To say that the launch line up for the latest in Sony’s PlayStation catalogue was a strong one would be somewhat of an understatement. However, there is always a few weaker titles mixed in with the rest and unfortunately F1 2011 is one such weaker title.
It may seem that saying it’s a weaker title is unfair as the game does offer pretty much everything that you have come to expect from the home console cousin. F1 2011 on Vita still features a full 60 race career mode spread over three seasons; you also have individual Grand Prix events, quick races and time trials to pick from. There is even a challenge mode that offers quick bursts of playtime perfect for portable play.
Dropping into the online, again you don’t find that much different, the game hosts a smaller count of players than the home console version, but that is to be expected. Included are three game modes: race, time trail and constructor face-off, these modes are offered via local or online player. What is missing is the co-op championship that allows you to cooperatively work with another player to win the Constructors Face-Off and championship; this being dropped does make sense as the game mode isn’t really designed for the quick play that portable games require.
Once you settle into the driving seat this is where things turn nasty. The game looks terrible when compared to the home console versions, the graphics have been made to look like something more akin to a PSP game rather than a console that is capable of PS3-esque graphics. This is compounded when you look at titles like WipeOut 2048 or MotorStorm: RC that manage to show that the console can do a whole lot better compared to what’s on offer here. The poor quality of the graphics shines through no matter what camera mode you use; the cockpit view actually shows the low resolution textures off more as the details of the track, its stands and walkways are offered in clearer relief. Setting the camera to behind the car offers a cleaner look to the track but your racer’s model offers a new insight into the graphics. The odd thing about the graphics on the whole is that the weather effects and full capture pit lane animations have been included so that the difference between the home and Vita versions is even more stark. The good news is that the frame rate is smooth but it isn’t the 60 FPS we know that the Vita can pull off. It’s possible that I am concentrating on the graphics a bit too much here, but I’m truly amazed at just how low resolution the whole thing is. Coming from a studio like Sumo Digital, this really is unexpected.
While the graphics are one of the bigger problems I had with the game, when it comes to the handling we hit another. The cars just don’t feel right. On the home console versions the cars glide like you expect a F1 car would, e.g feeling more aerodynamic, but on the Vita version the cars feels chunky and there seems to be a heavy use of gravity on the car. If you accidentally knock over a hump for example, your car will jump but is then almost immediately pulled back down to the track. This said, overall the handling is much more forgiving; this could be tied to the fact that it is less realistic but I’m not sure. In my time with the game I found it much easier to take a corner at speed than on the bigger brother versions, which again could well be tied into the chunkiness of the cars.
One annoyance that comes from the fact that F1 2011 is a port to the Vita is that it uses almost none of the functionality of the console. The touch screens are the only thing that get any attention and that’s to limited affect. The screens are only used to switch camera views despite the fact that there could have been more effective uses for options like DRS. It seems like a wasted opportunity and creates a general feel that this port was rushed out to meet the consoles launch, instead of being planned around the console.
If you are looking for a portable (if cut down) version of the F1 experience then F1 2011 on Vita is perfectly playable. The problems that I have outlined are annoyances but don’t make the game unplayable in any form. If you really want to experience F1 properly on Vita, we’d say to wait for the next edition of this game, which is bound to make an appearance around the same time as the console versions this autumn.
Rating: GoodReview Policy(version tested: PS Vita)
You can order F1 2011 for PS Vita from ShopTo here.