F1 2011 Super Review

  • Way better handling than last year
  • As deep or arcadey as you want it
  • Superb split-screen mode
  • Racing a car that doesn't have KERS
  • Needless waiting to race online
  • It's hard to find the perfect difficulty

I'm in a Lotus and running tenth at Valencia in a 20% distance race, with 'hard' opponent AI. Tenth is crap - I know this. But it also represents an opportunity to bag my first world championship point. However, due to a killer lack of KERS in my Lotus, I'm flagging and doing everything possible to keep the guy behind me at bay. I move right to block and suddenly a hell of a noise starts up in my right ear. What's happening? My engineer comes on over the radio. A puncture. In one instant, the whole weekend has come undone. This is F1 2011, and I love it.

Above: It was all going so well... but the team could still be satisfied if I can get back to 14th

Being a Codemasters racer, of course, the game features a 'Flashback' rewind option so I could just go back and let the guy through instead. To me, that would feel like cheating, but it's a happy safety net and one which I applauded in last year's game when I gave it 9/10. That game has numerous bugs (hey – I called the pit bug first) but its values are well placed and the sequel needs only subtle improvements and fixes to make this truly essential. Well, they're here - and some of them are real eye-openers.

Mind your teeth

For starters, the cars now have suspension. The reason you kept spinning at the right-hander (Portier) after the hairpin at Monaco? You rode the kerb, dummy. F1 2010 doesn't let you attack kerbs because they throw the car off balance to the point that you'll almost certainly spin if you try it. The new game is totally different. You can chuck the car over apexes, feeling the 'thump thump' through your controller or racing wheel as you go. You have greater confidence in your car as a result – and that means more freedom to enjoy the ride.

Above: Traction control on medium... and it let me use the kerbs at Portier? What dark magic is this?

There are several difficulty levels, from an idiot-friendly 'Easy' mode which brakes, blinks and breathes for you, through to a ludicrously-challenging Expert mode which is controllable (just) but will make your lap times look like they were set by James May. I settled for the next one down, Professional, which has moderate traction control, manual gears and no racing line. And boy, is it a handful.

In this mode, the car handling is completely different to last year's game. On default settings, the cars suffer from pretty severe oversteer through fast corners, which means the back of the car likes to step out as you turn, which will turn into a full-blown spin if you don't correct it in time. It makes every corner a challenge for a racing fan, and feels terrific when you get it right – or when you start tinkering with the set-up and fix the problem at its source.

Hey, you set me up

I didn't bother much with the car set-up options last year, as they didn't seem to make too much difference and I'm normally happy with a simple soft/hard tyre choice and front and rear wing angle. But F1 2011 somehow makes the more minor tweaks fun and now I'm all over them. Using the practice session to take the car out on the track, get a feel for its handling then come back into the garage and adjust roll bars, ride-height and the aerodynamics is surprisingly entertaining.

Above: No, don't run away! It's all explained as you go and the slider bars are easy to use

Incredibly, I even started altering gear ratios – something I normally leave well alone – to avoid hitting the rev limiter halfway down the longer straights. Don't worry if this sounds too much for you. A novice racer can simply turn the traction control to full and do just fine. But if you have even a basic interest in getting the car to handle how you want, you'll be in car geek heaven with the options available.

More Info

Sep 23 2011 - PC, Xbox 360 (UK)
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Racing
Justin Towell

The longest-serving GR+ staffer, I was here when all this was just fields. I'm currently in charge of reviews but still find time to make daft Photoshop stories and try to explain why there need to be more arcade racing games.


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  • CharlieFockstrot - September 28, 2011 2:35 p.m.

    Hey Justin, How does this game run on PS3?? No mention in the review, Does it look worse than F1 2010 in terms of frame rate and resolution?? With your ever critical 'robot eyes' you should be able judge the frame rate. Thanks.
  • GR_JustinTowell - February 21, 2012 6:17 a.m.

    Hi Charlie - probably a bit late now, but the PS3 version is markedly inferior to the 360 version. Frame rate is much less stable, anti-aliasing is turned down and there's a weird colour banding issue that's particularly evident on the cars' wheels. Hope that helps :)
  • SparkyBobOmb - September 27, 2011 2:05 a.m.

    I havent played an F1 game since the N64. This one just blows everything away period! Your forgot the portion of the review about how good the music soundtrack is. :D
  • Thigpen - September 20, 2011 1:01 p.m.

    | Above: Your life flashes before your eyes and you realise none of it was rendered quite as nicely as that wheel No really, LOL Thanks for the great writing.
  • yfbc - September 18, 2011 2:54 a.m.

    Already pre-loaded on steam, can't wait to go through au rouge with DRS on lol!
  • ThatGamerDude - September 16, 2011 3:42 p.m.

    Another game to add on to my list of games I want. Great review.
  • Robx - September 16, 2011 11:29 a.m.

    Yo, watch it Justin! Maldonado's family here! But you do know what you are doing, and this definitely motivates me to pick the game now, outstanding review there bro, thanks.
  • Tispower - September 16, 2011 9:45 a.m.

    To be fair, Gran Turismo 5 is the 3rd best selling driving game on Amazon behind Dirt 3 and F1 2011. Not bad for game that's nearly a year old now. Gamesradar might not like it, but now they've fixed a lot of bugs and added more features, it seems everyone else still thinks it's fun.
  • d0x - September 23, 2011 5:30 p.m.

    GT5 may be high selling but that doesnt mean its any good. It sells on Name and fanboyism alone. I bought GT5:P and GT5 when it was released. I was hardcore into that series but the lack of features and the half a**ed nature of the game design cant be fixed with a million patches and updates. Sony dropped the ball big time and everyone deep down knows it.
  • Channel4 - September 16, 2011 9:18 a.m.

    Sounds brilliant. However a few things annoyed me about 2010. The ai even on the hardest difficulty drove a good three or four seconds slower in qualifying than they would in real life. Meant that in any car better than the new teams you could get pole by just getting the car round the track. Also at the start of the race the ai always caught me into the first corner even in the Mclaren or Ferrari. Is it any different in the new one?
  • n00b - September 16, 2011 8:56 a.m.

    i think I'll stick to dirt all this technical car talk got me intimidated
  • CheesySuperman - September 16, 2011 8:29 a.m.

    great review! like someone else said, it really makes a difference to have someone who knows the sport well to write the review. good job!
  • DannyMB - September 16, 2011 7:56 a.m.

    Great review Justin, it really makes a difference having someone who really knows F1 reviewing this game. I might just fork out the extra cash now, I was holding back for skyrim, arkham etc, but its been ages since ive had a good driving game, ive played forza to death.
  • McGarnagle - September 16, 2011 8:22 a.m.

    I second this. Just being a fan of the sport allows for a much better review.
  • defaultNoob - September 16, 2011 7:52 a.m.

    I like your perspective on the game, however, KERS wasn't banned in 2010 teams made an agreement to not use it. :)
  • TheCubeIsHungry - September 16, 2011 7:42 a.m.

    Great review. Justin, which view do you use? I find using the driver's view makes is a lot harder to see the apex of the corner etc. Also In the last paragraph you spelt DRS As DRM. I am so excited about this game now, as a huge F1 fan this is a must have. Oh, also loved the Maldonado Joke!
  • GR_JustinTowell - September 16, 2011 10:20 a.m.

    Fixed! And it's TV Pod view all the way. You can feel the car, but it's elevated enough to see the track :)
  • Hobogonigal - September 16, 2011 7:31 a.m.

    Great review. You actually made me excited towards this game when I wasn't even considering it before!