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F1 2011: Harder, faster, stronger?

Codies shoots off the grid with online focus

Codemasters has blown open F1 2011, the sequel to its Bafta-winning sport debut that took the racing genre by storm last year.

The feature list for this year's game includes improved handling, new AI and an enhanced damage system, but the real focus is on the multiplayer side.

2011's major bullet points are all connected with online, and chief game designer Stephen Hood is frank in telling us he doesn't think last year's game performed well in the network arena "at all".

To help bring the feature up to par then, Codies is introducing both co-op Championships and a much-requested split-screen mode in F1 2011.

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Competitive online racing has also been extended with 16 players going head-to-head in Grand Prix, with up to 8 AI drivers added to simulate the full grid of 24 drivers.

These enhancements are complimented by additional quick fire modes including Time Attack and an ever-obsessive commitment to authenticity.

The developers promise F1 2011 will feature all the drivers set to contest the 2011 F1 Championship, including Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button.

All 2011 teams are represented including Ferrari, Red Rull Racing, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and Lotus Renault GP in their iconic black and gold livery.

There are also two additions to the race calendar this year, extending the number of circuits to 19. Players will be able to debut ahead of the drivers on the Buddh International Circuit, the home of the first F1 Grand Prix of India and the Nürburging circuit for the first time.

A little less obvious are all the new rule changes, which Codemasters says will make this year's season "the most exciting yet".

F1 2011 debuts (put your F1 nerd hat on here) DRS (Drag Reduction System) - the new system which enables drivers to adjust the rear wing on the car to give a boost of up to 10km. KERS also returns, giving players an extra 80BHP for up to 6.67 seconds, enabling drivers to blast past rivals.

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Beyond the Drag Deduction Systems and other techy stuff though, you'll be pleased to hear that this year's game actually looks bloody good. Codemasters showed us both last year's game and 2011 side by side, and the difference is night and day (literally in some cases - there's a night/day cycle in 2011).

F1 2011 features a whole new lighting system, dynamic clouds (which are more impressive than they sound) and hugely improved background scenery, right down to blades of grass. As you can see from the first screenshots, the weather system is also looking fantastic.

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The new instalment's also committed to expanding the "be the driver" mantra cemented by last year's game.

2011 introduces a new Parc Ferme area, an expanded and revamped Paddock, new Pit Lane, celebration and reaction cinematics and an enhanced media interaction system promising to fully immerse players in the world of driving cars well fast.

F1 2011 is due on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, followed later by NGP and Nintendo 3DS.

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