Interestingly, I was handed one of the old versions of the test unit – the one with the sliding screen. So my initial impression that it felt like a PSP Go is probably more to do with the fact this old design is based on that system and not to do with the quality of the game.
However, as the game's producer, Dean Scott, points out, the unit is not a handheld PlayStation 3. There is a difference in graphical quality, although there is a marked step up from PSP racers. Everything does look glossy and solid and the screen resolution puts the 3DS version to shame.
Vita handles Monaco well, too, with some gorgeous sun reflections in the surface of the road and gorgeously-detailed cars. Control with the left analogue nub doesn't feel best-suited to the streets of Monaco, but again, it's an old hardware design. That said, the handling itself does seem to share some characteristics of the decent PSP version of F1 2009, although as with the 3DS version, the car no longer slows down just because you're steering. Bonus.
Above: There aren't any offical screenshots of the Vita version yet, so here's a real F1 car instead
You'll probably be relieved to hear that there are currently no plans for tilt control, despite Sony pushing for its inclusion in any game possible. Also, the touch screen at the back is currently being examined for use as paddle shift, although this currently only seems to suit upshifts as the placement of the left-hand on the steering control makes interaction with the back of the device a little uncomfortable. It's good to know that these things aren't just being shoehorned in for the sake of it.
Like the 3DS version, the plan at present is for a four-player online mode. To be honest, the machine could probably handle more, but it's enough for a good scrap if everyone's equally-matched. The inclusion of the DRS (Drag Reduction Syetem) for boosting your car into an overtaking position should also make for some interesting action.
Overall impressions? Good, although it doesn't feel as good a fit for the handheld as some other racers probably would. You only have to play the 'big' version on a steering wheel and pedals set-up to see that a big part of the F1 experience is making you feel like you're actually driving a car.
Above: These VisionRacer seats are perfect for playing F1 2011. A handheld is bound to lose something
The handheld, impressive though it is, doesn't really offer that. So what Codies needs to do is just deliver a solid racing experience that's deep enough to satisfy hardcore fans, but accessible enough to work as a handheld title.
Perhaps the biggest question mark over the Vita version of F1 2011 is the release date of the hardware itself. In the UK, it probably won't even be 2011 when the machine actually comes out. So whether Codies will just wait until they can get in next year's license instead remains to be seen. Alternatively, it could just release this in the US, although that's hardly F1's biggest audience.
Fingers crossed we will get it at launch, though – if it's half as good as the early PSP game F1 '06, it'll while away many a commuting hour.
Of the three versions, the Xbox 360 game is clearly looking the best. The Vita version will be made or broken on how the controls fit into the final hardware's control scheme, but aside from that, it's looking very tasty. The 3DS version has potential but clearly has the least horsepower behind it. The game's out in September on 360 and PS3, so we should have much more on thsi one soon.
08 July, 2011