F1 2011 hands-on preview

Codemasters returns with this years installation in their true to life Formula One series

F1 2011 is a serious game for serious racing gamers and serious F1 fans. We’re not going to try and convince you otherwise because this serious image is exactly what Codemasters Birmingham is going for. But as austere as the game seems, there’s something irresistibly fun about the prospect of piloting these bleeding edge 1000 Horsepower Titans.

Above: Anticipating rain and picking the right tires can save you a time consuming pit stop once it starts pouring

Like most licensed racing games, F1 2011 makes a concentrated effort to be as close to the rules and reality of the sport they’re presenting as possible. While you can adjust the length of each race according to your available time/ability, a real F1 2011 experience will be 20+ laps per race, with a number of pitstops and a balanced engine mapping that keeps you competitive without overtaxing the engine; you’ve only got a few replacements to last you over the course of a season. Also: tire changes, team point standings, warning flags, penalties and more.

The upside is that you’re not expected to take the pole position right off the bat. F1 2011 is challenging, no doubt, but it eases you into the game with reasonable expectations, 20th place might not seem like a lot to ask, but consistency is king here, and F1 cars are knife-edged beasts that can easily get out of control if you’re over aggressive. Being smooth, consistent and deliberate are the only ways to post good times here, playing bumper cars and drifting will get you no where fast.

Above: It's a shame you'll never notice the scenery at 200 MPH

This year's Formula One season sees the return of the Kinetic Energy Regeneration System (KERS), an onboard battery pack that’s charged by the car and allows for a short 81 HP boost. Imagine a Toyota Priu- actually don't imagine a Prius, this is the furthest thing from a Prius imaginable. There’s also a new adjustable rear wing that reduces the car’s drag and increases its top speed on the straights. Both of these features are in F1 2011, but don’t expect them to work like the nitrous in Need for Speed, there’s no 30 foot trail of flame or motion blur when you activate it. Instead your serious pit crew engineer will calmly tell you on your headset when either boost is available, and you’ll notice a minor bump in your speed for a few seconds. 

If you’re not the kind of racing fan that enjoys grinding away for hours just to shave a second off of your lap time, F1 2011 will be a tough sale. But for simulation fans that appreciate the dedication to realism and its deliberate pacing, it can be a gratifying experience. F1 2011 hits stores September 20th for 360, PS3, 3DS and PC.

Sept 2, 2011


Down are up ell, ex why be?