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Hands On with F1 2011

Formula 1 2010 garnered a lot of praise from fans and critics as the best representation of the sport to date with the game picking up a BAFTA as well as being no.1 in the UK charts; now Codemasters have to do it all again with its latest entry in the series, F1 2011. Expectations are running high that Codemasters will get everything right on this occasion, giving the hardcore fans of the sport a well-polished game, so does F1 2011 improve over the last?

“Be the driver, live the life, go compete” – This is Codemasters tagline for this year’s title and it certainly lives up to it with features like the return of split screen plus, DRS (moveable rear wing), KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems), improved pit stops, handling and cinematic scenes. During the presentation Codemasters made a big deal of the improved driving experience, making it more streamlined and immersive with re-worked handing, suspension, physics etc. It’s not just changes under the hood as you can also expect visual improvements like smoke from the tyres when you lock your brakes during a turn and improved driver AI to reflect real life F1 racing. Damage and failures has also been a massive area of work for Codemasters, rather than having random breakdowns the team has now worked in failures based on how you have driven the car over the distance of the Grand Prix. The race engineer also takes on a more important role, giving real time feedback on the drivers distance in front or behind you, as well as the current condition of the car and whether to brake harder to get more heat in the brakes etc.

Codemasters have also reworked the whole aspect of the players visual experience in F1 2011. The first noticeable change is in the menu. Gone is the camera panning through the paddock in favour of a more traditional menu in the form of a list of game mode; this makes for a quicker experience in getting from the menu’s to the race and works very well with better load times than F1 2010. Another aspect that has changed is the garage that the players tweak their car in. The player will be positioned on the left or right side of the garage depending on if you’re the number 1 or 2 driver; this is a welcome addition to the series and adds more authenticity to the game over F1 2010. The HUD has also had a huge overhaul, gone is the clocking MPH gauge in favour of the LED lights on the driver’s steering wheel in the bottom right hand side plus the players DRS indicator is located just under that alongside the KERS battery icon. These have been placed very carefully and at a size which offers more room on the track for the player to see and works well.

Rather than churn out another yearly F1 title with minimal changes Codemasters has not rested on its laurels and has made numerous graphical changes in and around the car. A very obvious improvement is the accurate steering wheels for each team as opposed to the generic wheels from F1 2010, with such detail from the drinks button to the engine map settings. The area around the car has had the most eye pleasing work done to it with this year’s tracks having better foliage and lighting which makes for a beautiful view when going up Eau Rouge in Spa.

With the tyres showing on the screen visible degradation is now a factor with individual bits of grass and gravel spotted on the tyres when a mistake occurs. The DRS motion is very smooth but visually a bit slow to open when compared to the real life counterpart. Other notable mentions include the driver within the car pressing the gear paddles when changing gear and the pressing of the KERS button.

Driver celebrations have also made their way into this year’s game. No matter which team you drive for, whether you came First or 15th you will see the driver jumping out of his car in celebration of a win or going back to his garage and celebrating for over-achieving their weekend objectives.

F1 2011′s gameplay has also had many tweaks. More focus has been given to add a little bit of skill to the game and not allow people to go full throttle though chicanes and corners. With every assist on, going through a 180 degree turn, full throttle will result in over-steer and the car spinning, adding a bit of simulation to the arcade settings to give a real competitive edge when learning the ropes of the game.

Online has also improved too,  now supporting a full 24 racer grid with 16 of those being human opponents with two players being able to pick the same Red Bull or McLaren if they wish, which is a most welcome addition.

All in all, F1 2011 is shaping up nicely for its September 23 release. The development team still has two months of polish to go, but to us it seems that fans of racing and F1 will be impressed and overwhelmed when the game launches.

F1 2011 is released on September 23 on  Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Edited On 08 Jul, 2011

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