty, all of which require much more power than that of the Wii.

          Simple huh?

  6. Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 21st September 2011, 17:43

    I’m glad it appears to be an improvement, especially in terms of the driving experience as after all, it’s a racing game and you want to enjoy the experience of actually driving the cars. Things like so-so damage physics really don’t bother me – I play to race, not to crash!

    The unrealistically evenly matched AI is a bit of a downer – it was the same in the last game too In old F1 games the AI ran very much true to how they did in that season, so I’m not sure why Codemasters feel the need to make them more evenly matched. The Lotus-Renault thing also really annoys me!

    Will I buy this game? Yes. Just not now. I was severely disappointed with the previous installment and without actually playing the game for myself, I’m wary of whether or not I’ll feel the same about this one. I’m willing to pay £20-£25 for it, but for what is ultimately such a limited game the price at the moment is more than I can really afford.

  7. vho (@) said on 21st September 2011, 17:47

    Car control in expert mode is harder than F1 2010. The cars seem to be able to drift earlier and the backend can come out quicker, making it harder to get the perfect lap in consistently.

    When using a wheel, the force feed is more communicative and definitely worth investing in if you don’t already have one. Track undulations can be felt in the force feed as well. And you get the full sensation when you hit the curbs in a chicane.

    • The cars seem to be able to drift earlier and the backend can come out quicker, making it harder to get the perfect lap in consistently.

      That’s good news. I’m glad to see that it is actually harder to drive the cars.

  8. I don’t see any real reason to leave F12010. The main gameplay issues with the lack of information on the field, the confused Career-status information in the motorhome, and the display glitches remain. Also, I don’t see the great game-play benefit of having to mash two more buttons, time after time, lap after lap, for 90 minutes to run KERS and DRS. After all, it’s not like passing is dificult in the game. If they made passing realistically-difficult, then maybe KERS and DRS would be useful. I like to wear my hairshirt too and keep it all on “legend” and “no driver-aids” but I’m hoping they have an “automatic” mode for DRS at least.

  9. vho (@) said on 21st September 2011, 17:56

    From my first two hours on the game, as far as I know KERS can be the difference for catching and passing another car. In expert mode I found it difficult to chase the leader if I didn’t have KERS and also when you are in the lead your rival can catch up to you easily if you don’t deploy KERS.

  10. Keith while I know using a racing wheel would be better, do you think using a controller would be detrimental to a person’s enjoyment when playing this game?

  11. The handling have indeed changed a lot from F12010.

    It might be worth mentioning couple more things:

    The Safety Car feature is available only in races of 20%+ distance and it can be turned on/off in this case.

    I have done just one race, which is Singapore (you know, to predict the outcome of this weekend!), and if I’m not mistaken the DRS zone was on the main straight, which is very short. I don’t know about other circuits, but I suppose they put the DRS on the main straight as default.

    I’m still trying to figure out how they know which of Pirelli’s tires will be allocated to Abu Dhabi – point similar to the DRS zone.

    Heard from another player, and I tried it myself, changing the car’s setup after qualifying is not allowed anymore – which adds to the rules they implemented.

    One last thing, the AI has improved indeed. Usually on F12010 if I’m slow in practice then cars start to line up behind me whereas here they overtake – too aggressively one might say – and continue their laps.

  12. xbx-117 (@xbx-117) said on 21st September 2011, 18:26

    Lotus, HRT, and Virgin have KERS in the multiplayer at least, right? That would be very annoying if being randomly shoved into one of those cars meant you were instantly at a serious disadvantage.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd September 2011, 1:02

      I’m pretty sure the performance of all cars was equilised in F1 2010’s multiplayer, because then whoever wound up in a Hispania would be at a massive disadvantage simply because of the performance difference, and the whole thing would be a race to see who could get to the best cars first. So I daresay Codemasters equilised the performance here, too, to prevent the same thing from happening.

      • There were two option from memory, Where either all the cars where equal, or they had individual performance.

        Who got what car was determined by someones “rank”, higher ranks getting their preference.

  13. Cacarella (@cacarella) said on 21st September 2011, 18:27

    On the PS3 network, Can North Amercian players race against users in the UK or Europe? I don’t play online often.

  14. I have seen some footage and it looks good so far. But as I saw the restart of a SC period in Canada I was very disappointed that the lead driver didn’t fall way behind the safety car like in real life and then bunch everyone up and slingshot the car out of the second to last corner for a blast down to the last chicane.
    It seems like it is impossible to control your distance to the car in front, which is a shame because what I was really excited about for this game was the SC restarts. It turns out I can only use them as a strategic tool then. Good job on CM for making the SC anyway.
    Another grief is the vanishing. I think it is a really bad idea in single player, and I have experienced bugs with it in the pits when you set it to full manual, break too early, then the car behind you will overtake you into the pits by driving through your car. I found that quite annoying! I don’t know if such can happen in the new game, but it is on pre-order, so I will see soon enough : )

  15. How much has the networking been tested this time around? In 2010 it was often almost impossible to complete an event, because people got thrown off the servers left and right.

    I noticed that it is on Steam (prepurchased it, and preloading as I write :)). When you use the Steam version, is that god-awful Games for Windows junk gone? Pleasepleaseplease say yes! ;)

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