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

  1. Solid review Keith. Big thank you. I’m picking my copy up Friday (U.S.).

  2. Does your car vanish every time you drive straight into another car? Can you turn the vanish option off? I hope you can, or I will be damn ****** off…

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd September 2011, 1:13

      It’s better than the alternative. Codemasters were doing this in DIRT 3 when there was too much happening on-screen for the game to be able to process a collision – especially if it was a big one. The game recognises when you’re putting too much strain on it, and ghosts the car you’re about to it to spare it from busting a get as it tries to model everything. It won’t happen every time, but it can’t be turned off. If it didn’t happen, you’re probably notice an agonising drop in framerate and it would open the door to serious (and possibly terminal) glitches.

  3. graham228221 (@graham228221) said on 21st September 2011, 21:11

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

    According to this vid, you can use it through Eau Rouge:

    http://youtu.be/tXuhFJ-kLm4

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

      I’m not sure what they’ve done there but I tested it and every time I went into Eau Rouge it closed the DRS.

      The only thing that springs to mind is you can only see the DRS light in that video – I checked the replay and could see the wing had gone back down.

  4. maxthecat said on 21st September 2011, 21:27

    Safety car can be turned off completely, so if you choose to have it on why would you want to skip it? Seems like a negative that’s not really relevant.

    • Cacarella (@cacarella) said on 21st September 2011, 21:44

      Having it turned on adds to the realism and excitement in terms of unpredictability and bunching up the field. Having to sit through it when I have no actual control over it sounds like a relevant negative for me.
      (IMHO)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st September 2011, 21:59

      I see your point, but we’re not talking about a simulation that’s 100% authentic in the first place. The safety car periods are clearly truncated compared to what they would be in real life. And there have been other games with skippable safety cars, so it’s not unreasonable to expect this might be the same.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd September 2011, 1:23

        Keith, one would assume that people who put the safety car on would want it on, and thus wouldn’t need a skip button. The only time it would be necessary would be for people who don’t want the saety car, but have not turned it off. So it would be good for all of one or two races, and with the sheer number of button functions this year, Codemasters no doubt felt it was unnecessary, or at the very least, it could be sacrificed.

        As for truncated safety car periods, that’s probably to keep interest going. I don’t think anyone but the most diehard fan would want to do twn or twelve laps behind it. Full safety car periods could really turn players off the game.

  5. RumFRESH (@rumfresh) said on 21st September 2011, 21:46

    I believe there’s also a license restriction that prevents other drivers from switching teams during the season or off-season. It’s kind of frustrating that’s the case and I do wish the cars were more fragile. Oh well, it’s still a great game I have to say.

  6. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 21st September 2011, 21:58

    Does it mean that if you for example replace Alonso in Ferrari, he disappears from the game just like in 2010?

  7. Err Bob said on 21st September 2011, 22:45

    As a 15 year patriot of a using a steering wheel, You must get one, If you can get a wheel with analogue throttle/brake in the gear shift position all the better but throttle/brake peddles are good but you will need a comfortable seating positon. As for F1 2011 I cannot speak but I was disapointed that GP3 by Geoff Crammond didn`t include the out/middle/inside tyre temperature data to allow calculations of Tyre Camber, but these things will disappear to accommodate the wider audience, what the state of the current games is, is anyones guess, but I suspect Arcade.

  8. Can anyone tell me if weather is consistent between qualifying sessions now? That always bugged me. I remember in Australia going from wet (ie. rain pouring) Q1, and dry Q2 & Q3.

  9. Err Bob said on 21st September 2011, 23:08

    Using a mixture of statistics and guessology Iv`e calculalated that there is a 1 in 4200000 chance that FP1 an FP2 might be cancelled due to the re-entry of UARS…( workings using the NASA chance of one in 21 trillion of being hit divide by 6 billion gives you the 1 in 3200….use a figure of 5 million in Singapore gives you 1 in 4.2 million to one…sorry for the wrong place post, but hey it is falling outta the sky )

  10. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd September 2011, 1:20

    I like the way Codemasters have modelled Korea this year:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGpEsGqWEoE&feature=related

    It actually looks really nice. Like a parklands circuit.

  11. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd September 2011, 2:01

    There’s a guy in Estonia claiming that there are critical errors with the safety car. He’s posted videos showing the AI passing him under safety car conditions, but it’s also noticeably slow, driving around with near-terminal damage to his car, and running well off the racing line. The other one claims that if an AI car is immobilised on the circuit, but has no damage, the game wil not recognise it as a retirement and you will not be able to pass it – but again, closer examination reveals that the car is clipping through a wall, slowing it down. Based on the way he’s driving, he’s clearly trying to force the game to glitch. He also claims that Codemasters are attempting to silence him, so it looks like a troll somehow got his hands of a review copy of the game.

    • Bernard (@bernard) said on 22nd September 2011, 15:32

      Based on the way he’s driving, he’s clearly trying to force the game to glitch

      Are you seriously suggesting that someone doing the job of a beta tester is a troll?

      Codemasters – How dare they find faults missed by us!

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd September 2011, 1:29

        But he’s not a beta tester. I certainly don’t speak Estonian, but I’ve been following reactions to his videos, and people who do speak Estonian reckon that he does this with a lot of games – he gets his hands on review copies and then spends his time trying to force glitches so that he has something to complain about.

    • I hardly think he’s a troll. The fact is that most reviewers don’t go beyond:

      1) how does it look?
      2) how are the initial feelings?
      3) what has changed from F1 2011? (most of the time, they then cite drs and kers, both of which are not the courtesy of Codemasters)

      If causing a SC and seeing what happens next is ‘causing the game to glitch’, then beta-testing is null. You’re not supposed to test how well the game works in optimal circumstances.

      Plenty of games with similar untraced bugs have been released over the years. I’ve seen it in the early Medal of Honor series and Call of Duty (leftlean/vertical clipping behind objects), Call of Duty 2 had proneclipping, F1 2010 had dodgy pitstops, random punctures, etc. As long as devs attend to these problems in the form of patches, it’s ok for me. The problem is however that some companies either don’t do anything at all or create a patch, but bring in new bugs or neglect to fix old ones.

      I have F1 2011 preloaded to play on release in Europe. I’d love to sit in the sofa and play my games from a console, but the past has taught me that modders generally save games from their own creators. Whatever Codemasters have missed, I’m hoping RDD will fix in the (near) future.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd September 2011, 1:32

        If causing a SC and seeing what happens next is ‘causing the game to glitch’, then beta-testing is null.

        There’s a difference between causing a safety car to see what happens and deliberately trying to break the game. If you’ve seen the video, it’s cut very suspiciously – he causes a first-corner accident at Abu Dhabi and gets the safety car out. He then drives a lap back to the pits. But the lap is cut with footage from the aftermath of another incident at the first corner, one that he didn’t show, but he’s claiming it’s all one race.

  12. vho (@) said on 22nd September 2011, 3:01

    Seems that update 1.01 has been issued – 25Mb, just did the update and registered my VIP pass.

    Like the intro – it shows replays of incidents so far in the 2011 season. Only thing is the Lewis/Jenson incident in Canada is slightly incorrect – the game seems to think they were side by side during the collision, but in fact Jenson was ahead of Lewis.

  13. Daniel2030 said on 22nd September 2011, 4:37

    My Quick Review.

    1. New interface/menus are awful. I know some people didn’t like the paddock of last year, but this is just terribly drab and boring and kills the experience a lot imo.

    2. Graphics took quite a hit on the vehicles, I guess mainly due to the 5 people that will be using splitscreen. Gloves look terrible and pulls me out of the game. Some cockpits are rediculous, Red Bulls have huge mirrors on the side…just looks dumb.

    3. Physics I guess are better, I mean their isn’t the instant spin from 2011 but something feels off.

    4. New Career mode cutscenes are dumb. Would have rather a parade lap.

    Overall, I don’t think this was worth a purchase after owning 2010.

  14. Jared H (@thejaredhuang) said on 22nd September 2011, 5:08

    Any comment on the track layouts? They were supposed to correct Maggots and Becketts and Catalyuna.

  15. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd September 2011, 6:59

    I’m a little disappointed. It’s a lot of fun, and I improved my lap time around Spa by about twelve seconds within a few laps of starting, but my computer really doesn’t like processing parts of the game. There’s a few points where the frame rate regularly drops off, even when I’m running low settings – no reflective car surfaces for me. I’d odd, because my graphics card is only one step down from the required card (I have a Radeon 6550 when it demands a Radeon 6570), so I suspect it’s my computer. DIRT 3 did it when I pushed the game too hard and too far. Hopefully it will clear up later.

    • Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta) said on 22nd September 2011, 15:52

      Having a video card that doesn’t meet the minimum specification would explain a lot, unfortunately.

    • There’s a serious difference between what is required (the bare minimum to play) and what is recommended. A HD6550 isn’t really a high end card in its own right. What are the rest of your PC’s specifications?

      [Recommended System Requirements
      Operating System: Windows 7
      DirectX Version: DirectX 11
      Processor: Intel Core i5 or AMD Phenom II x4
      Memory: 4GB Ram
      Graphics Card: GeForce GTX460 or ATI Radeon HD 5850]

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