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F1 2011 played on 360, 3DS and PlayStation Vita. It's the only preview you need

Formula One in real life is finally exciting again. Sure, Vettel is winning everything in sight, but the new rules and overtaking systems have, if nothing else, at least made the races exciting to watch. That's worked out very nicely for Codemasters, who rode the crest of the wave last year with F1 2010 and are now sitting pretty to deliver a super-sequel. They were showing off the game on Xbox 360, 3DS and PlayStation Vita in London, and we played them all so there's a page about each right here. Engines on? OK, let's go. 

 

The Xbox 360 version

When you've got such a great foundation as Codies have with last year's F1 2010, you arguably don't need to change much. And immediate impressions of F1 2011 on Xbox 360 are that very little has actually changed. The cockpit view and dashboard computer look the same, the track (Silverstone) looks the same… even the mechanics' animations in the garage are exactly the same as they were, only now your engineer is standing on the other side of the car. Fortunately, the reality is that things have been shaken up quite a bit.

The demo was multiplayer-focused. The finished game is going to feature full online grids this year (24 cars, to be exact), which is going to be pretty interesting come the first chicane at Monza, but we were limited to 8-player battles that ran seamlessly over system link. Fortunately, the team has worked hard on fixing the commendable but ultimately exploitable penalty system, so the game will now wait a few more seconds after incidents before deciding who the guilty party was.

Sometimes, however, racing accidents just happen. With the cars moving at this speed and both parties trying to outbreak each other in a scrap, contact is pretty much inevitable. The game is still at its most enjoyable when both drivers don't want to get involved in an accident, which can result in some ridiculously enjoyable races.


Above: The weather effects look even better than last year's, but don't help your cause in tight races like this

But if you do collide, wings and bodywork break much more easily than before, sending debris flying across the track. This year, there will also be component failures, resulting in lost gears or oil leaks. Apparently, you'll even be able to see engines smoking during acceleration if they're close to blowing.

In the career mode, this will even have a direct affect on the way you approach races. Last year's game hinted at keeping your engine good as you only had a finite number of replacements over the course of the year, but this year it should actually spill over into how you play the game. F1 racing isn't all about flat-out knife-edge driving all of the time. That's qualifying. Races need to be tactically considered too, with 'race pace' more important than pure, consistent speed.

This can also have an effect on co-op mode, where you and your team-mate will be trying to outdo each other through careful management of cars and resources over the course of the season. It's not very often that a game saves its biggest potential pay-off for a date about two months after you start playing it, but that's what could happen here. Rivalries are something I often say can make a racing game truly great – what better way than to have your real-life best mate as your team-mate? Feud time!


Above: Incidentally, Ferrari reportedly like their cars to be 'first' in any pre-release screenshot. Like this one!

The addition of Split Screen mode may sound logical (why go back to your house when you're at a mate's just so you can play F1 together?), but from a technical point of view, it can't be easy. There are very few compromises – perhaps some emptier grandstands and a slightly reduced frame-rate, but nothing to really spoil your enjoyment. Crucially, it feels just like the big-screen game.

Multiplayer, also, didn't really feel like it had the whole 'live the life' gloss of the main career in F1 2010. Here, post-race scenes play showing the winner in Parc Ferme. Brilliantly, they're seen from different perspectives depending on where you finished in the race. The winner will get to see themselves fist-pumping and throwing victory signs towards the crowd, as will anyone who finished lower than fourth. But second and third-placed drivers will see their own team's reaction to their podium finish. Different camera angles of the same event, showing jubilation from different sections of the assembled mechanics.

It works really well, and the presentation is a marked improvement in visual quality, with shiny helmets and recognisable drivers' eyes.

 

Looks like rain…

Another aspect that's been improved is the weather system. Speaking to senior producer Paul Jeal and chief game designer Steve Hood, I was able to ask about the weather system from last year and whether the weather would live up to the promises of the first game.

Amazingly, they admitted those occasions where the track looked wet but the grip was still there before suddenly falling away to practically zero was (wait for it…) a glitch! A bug in the game meant that, while the track surface data was working just fine as rain started to fall, the graphical interpretation of a wet track came in too quickly, meaning it looked really wet, but actually it wasn't. That's something that will definitely be fixed this year.


Above: No, really - that track is actually wet this time. Last year, it might not have been...

One thing that did make me smile was when I saw one of the cars leave the track during a wet race, sliding across the muddy grass. An achievement popped up: "Have you considered DiRT 3?" Lolzorz, eh?

So, better weather, proper failures (with components that will visually fall out the back of cars when they break)... what about qualifying? One of the other big criticisms from last year was that cars on the track in qualifying didn't represent the times that were coming in on the lap computer. This too, I am promised, is fixed.

As Paul stressed, it has to be. With multiplayer being such a big focus this year, there's no room for anything that's going to make people stop wanting to play it. As soon as smoke and mirrors become visible, it spoils the illusion and that's not something the team can afford to do twice.

At this stage, we can only trust that these changes are in place for the single-player game. The demo day was all about racing around a virtual Silverstone (that new start/finish location still throws me), and I am happy to report that it is supremely playable. The car handling, set as I chose with ABS and traction control on but everything else off, lets you positively chuck the car into corners – and it feels amazing when you nail it.

Racing lines, braking points… it probably all sounds dull if you hate simulation racers, but when they're delivered in this frantic and kinetic package, they're the keys to unlocking a very big door of fun. It's looking super slick on 360 (there weren't any PS3s at the event), playing superbly with a racing wheel or control pad and looking like being exactly what it needs to be - just like F1 2010, only tightened up in those few key areas. I'm very excited about this one.

**Update: But you want to see it in action, don't you? Check out this new gameplay footage from Codies. Note the 'SC' sign under the tellow flag indicator in the pits around the 1 minute mark. Might we actually see the safety car this year? We can but hope.**


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23 comments

  • bass88 - July 15, 2011 12:41 p.m.

    @GamesRadarJustinTowell LOL. Couldn't stop laughing when I saw that. Even though the mechanic was wearing a helmet, you could see and hear him going "Oh, fuck!"
  • Redox - July 11, 2011 1:26 p.m.

    Hey there! Since this is the only way I found to connect with Codemasters. I´ll try the upgrades many of us (or at least my bunch of friends that I play with) want to see in this sequel of the game. 1.- Is it possible to get out the pits on the correct time so we don´t have to wait for everybody to exit on career mode? 2.- I´ve read your post and really hope for an upgrade on penalization system By example, when the driver in front of you brakes too hard or on purpose. 3.- IS IT POSSIBLE TO DISPLAY WHO WAS THE FASTER DRIVER OF THE RACE? I´ve seen that despite you are not the winner (due to accidents or other players´ behavior) you can still profit of actually stay playing on the server because you are faster than the others and would feel pretty cool to show that. 4.- It would be really useful if we could be allowed to make a vote to kick someone spoiling our championships. Note that I know you can make your races private, but you can only make new friends by racing with them and when you are at the middle of a 10 race championship and find out a player that is pissed off or just AFK, sometimes that little democratic option could save the day. 5.- Having your country flag in the game is awesome. Could you include all the helmets like the flags? 6.- In-game voices (engineer, agent and interviewers) are really lousy. Spanish version is way more exiting to listen! That´s all for the moment. XBOX live Gamertag: Alf Redox
  • GR_JustinTowell - July 11, 2011 9:38 a.m.

    @Bass88 - he needs all four wheels for that, mate. @xxbrothawizxx I won't look any worse than the PSP version of F1 2009, but it's not much of a looker at the moment. Once it's optimised (code is very early right now), it should look good. TV Pod cam is already looking sweet.
  • Twonk - July 9, 2011 2:26 p.m.

    Do u want F1 to stay on Free to air TV? follow us to get the message out to the BBC. http://twitter.com/#!/F1_For_Free
  • xxbrothawizxx - July 8, 2011 10:13 p.m.

    disregarding the low screen Res, how did the 3DS version look overall?
  • insertdisk - July 8, 2011 7:34 p.m.

    lolzorsz at the pointy finger present in the trailer. also loved 2010 and I am still playing it now but there are some issues with like how i finished fith in the championship on hard in a virgin racing car and was only offered a contract at lotus and hispania not even at virgin.
  • e1337prodigy - July 8, 2011 6:17 p.m.

    Sill playing F1 2010. Codemasters are brilliant at making Racers. They need to think about making GRID 2 or a Touring car game. Or at least something with regular cars to race on circuits.
  • fatguy19 - July 8, 2011 3:05 p.m.

    I hope they add a season mode this year instead of just carrer and single race. Its great starting from scratch with a lower team and building up but in my opinion nothing beats winning the world championship with your favourite driver.
  • CharlieFockstrot - July 8, 2011 2:57 p.m.

    Will there be any DLC only achievements like Dirt3. Hmm, smells like moneyz. I lost faith in codies after their complete failure to patch F12010.
  • RareHero - July 8, 2011 1:58 p.m.

    Honestly I wanted to like F1 2010, but the game breaking bugs (not all of which were patched) really turned me off and I pretty much gave up on it. Hopefully 2011 will be just as glitch-free as Codies says it will...
  • tacehtselrahc - July 8, 2011 1:55 p.m.

    As for mechanical failures, how many have there been - particularly engine failures - in F1 this year? - not many. Most reirements have been due to accidents, so adding more failures for the sake of it won't really add to the "realism".
  • bass88 - July 8, 2011 11:42 a.m.

    So, it's likely that the PS3 will receive an inferior port again considering no PS3 test footage was available. Anyways, great preview Mr. Towell. It should be more exciting this year with the new rules. I'm hoping that somehow Jenson Button manages to pull his boots up and deliver us more cracking victories like he did in Canada.
  • GR_JustinTowell - July 8, 2011 11:15 a.m.

    @Austin_SJ My hands-on time with Vita was rather brief, and they were only showing the quick race mode. But I believe it's also currently lacking the 2-hour GP mode. 3DS version definitely is. Vita version does feel a bit more like the big version than the 3DS one does, but is still the handheld iteration of the game and so essentially different. Looks like you'll need the 360 version if you want the full 'live the life' experience. It's still reasonably early in development though, so anything can change.
  • tacehtselrahc - July 8, 2011 11:06 a.m.

    Have they fixed the Monaco pit exit? In F1 2010 cars come out of the pits straight onto the line for the first corner, instead of staying inside the yellow line which cuts the first corner and exits up the hill.
  • Austin_SJ - July 8, 2011 10:53 a.m.

    Brit isn't offensive. Also Justin, you didn't make it clear whether the Vita version is the same arcade style challenges as the 3DS or whether you'll get the full 2 hour Grand Prix like in the 360 version, can you clarify?
  • TheUsernameYouSelectedIsAvailable - July 8, 2011 10:49 a.m.

    Let me preface this with im a huge F1 fan and a huge racing game fan with all the kit. While I really enjoyed 2010 my biggest problem with it was you had to make your own excitement. To try explain, briefly, the game let u get away with too much off the track, restarting races, dropping settings, redoing quali etc. You had to force yourself into making a season fun you had to always be upping the difficulty so you just in the hunt, you had to stop yourself restarting cos you messed up and qualied 18th. But if you did that and then all your mates just restarted away and played it on easy with racing lines you ended up having to do 5 seasons to win the titles they had got in their first year in an HRT. The games def needs a pickup and play restart as often as you like arcade mode (like 2010 has in select a gp), maybe have an entire season option of that. But campaign mode should have a career to it, you should not be able to restart you should have extreme unexpected calamities, amazing new jumps in a teams abilities between races, you should have bias from the FIA, all the off track stuff that makes F1 great. Even if it is scripted to always keep you in the hunt but never let you walk away with it, build proper rivalry with another team and driver. The stuff they had there in the campaign was flat, it was a series of races which felt nothing more interesting than a cup challenge in gt5. The actual driving was amasing, but the racing and off track thrill and excitement was not, lets get it up to F1 standards (in campaign mode anyway, still must have a normal racing mode). Even if the campaign is staged give me a story full of drama.
  • screamingegg - July 8, 2011 10:42 a.m.

    The freeze bug better be fixed, it must be. I'm hoping this will be playable at Gamescom, the queue probably won't be as big as some other games.
  • WyldStalyon - July 8, 2011 9:29 a.m.

    Also.. in all non-idiocy.. Great write up. I enjoy your deep regard for the genre.
  • DarkSynopsis - July 8, 2011 9:26 a.m.

    Loved 2010 and with the addition of co-op and some tweaks I could imagine ending up with 2011 :D
  • WyldStalyon - July 8, 2011 9:24 a.m.

    Ack.. "Offensive" not "offense." I'm not talking about ballfoot Moses

Showing 1-20 of 23 comments

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