Last year Codemasters won the F1 license and in that year they’ve done the series proud by producing one of the best incarnations of the sport in video gaming I have seen for a long time. This isn’t to say that there weren’t any issues in the first outing, like no safety car, but Codemasters really have outdone themselves with F1 2011. I have been addicted to this game since I got it to review, so let me pit and give you the rundown on F1 2011.

While F1 2010 focused more on the single player experience more so than the multiplayer, Codemasters have taken a U-turn and this time concentrated on the multiplayer experience. First though, let’s take a quick look at the single player mode and how it has changed.

In single player career it’s all about living the life of a F1 driver, not only driving the car on track but also the press off track and the battle of getting enough reputation to get noticed by one of the top teams. After all you want to end up racing for the best.
The first thing you will notice is that the driver’s room has been overhauled giving things a more up to date and fresher look. Gone is the female agent character model and now you only deal with your agent and team via email. You will also have a TV in which you can watch a run through of the track you are about to race in as well, which can be very handy for new comers.

After most races you will have to deal with the press which will have an impact on your rating depending on how you answer the questions. One thing I have found is that you don’t get as much feedback as you did in F1 2010 after press interviews in terms of other teams reactions, but other than that, it’s just the same affair as before.
You will be asked three questions with three different answers, although some questions do have a habit of repeating themselves. It would have been good if Codemasters also added the after race press room interview for when you made the top three. Maybe in next year’s game they will as it would certainly add to the overall experience.

Let’s talk car handling because this is an impeccable feature of the game and it has seen a lot of changes from F1 2010 with the help of the community and real F1 test engineers. It will take you a few laps to get to grips with the new handling but stick with it and you won’t regret it.
On track the cars handle in a much more life like manner than they used to, with the slightest over cut of corners or clipping the curbs the wrong way sending you into an unrecoverable spin. This will usually have you pulling off a few 360’s or worse, going straight into the wall. On occasion you will be able to recover depending on track and tyre conditions so all is not lost.
Playing the game in cockpit view has also seen positive results over last year as this time you feel as if you are sitting higher up, allowing you to judge turning into corners more easily.

This year also sees some changes to the rules with the introduction of DRS and KRS which really adds to the challenge and is a perfect addition to the game, especially online. KRS acts like a speed boost which will have you able to increase how fast you change up the gears, meaning it’s best used on exiting slow corners. The DRS system will see you gain extra speed on straights so use this when turning and you will almost always end up going splat into the wall or fly off onto a gravel patch.
During races this is only engaged in a certain part of the track and you are within one second of the car in front. During qualifying and practice sessions it can be used anytime.

When it comes to pitting Codemasters have changed this as well as the pit button where you could alert the pit crew that you were coming in is gone. This has created a double edge sword in terms of challenge as it does mean that you don’t have to worry about alerting the crew before you come in, but unless you plan to come in when you are due to make a stop, then you will need to remember the pit entrance for each track.

The onscreen info of your cars condition and temperature has been gifted with a new look as well as a third info tab. Whereas F1 2010 just gave you status on your tyres, brakes, engine temperatures and condition, you now can get information on estimated fuel remaining and also your rejoin position after making a pit stop.
The degrading of your tyres and fuel load are much stricter than last year as well. For example I could run a 20% race on a rich engine in 2010, but try that this year and you’ll start running out of fuel within the last 2-3 laps and it’s a lot more noticeable in terms of performance. You will also see engine failures in the form of the KRS going offline which has happened a few times to me, usually within about 5 laps to the finish.

This year also see’s a new tyre manufacture, Pirelli, who have provided test data for Codemasters to closely simulate their performance. So far the tyre wear and tear happens a little more quickly than last year, but this time you can really see this on screen when slowing down on hairpin’s etc. Also if you go off the race line, you will end up picking up marbles that will have a negative effect on tyre grip.

The biggest addition to the game is one that should really have been in last years but for whatever reason, it wasn’t. I am of course talking about the safety car and boy does it really look the part as well. The safety car will come out if there is a bad enough accident although it is only enabled in race lengths of 20% or more which does make sense. I have had it come out a few times but it really does take a lot to get this car to come onto the track.

The AI has also been tweaked and again it has seen an improvement on track. Not only are they aggressive (yeah I’m looking at you Hamilton) but they will also defend their positions as well. This time you will need to think again if you go for the inside line as they will move over to defend it. You will also get backmarkers move out the way for you in advance, but a word of caution, do not try the overtake of a backmarker when coming up to a corner as they will move back onto the racing line right in front of you which can be troublesome at times, causing you to lose your front wing.

In qualifying things have been improved in terms of lap time and you can now be cheeky and hold up an AI driver, ruining their lap time. Last year they still managed to post a good time so I’m glad that Codemasters definitely fixed this. For newcomers to the series a setting on either amateur or intermediate will give a great challenge and if you are a seasoned F1 veteran, then the pro setting and above is advised for a real challenge to taking that pole position.

The on track penalty system has been improved but still has a few annoyances at times. You can tip the AI drivers without a constant warning, something that plagued the races last year, but you can still be penalized for AI hammering into the back of you. The penalty system has been improved in some areas but others there are still bugs that consist. Don’t get me wrong though, it doesn’t spoil races, it’s more of a nitpicking.

Last years multiplayer side of things was great, considering that we got the full blown F1 experience and online multiplayer. Codemasters have really gone to town and improved it massively though by giving us a full blown grid of 24 racers plus the inclusion of the safety car feature as well.
You can now have a total of 16 Human players and 8 AI with the option to set each of the driver AI difficulty individually. This evens things up a lot if you race with people that are way better at the game than yourself.

Other positive additions to multiplayer are the ability to kick players from the lobby or vote to end a session. The addition of a spectator mode means if you crash out early you can always watch any of the other drivers still racing which fills in the time instead of just looking at the results screen like last year. Most of the time the races are smooth going online but I have experienced a little lag on a couple of races where I was dropped about 4 positions which all happened to be computer controlled drivers.

You will now also be able to take to an online co-op career mode with any of your friends where both of you will be racing for the same team and therefore competing not only for the constructors championship, but also to be the number one driver for the team and ultimately the world champion. This has given the game so much replay value, especially if you have a good few friends with the game.

Graphically this year’s iteration feels like a whole new game. Tracks look a lot more life like in detail and a lot more colourful and vibrant. The grass has a great amount of detail and looks great when stuck to your tyres. As races progress you will start to see the racing line but also the dirty parts of the track, where you will pick up marbles.
In the wet, the game even looks better than last year which I thought could not be possible. On a majorly wet track you can see reflection in the water as well as a dry line forming and the back spray from the car in front is as blinding as ever.
The paddock has also been given a face lift but the best graphics are experienced on track, especially as the cars look a lot more shinier and metallic. A major problem last year was the amount of detail on the side mirrors which made using the cockpit view for me near impossible, however this year they are fully detailed and makes the cockpit view a lot easier to use.

At the end of each race and qualifying session Codies have added a little cut scene of the top 3 drivers celebrating which is a nice touch, although I would have liked to have seen a podium cut scene as well after the race.

The audio has also been improved a lot. Over the radio the engineer is a lot more accurate in providing information and this works amazingly well even online. At least I now know who is at the back of me without having to manually look back, and they are clever at keeping up with the changes in other cars fuel etc. When hammering it down a straight, you will hear the wind whistling to enhance that extra feeling of the speeds that you are travelling at.

Overall, F1 2011 really does feel like a new game with all the added features and tweaks. It would have been easy for Codemasters to stick to the F1 2010 title and just add in the new driver roster and tracks but they certainly don’t do things in half measures. Many a time have I played a yearly update of the latest football title to feel the spending is unjustified but I never got this feeling with F1 2011. The look of the game and handling of the cars really do make it feel much more than a typical sequel in a sport game franchise.

F1 2010 held pole position for being one of the best video game iterations for the sport but F1 2011 has stolen that crown. The inclusion of DRS and KRS has really put the icing on the cake for this being one of the best F1 sims on a console/PC. Codemasters set out to give players the ultimate experience in driving these elite F1 cars round some of the best tracks in the world and they do this in bucket loads.

Now back I go on my quest to retain the World Championship and constructors title.

Overall 9/10

Gameplay

+ Improved A.I.
Car handling is a lot more realistic.
A full 24 car grid in multiplayer.
Online Co-op season.
Safety car is now included.
Red flag now included (although I have still not had it been awarded yet)

- AI can still break too early into corners.
Still no warm up lap.
Can take a lot for the safety car come out.

Graphics

+ Vast improvement over F1 2010.
You can now really see the tyre wear.
Track detail is amazing.
Looks stunning in the rain.
A lot more debris appears on track when cars collide.

- Paddock graphical detail not as good as when racing.
When exiting the paddock in qualifying/practice or just before a race, there can be some jerkiness.

Audio

+ Having the engineer in multiplayer makes a world of difference.
The finer details are all there to be heard including brake lock ups.

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