E3: 2011 F1 2011 (Hands On)

by: Sean -
Game: F1 2011
Developer: Codemasters
Release Window/Date: Summer 2011 for 360, PS3, and PC
What's polished: Visuals, Handling, Career Mode.
What needs polish: The Race Engineer performs many of the functions of a traditional racing HUD, but I didn't hear him once. I could've used some more information.

Hot on the heels (wheels?) of their hit racing sim F1 2010, Codemasters is stepping up the pace with improved visuals and simulation mechanics in F1 2011.

Trying to keep up with the growth of the actual sport, Codemasters has added two new tracks, which matches the real-life total of 20, and much-clamored-for features like 2-player splitscreen gameplay and a co-operative championship mode, wherein two players race for the same team, working together for the sake of the team rankings but still competing for the Drivers' Cup. Online multiplayer now supports a full grid of racers, a total of 16 players and 8 AI opponents. 

New gameplay mechanics include reactive damage, a more realistic damage system that responds to the way the player is driving the car: if you run third gear a little too hard a little too often, it might fail and force a pit stop; run off the track too often and you might lose a tire or a fairing. Not only does it add to the realism, it forces the player to really think about the way they're driving. Realistic tire degradation is also a factor, slowly degrading your performance on the track and playing a major role in race strategy.

Visual updates include a far more detailed set of tracks, garages, and character models, including more than 100 different heads for crew members and spectators. The primary adjective in my mind when I think about F1 is "shiny." Not just in the equivalent word for "cool" Firefly sense, but in the sense that everything seems to have a sheen; colors are bright, vibrant, and usually zipping on by.

How does it drive? Quick confession, GN-ers, I'm not much for racing simulators. I prefer an arcade racing experience over fiddling with tire treads, but the precise handling of F1 might win me over. A big plus for me was the "driving line," an optional pathway that changes colors based on the player's approach speed, green for go, yellow for "hey, maybe you might want to break a little," and red for "SLOW DOWN, FOR ALL THAT'S HOLY!" Even with the assist, I had a hard time staying on course. The lesson I learned? F1 2011 is such a good racing sim, it out-drove me.

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