Let me start off by saying I am sorry. This is my first time playing a Formula One simulator so pardon my lack of jargon and misuse of terms. My interest in Codemaster’s F1 2011 stemmed from pure impulse and personal curiosities. As some of us know, Formula One racing is to NASCAR as FIFA is to NFL; it is a more dynamic sport that requires constantly quick reflexes and excessive physical endurance. F1 2011 provides the features that allow for players to experience this.
The Nicest Pair of Boots
At first sight, F1 2011 seems to be a very basic game. At the main menu, you are given only a few gameplay options: Career, Grand Prix, Multiplayer, and Proving Grounds. Don’t be fooled, however, the devil is in the details. Obviously, Career mode contains a majority of the engaging gameplay. You are given several options upon beginning a career. From choosing a constructor (which is manufacturer in F1 lingo) to naming your racer, the personalization only begins here. Immediately after preliminary setup, the game places you in the paddock where all trailers are. Here, you are introduced to your sponsor and team via email as well as given the options to change the decals on your helmet or begin your professional career as an F1 racer. Upon accessing the season calendar that kick-starts your career, you can see the hefty schedule laid before you. Selecting the first track begins what will become a long, arduous but ultimately rewarding journey.
Thrust into the garage, the game introduces you to the hardest, most complicated aspect of the game: developing your vehicle. I opted to trust my crew’s decision-making which was acceptable on lower difficulties but began to notice the need to get a little hands on with “my girl”. Without , the car will not be molded to match the demands of the track. However, to find these needs, you must first practice the track religiously and qualify. This quickly became the most overwhelming aspect of the game. I wanted to get to the racing. But oh how little impatience provides for success. It is vital you know the track or you risk speeding straight through hairpin turns and slamming fatally into a wall or losing precious seconds for braking through a soft curve. This being said, the game gives you ample opportunity to practice. Only having to stop for fueling occasionally, the practice session gives you a chance to experience the track without the pressures of qualifying or racing. The game allows for several “helpful” options to guide your understanding of the track. The only option I utilized was the racing line as being a novice to playing realistic, high-speed driving games on curvaceous tracks required me to learn how to steer through each track’s many unique turns. The game provides impertinent options, like braking assist, which do little but add heavy seconds to your lap time.
After enduring several long practice sessions, you will proceed into qualifying. This is, with all things considered, the most intense aspect of F1 2011. The game gives you an hour to qualify for a good starting position. With the added insistence from your constructor to place a certain minimum position, stress greatly builds as most of the other racers top your best time by several seconds. There were times, no matter how well I navigated the course, that I would still be well below the minimum placing time. I quickly learned that this placing was not all that important. It can’t be helped that I still felt dirty when I ignored my constructor’s requests and started the race in the 24th position.
Start Those Engines
Now please forgive me for dragging on and on about the preparatory stages, but that drag accurately embodies the effort you need to put forth in order to succeed. Watching racers place in times significantly better than you might be intimidating, but once the race begins, the AI blindsides you by totally conflicting with your expectations. How the other racers achieve such good times in qualifying is not reflected in the driving during the race. They hesitate around one another and brake way too soon when approaching sharp turns. This allows for easy overtakes and distance closing. For all of your prior efforts, the races end up being brief and simple. Don’t get me wrong, if you drive like a moron, winning will be far from your reach. But as long as you mind your racing line, you will almost always blast through the competition.
I cannot say enough how much I adore the pit crew. They always are able to assist and remove micromanaging your car’s every detail. If it’s raining, they’ll put some rain boots on your girl. If the track has a little grain on it, the crew chief will chime a warning into your ear. During races, they maintain the telemetry of not only your car, but the other racers’ as well making it easier to determine pitting times. Typically in simulators, it is required for a player to know beforehand when to pit and when to expect other racers to. F1 2011’s use of a pit crew takes out this needlessly overwhelming detail. Your crew chief quickly becomes your best friend. He regularly shows vocal concern not only for your success but your well being. He sounds very genuine when he enthusiastically congratulates you for your latest win. These little details perfectly simulate driving for a team. So much so, that between-session interviews offer you opportunities to articulate your thoughts on your crew’s capabilities. These interviews seem strange and out of place, however. They typically consist of a set batch of questions that give the vibe that they apply minor adjustments to whatever aspects the questions refer to. For example, the interviewer will ask your racer something like, “So how did you feel about the car during this race?” upon which you can reply that it needs a lot of work, just needs some touch ups, or runs perfectly. No matter what is answered nothing really seems to change in how the car handles, so I assume it’s an arbitrary feature that allows you to emulate what it’s like to be in the “professional racing world.” There are tons of other features that really liven F1 2011 but I think you get the point: it’s a simulator.
Now for the Nitty-Gritty
On the surface, F1 2011 is pretty stable. You have a fantastic gameplay experience with challenging goals. Does it hold up in the technical realm? Visually, F1 2011 is gorgeous. It’s almost indicative of any racing game though. I remember Gran Turismo 4 screenshots looking convincingly realistic. So it goes without saying that F1 2011 has to at least be decent in the graphics department. Regardless, there were a couple issues that really irked me; the first one being the loading times. They were horrendous. Though they weren’t painfully long by themselves, they are long enough that collectively you get to the point where you eventually get sick of watching you racing stats as the game loads the next screen. The other issue is snag times. Though this could be partly due to some unseen forces on my end, I have never encountered snags like this in any other game. Occasionally while racing or qualifying, the game would lock up for a few seconds which would be very inconvenient if I so happened to be in the middle of a curve. It only happened a few times so it never really ruined the game, but was definitely very frustrating.
The sound design is very well done. I found myself often pausing the game thinking the audio was something inside my house. From the shifting of gears to the hanging rev of your engine, you really feel as if you are in a Formula 1 racer. The soundtrack is pretty good but sadly you only hear it during your time in the garage. So if you spend most of your time on the track, you do not get to experience the hip Europop that plays while you are fine-tuning your vehicle. It’s acceptable though. I highly doubt racers are blaring their favorite jams while focusing on not careening at high speeds into a solid wall.
Is it Worth Your Money?
It depends on the player if this game is worth the investment. It has a select niche that is rare in America, but broader in other countries. If you want to experience life as an F1 racer, F1 2011 is definitely for you. Though not overly engaging, it provides enough customization and accessibility for any level of interest to get involved. If you are looking for a standard racing game, you might want to look elsewhere. This is definitely geared to hardcore racing buffs.
F1 2011 Technical Summary:
- Time Played – 16 hours
- Widescreen – Yes (Detailed Report via WSGF)
- 5.1 Audio – Yes
- Bugs – Graphical hitches
- Control Scheme – Gamepad
- DRM – Steamworks
- Availability – Steam, Local Retail
- Demo – No
- Review Specs – Core 2 Duo, GeForce 9800, 4GB RAM
- Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
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