In the early days of gaming on home computers there were a number of classic racing games such as Pole Position, Out Run, Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge and later on, Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix Games. Grand Prix 4 is still played by a core audience nearly 10 years after its release but until Codemasters revived the F1 franchise on multiple platforms a few years ago (previously Sony owned the rights) there was little to compete with GP4 for those looking for a serious F1 style racing game.
With F1 2009, and more importantly F1 2010 Codemasters proved that they were capable of drawing on their experience with the Colin McRae and Grid franchises and taking them to a more simulation like game. Now we have the next evolution of this as later this month F1 2011 hits the shelves. We have had access to a preview built to find out what the latest update to the franchise adds to the impressive foundations set by the 2010 edition, so let's take a look.
For single player gameplay the core career mode (with its golden questions driver's room) is retained in F1 2011 and we play through the season just as it plays out in real life. All 12 teams and 24 drivers from the 2011-2012 season are present as are the tracks which of course means the addition of an additional German track as well as the Indian GP.
Rule changes have also been implemented with the most notable being the inclusion of KERS and DRS. For those not too familiar with these technologies KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) adds extra power to a car for a short period of time in each lap, DRS (Drag Reduction System) allows for the opening of the rear wing, reducing resistance, in certain circumstances... essentially enhancing the ability to overtake.
We can also tune our race strategy/engine mixture and the tyre rules have been tweaked which makes the new race information screen with information such as fuel left compared to distance left all the more important.
Codemasters have also enhanced the car physics this year for a more realistic feel and the game engine has been updated to Ego 2.0, bringing it in line with DiRT 3. The end result of course is a more accurate and better looking game than the version released last year.
The latest instalment of F1 also has more of a focus on multiplayer gaming and this can be local (split screen) or online. Co-op Championships are also present as are time trial and time attack modes.
How Does It Play?
The preview build we had access to for F1 2011 had a number of limitations however the core gameplay and a wide range of tracks and options were still available. From this we were able to establish that the core gameplay remains challenging and fun. In addition to this the tweaks such as KERS/DRS and enhanced race strategy make a noticeable difference to how we play and it is clear that the multi-player enhancements will bring a whole new group of players into the game, enhancing the experience for those finished with the career mode.
Based on past experience we feel the PC version will be the one to go for as it allows for higher resolution visuals as well as surround/3D gaming (see below for an example of this with F1 2010). The experience will also be enhanced for those who own a steering wheel/pedals as well... we'll revisit the game in more detail at launch so stay tuned for our detailed opinions.