F1 finally came back to the PC and major consoles last year in the form of Codemaster’s F1 2010 video game and, the occasional AI and pit-stop bug aside, it certainly lived up to the hype receiving widespread critical acclaim including a gaming BAFTA for best sports game.
However, whilst the game created a solid base there was still much room for improvement and so this year’s version of the franchise aims to build on the successes of last year whilst learning from the mistakes, and all indications suggest that there have been some substantial leaps forward in F1 2011.
The first major change in the game mirrors those occurring in the sport in real life: the rules. DRS (which stands for ‘Drag Reduction System’) and KERS (‘Kinetic Energy Recovery System) have both been introduced into the sport this year as a way to increase the excitement of races; the former opens a rear-wing flap reducing drag (and thus increasing speed) whilst the latter gives a speed boost from a battery charged under breaking. Both of these technologies along with the new Pirelli tyres have proven very effective at creating interesting races in real life, and there is no reason given that they are present in the game that they will not do the same.
Secondly Codemaster’s have put more work into some of the bones of the system to improve them from their already impressive footing. The graphics have been given a boost with more emphasis being given to the ‘peripheral textures’ such as grass and the smaller details such as the steering wheels, pit walls and tyres giving the whole game a more realistic finish. The much maligned AI have been improved to make them more realistic which should benefit the single player mode which had previously been the focus of the game.
However 2011 introduces the words “Go Compete” to it’s tagline and this reflects a shift of focus onto the multiplayer which the developers in hindsight themselves admit was below par. F1 2011 will allow a full 24 car grid in multiplayer games, although only up to 16 of these will be human players, and the introduction of both split screen and online co-op careers both of which were absent from the previous game and look set to add a new dimension to the game.
On the back of much pressure from the more hardcore fans mechanical breakdowns will feature in this year’s game meaning that some components will fail at some points across your race weekend’s – a brilliant introduction in theory as it certainly adds another level of realism to the game, but frustration levels will almost certainly match that rise as engines decide to die on the last lap of a 1:30 hour race!
A more important omission from the 2010 game, as anyone who watched the recent race in Montreal will tell you, was the safety car and it is still unconfirmed whether or not it will make an appearance in the 2011 game. Given the complexity of it’s implementation due to a need to accommodate a wide range of skill/knowledge sets it is likely to take some time to complete, but the pressure from the fans is immense and given that many of the developers have alluded to it one suspects it will be present.
Like last year the game will be released in September which will again allow gamers to race a new track virtually before F1 wheels have turned on it in real life. In fact the Indian Grand Prix circuit is not even finished yet (which raises a whole new set of problems for the developers – how to make something not yet a reality realistic!) but given their success with Korea last year there can be no doubts that it is possible; in fact the Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov drivers for HRT and Renault respectively both learned the circuit from the game last year!
So F1 2011 looks well set to match and exceed the bar set by F1 2010 last year with many improved features – weather, graphics, handling, AI – as well as an impressive set of new ones – co-op careers, 24 car multiplayer grid, Pirelli tyres, DRS, KERS, two new tracks, team-wheels, safety car (possibly!). With videos being released we can expect a better insight into the finished product as time goes by, but so far it sounds as though it will be even better than last year’s game and it’s going to seem like a long wait over summer until the game is released on 23rd September 2011.
For more information on F1 2011, be sure to check out The Average Gamer’s interview with Paul Jeal, who is Senior Producer for the Formula 1 games at Codemasters.