Considering how highly Codemasters' F1 2010 was rated, we're a little bit taken aback when Chief Game Designer Steve Hood effectively refers to it as a prototype, a practise run.
Both Hood and Senior Producer Paul Jeal readily admit that time pressures for F1 2010 meant they hadn't quite made a game that hit its fullest potential.
F1 2011, then, is closer to the game that they always believed they could make. Of course, two million sales and millions more pieces of feedback certainly helps...
The first thing we notice behind the wheel of F1 2011 (a Fanatac wheel and pedal set-up, if you're interested - although official Codemasters-sanctioned F1 wheels are on their way, we're told) is a vast improvement to the visuals.
The graphical 'haze' of other Codemasters racers has been lifted, leaving crisp, clean, detailed visuals and circuits bristling with details - far more suited to a 'high-end' Motorsport like F1.
The second thing that we realise (beyond our first taste of the recently redesigned Silverstone and a new start/finish line messing with our heads) is just how manageable the cars are to drive; gone is the sensitive and twitchy steering that requires delicate driver inputs and in its place is something much more enjoyable.
In part, this is down to the new cars simply being better 'driver's cars' but mostly down to completely revised suspension and tyre technology.
Such are the improvements in these areas, it has allowed Codemasters to enhance other areas too; AI drivers can lap circuits more smoothly (no unnecessary braking before corners) and it allows for far more discernable differences between the lower and top tier teams. It won't be quite so easy to coast a Lotus to victory this time round...
LAP IT UP
Something that we have found particularly pleasing about the development of F1 2011 is just how hard the team are working to satisfy the demands of the community. For example, cars now have steering wheels appropriate to their car. The pit and paddock area is far more populated.
There are specific cutscenes to show you celebrating a podium finish or a defeated walk away from a broken car. Random mechanical failures will feature and the penalty system has been redesigned to be much fairer.
The developers could have easily have just sat on a successful official licence and just re-skinned cars to suit the 2011 line-up. Instead, we are several steps closer to the vision of the ultimate F1 simulator Codemasters believe they can create. Count us in.
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