27 Reviews

F1 2011

On the Button

At a glance, it might seem like little has changed from last year's F1 2010.

In fact, it might still seem like that even if you pressed your nose against the screen and stared at it until your eyes dribbled through your mouth.

And generally speaking, you'd be right. Developers Codemasters did all the donkey work ahead of last year's F1 debut; this is an incremental update that improves on every single aspect in small but important ways, but lacks the kind of eye-catching new features that will draw in casual fans.

But let's cast that all aside for a second. We should begin by saying that if your console hasn't already had the pleasure of an F1 game revving away in your disc drive, then F1 2011 is an absolute no-brainer for fans of the sport.

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Building on last year's work, Codemasters have done an excellent job of crafting a gorgeous and very playable racing sim under difficult circumstances. Difficult, because the rigorous precision and repetition of the real-life pursuit doesn't naturally lend itself to gaming.

Nevertheless, F1 2011 strikes a perfect balance between fantasy and reality; on the easier settings with the auto-aids switched on, the races are as exciting and dynamic as contemporary racers such as Forza.

Ramp the difficulty up and it morphs into a gruelling technical gauntlet where even hardcore fans will struggle to get round the track without spinning into a tyre wall. That's the beauty of F1 2011 - it can be whatever you want it to be.

TRULLI, MADLY, DEEPLY

Yet the ultra-hardcore fanbase won't be satisfied until they have a 100% authentic experience. This is a fool's errand for Codemasters for the reasons we've laid out above, but this year they've had a crack at handling some of the more common requests and with some success, too.

Safety cars are in, with all the tactical possibilities they entail, but can be switched off when the novelty wears thin. Mechanical failures are also included for the first time, but instead of being random (where's the fairness or fun in that?), they happen as a result of overly aggressive or careless driving habits.

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The 2011 F1 season introduces two new rule changes as well - the reintroudction of KERS (think a boost button, like a real life Mario Kart 'shroom, that can be used once a lap) and the introduction of the Drag Reduction System (DRS), which is a fancy way of saying you have an adjustable flap on your rear wing, providing a big boost when opened.

It makes for some genuinely tactical moments. DRS is unlimited in qualifying rounds but that doesn't mean you can break it out willy-nilly. If you open the wing too early you'll find yourself in spin-city.

Add to little elements like that the fact that handling in general is more sophisticated; heavy on the corners and lighter, twitchier, on the straight. It feels pacey throughout though and, finally, a little bit dangerous.

The AI keeps up as well in some cases. In relatively open circuits they offer some proper competition. Unfortunately on tighter tracks like Monaco your computer opponents have moments of stupidity, ramming you into a spin too often.

Lashings of rain show off the expected visual bump-up. F1 2010 wowed us with its weather effects and as you can see, F1 11 cranks it up a notch. But the new dynamic weather system also means that you'll have to be careful where you put your wheels as it can be bone dry on one side of the track, yet slippy-slidey on the other.

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