We go hands on with Formula One 2011 and tell you what has changed since last year’s edition.
I am a huge Formula One fan for almost fifteen years now. Right from 1997 till date, I have been following Formula One races at a pretty close range. Last year’s F1 2010 by Codemasters was a huge technical breakthrough for the racing franchise and in my opinion it was as a great representation of the real world through the medium of video games. After finishing three seasons (that’s the max that one can go with F1 2010) my hopes were at an all time high with the upcoming F1 2011. After watching the promo videos all these months I had the feeling that F1 2011 will be strictly for the hardcore, people who are gamers and who also follow F1 races every year. After playing a solid 2 hours with the preview build I believe that this game will only attract fans, resulting in to low accessibility.
So what’s new in F1 2011? The first thing you will notice is the handling. In F1 2010, after playing through a couple of races I got pretty much acquainted with how my car handles. But with F1 2011 this is not the case. You have to handle your car the way you would do in real life, accelerate too much while cornering and the back end of your car will spin. Admittedly, I had a pretty tough time when I started playing the game. The car would work well in the straights, but when I am travelling through the slow and fast chicanes, the back end of the car will just lose grip, resulting in to unexpected crashes. Fortunately after a few tweaks here and there in the settings page, I got it right and was able to drive a fast, yet nervous car through the chicanes.
The other point to be noted in the game is the difficulty level. Even at medium difficulty the AI drivers will push you to the absolute limit. Their qualifying times will be much higher than yours, unless and until you really push hard. I had a tough time in Spa, Belgium where I qualified 9th nearly six seconds behind pole position which means that AI drivers are smarter this time around. The other new addition is the KERS. The players can use this for pushing your cars at a more increased pace, specifically through the straights, ideal for slip streaming the car ahead of you. I really did not found KERS to make a huge effect on the way my race went through, but with a closer opponent it might be an all together different story.
The big change in F1 2011 is the effect of weather conditions in races. I specifically tried out a full wet race in Montreal, Canada. In F1 2010 you can get away if you brake late in wet conditions. Brake late in F1 2011 and your tyres will lock up, sliding you in the gravel trap. F1 2010 gave me the option of being aggressive under wet conditions, but in F1 2011 you have to control your aggression resulting in to a more realistic race handling. On a side note, the game looks absolutely gorgeous in wet conditions. The shadow of your car getting reflected on the wet tarmac and the advertising hoardings clearly visible on your helmet and car as you travel past it look absolutely phenomenal. Considering that this was the preview build I am expecting the game will look even prettier in the retail versions.
Damage plays a big role in F1 2011. Once again they are indicated by different colours on your display hud (yellow and red). In F1 2010 you can get away if you had a broken wing, but not in F1 2011. During my race in Monza, Italy, my car’s front wing had suffered slight damage (indicated as yellow on the hud) and I thought things will be fine, but all of a sudden my car started bouncing when travelling during the straights. It will be interesting to see if such an effect also takes place if one of your AI opponents gets his car damaged.
I had a pretty amazing time with the preview build of F1 2011 but I also fear that this game is seriously aimed at hardcore players. The difficulty has gone up a few notches, the handling has changed, AI is more aggressive and the damage system has been modified resulting in to a more ‘simulator’ like experience which is not a bad thing for Formula One fanatics. If the previous F1 games had the slightest opening for the not so hardcore players, that opening is now completely sealed in F1 2011.
Formula One 2011 is scheduled to release later this month on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.