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.


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?


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.


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.

Buy F1 2011 for Sony PlayStation 3
Buy F1 2011 for Microsoft Xbox 360
Buy F1 2011 for PC

F1 2011 by Codemasters

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126 comments on F1 2011: The F1 Fanatic review

  1. portable fanatic said on 22nd September 2011, 8:03

    I am wondering why codemasters didn’t make a version of this on the psp. There are so many psp users that want a proper f1 game on the console & the f1 2009 was a disappointing game to say the least.

    Can someone persuade them to port this game on a psp too?


    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd September 2011, 8:13

      There’s a version being made for the PS Vita.

      • portable fanatic said on 22nd September 2011, 8:23

        But PSvita’s launch is such a long way away. What would have codemasters lost if they ported this game on the psp too?

        This is way I don’t like codemasters, they do things in a random & arbitrary manner. I wish sony had developed this game & it did a pretty damn good job in 2006 with ps2 & psp.

        • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd September 2011, 9:05

          What would have codemasters lost if they ported this game on the psp too?

          Quality. Maybe they feel that relasing the game for PSP would compromise the wuality too much. The tralier for the game on the PS Vita was of noticeably poor quality graphically, so I can only imagine that the PSP would be an even further step down.

        • I wish sony had developed this game & it did a pretty damn good job in 2006 with ps2 & psp.

          They did an alright job with it. And then they did sod-all with the licence for the 3 years after that. And Sony having the licence would mean only PlayStation benifitting, leaving Xbox, Nintendo, and PC owners in the dark.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd September 2011, 12:55

            Sony having the licence would mean only PlayStation benifitting, leaving Xbox, Nintendo, and PC owners in the dark.

            Exactly. And when you consider EA Sports aren’t even producing PC versions of a lot of their titles, I think F1 is being pretty well-served by Codemasters in this respect.

          • TBH Keith I’d rather they just stuck with consoles. There’s no reason whatsover for the PC version apart from of course much higher detailed graphics.

            Everything else is pure console. Game rather than simulation. Fine if that’s what you want.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd September 2011, 14:02

            Well I’m one of many people who play it on the PC and I prefer having the better-quality graphics so I’m afraid I don’t agree!

  2. the best ever GP game continues to be the Microprose GP series, by Geoff Crammond. These games were made in the mid-late 90s and yet their handling still remains vastly superior to any games since.

    can someone explain to me, why games such as this, still feel so unrealistic in comparison?

    • NickTheGeek (@nickthegeek) said on 22nd September 2011, 12:37

      Some of the F1 modes on RFactor are cracking, might be worth a look?

    • Alesici (@alesici) said on 22nd September 2011, 12:43

      The first Crammond/Microprose F1 GP was great when it came out in 1991, but by the time GP4 came out, it had made next to no progress in physics.

      If you want the best GP sim, look no further than Grand Prix Legends, released in 1998. Admitedly, it simulates the 1967 season rather than 2011. And you virtually need the skills of Jim Clark to complete a race without crashing, but this difficulty has this amazing power to give you the *fear* of driving a racing car, like you are struggling to ride a wild beast. But get it right, and feel the car dance on the edge of adhesion in such a fluid manner, and it is oh so rewarding.

      Oh, and I also tip my hat to Richard Burns Rally from 2004. It is probably the most realistic simulation of driving commercially available. It really is tragic that no-one seems to have bettered it since then, for fear of making too much of a niche product.

      Lastly, Live for Speed is a sim that is great fun to play.

      • Bernard (@bernard) said on 22nd September 2011, 16:12

        It is also worth pointing out that iRacing uses the most recent incarnation of the GPL engine – although over the years it has been heavily updated.

        Regarding Geoff Crammond, it’s rather harsh to claim he ‘had made next to no progress in physics’ during the 10 years between F1GP and GP4.

        Especially when you consider that the weather and rendering engines, the AI, the circuit and car modelling, the sound modelling, the car setup and telemetry features were all developed extensively throughout the course of the series and many of which had a direct influence or reliance on the physics.

        As a result, GP4 is to this day regarded as one of the greatest F1 titles ever released, and was of huge inspiration to Codemasters.

  3. NickTheGeek (@nickthegeek) said on 22nd September 2011, 12:36

    The way most collision detection engines work is to have an invisible box or cube around the car. Only if two cubes intersect does the collision detection do the expensive maths of working out in detail if there has been a collision, i.e. between the wheels etc.

    Its a bit of a flaky cop out to be honest and not one I would personally take as a developer.

    I suspect codies have a timer in effect and if they consider there is not enough time in the current Update batch to process the collision they render the cars as they do rather than take the update / render loop hit.

    If the processing usage really is up on the limit of what systems can do then missing the update deadline would mean a nasty stutter. I guess its person preference which you would prefer.

    I would be interested to know weather this is a PC only thing where players will have variable clock speeds and the issue of the amount of CPU available changing due to the inconsistent demands of Windows operations in the background.

    As if it happens on the 360 / PS3 I would be surprised that they didn’t reduce the collision precision to fit the worst case (all good engines have this ability).

  4. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd September 2011, 13:38

    Okay, I managed to find a program called Catalyst that lets me run the game a little faster and a little smoother. I’m no longer getting the drops in frame rate that I was experiencing this afternoon, and with that in mind, I can give a much fuller review.

    The first thing I’ve noticed is that for all its complexity, the game is very user-friendly. I picked it up very quickly – much faster than I was expecting – and I started learning some circuits. I only know three at the moment, and I’m hesitant to get into career mode until I know some more. And to be honest, I’m just having too much fun learning the circuits to want to do anything else. I haven’t even begun to explore the layers of complexity when it comes to DRS, KERS, tyre wear, fuel maps and setup, but I’m looking forward to it.

    I’m also finding the overall presentation is very slick and very professional. Information is easy to find, and while you sometimes have to navigate layers of menus, it’s very easy to get there and back (unlike some games that I’ve played, like Final Fantasy VIII and the infamously complex Junction System). I also love the graphics; even on the lowest settings, everything looks great. The only one I don’t like is Singapore because the glare from the lights gives the cars a washed-out look.

    I’m finding the handling a little funny; the game really requires a steering wheel. The cars are naturally heavy, but the limited travel of the analog stick means the steering is quite sensitive. So I sometimes feel like I’m wallowing into the corners, shifting the weight of the car to push it around the bend. It’s particularly noticeable in lower-speed corners; I can really feel it in the penultimate corner at Melbourne.

    I’m a little disappointed in the Proving Grounds. F1 2011 has a new mode called Time Attack, which give you a pre-determined car and a pre-determined setup and challenges you to beat a set time. But there are only six trials, and no doubt doing a dry lap of Hungary in a Mercedes is very different to doing a wet lap in a Hispania. There were endless permutations and combinations of cars and circuits, so six feels a little short-changed. Hopefully Codemasters could make some more available as DLC.

    • vho (@) said on 22nd September 2011, 16:02

      I used to **** around with my PC getting it to run fast enough for my racing games – and it ended up being a forever upgrade that loomed in the $1000s of dollars – frankly I got sick of it. That’s why I switched to the consoles once they caught and surpassed why PCs could do for gaming & graphics. There are times where the consoles are limited in terms of customisations, but in general I couldn’t falter the likes of GT5 and F1 2011 (so far). No drop outs, no screen lag – and bolting my wheel/pedal and chassis package to it, it’s become as close I can get it to doing the real thing. The beauty of it is that I can swing a few laps whenever with very little fuss, unlike track days/go kart days where you have to spend at least half a day preparing for it and the thought of $$$ if there was an accident – so far none (touch wood).

  5. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 22nd September 2011, 14:03

    Stoked for this. Bring on the Collantine Cup I say.

  6. SennaNmbr1 (@) said on 22nd September 2011, 19:24

    PC owners beware. The game takes ages to install and the progress bar will probably hang around at 25% for 10 minutes.

  7. The handling over kerbs are fun.
    And catching a slide in slow corners is fun.
    But I can’t take blanchimont and eau rouge in normal fashion as the car will
    always slide… that’s a big failure!
    Didn’t they test this? … I don’t like this one bit.
    Gonna test some other tracks than Spa now :)

  8. vho (@) said on 23rd September 2011, 9:54

    Like the fact that you can’t easily recover a spin by simply stomping on the brakes like 2010 – which made it far too easy. Once you get into a spin you keep spinning and it takes a bit of skill to recover. Another good thing is the slight jolt in the wheel when you’re downshifting – all the more reason to get a wheel for this game.

  9. Looks absolutely stunning and is equally stunning in just how bad it drives (PC version, G27, CST Pedals).

    Such a shame.

    Oh and negative Crossfire scaling folks. Don’t waste your dosh…

    • BinarySlave (@binaryslave) said on 23rd September 2011, 14:07

      Disagree .. I have a G27 and after tweaking lots of settings it feels fine to me!

      • Would you care to share please? I’ll give it a another look certainly. At the moment it lags significantly too, a little bit better with vsync disabled (but unfortunately lots of tearing) and the steering just feels soggy and heavy and disconnected.
        I see you enjoyed F1 2010 a lot but I couldn’t get into that either but I really really wanted to!

  10. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 23rd September 2011, 13:49

    Good review. I feel I wouldn’t get a lot of the detail you provide in a games magazine and us F1 fans are known to be rather particular!

    Hopefully i’ll pick up a copy this weekend or Monday at the latest.

  11. BinarySlave (@binaryslave) said on 23rd September 2011, 14:03

    According to Steam I spent 270 hours in F12010! …played it to death, did a 7 year career with no aids and legend AI … brilliant fun.

    I was really looking forward to F12011 and so far have not been disappointed at all. Handling is vastly improved although after avoiding the big kerbs for so long it is really hard to change your driving style to ‘monster’ them as Montoya would have once done! The application of DRS/KERS is also quite tricky to get to grips with, but I like a challenge. It certainly helped when I realised I didn’t have to deactivate the DRS every time, applying the brakes did it for me.

    I have also experienced the safety car, and made up 3 places at the first corner once it had returned to the pits.

    Only slight worry – I did a wet weather practice session (Melbourne) and was very competitive when it was very very wet, but as the track dried I could not match the AI cars (on Legend). Infact, I was 9 seconds off the pace on the damp track and nothing I did made much difference. Am hoping this was a one off as drying races will not be fun if the AI can seemingly find mega grip on a very slippery track.

    Overall though – a big thumbs up from me! Am looking forward to starting a Co-op championship with a friend tonight :)

    • Ropeswing05 said on 24th September 2011, 2:28

      Nice review. I played lots of the xbox version last year, and am thrilled with 2011 so far. Riding the kerbs feels great, i used to constantly attack a bit too much in 2010 and snap into a spin. This year you can race proper and attack them. The onscreen race info is a fantastic addition. Knowing where you are going to come out from the pits is something that was sorely missing in 2010. I also love that you can see what tires competitors are on and how many pit stops they have made. It makes the racing more fun and strategic.

    • RumFRESH (@rumfresh) said on 24th September 2011, 4:43

      The pace of the legend AI on a wet/drying track is just impossible. I’m about 5 seconds off the pace! On a dry track I’m on the pace but on a wet or drying one forget about it. The AI is just getting a lot more grip than me.

      • minimihkel (@minimihkel) said on 24th September 2011, 10:15

        Had the same problem. There was a wet session and all of a sudden I notice AI cars putting up way better times and they were on options! I tried going out on options and the track was undrivable for me – just as it should have been.

  12. I read this and saw that DRS shuts itself at Spa. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and I had a massive accident!

    Also, the video screens were also in F1 2010, but maybe there are more this year.

  13. Mild7nick (@mild7nick) said on 24th September 2011, 12:00

    Have to say – MASSIVE LETDOWN!

    The handling feels numb and the car slides a lot unlike F1 2010 which felt pretty good and solid. F1 2011 in comparison just feels arcadey and inconsistent.

    My biggest gripe however is the graphics, they are appalling!! The framerate is abysmal and playing it makes me feel like I’m back on the ps2!

    Having seen the codemasters forums, the reception has not been good to say the least.

  14. Mild7nick (@mild7nick) said on 24th September 2011, 16:53

    I have it on ps3 and its atrocious

  15. I have only played the game on xbox, but I find it horribly sluggish (the physics are off, the steering reacts slowly, the load times are way outside acceptable limits). The final controller-throwing, put-the-game-away-for-good moment came when I was leading the GP (in a force india, being chased by massa… so much for realism, but i digress), and at one of the last turns the graphics glitched as i was aiming for the apex and I spun out and wrecked. Then I put the forza disc back in. (If you have not played forza [and you have an xbox], go at least download the demo. Once you get a taste for a proper 120hz physics engine, you will put F1 down for good as well)

    TL;DR: Game is a waste of everything and gets a 1-star from me.

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