13 Reviews

F1 2011

A finely seasoned racer

We were convinced that just driving the ruddy things was complicated enough. If F1 2010 didn't leave you in awe of Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and chums, after trying to keep your 750 brake horsepower racing car from murdering your face clean off, F1 2011 is here to further complicate matters.

It's not just Codemasters finding excuses to make you feel like the less glamorous kind of Sunday driver. The addition of KERS (practically speaking, a boost button) and DRS (a different flavour of boost that flings you off the road if you use it mid-corner) are contrivances by the sport to make the racing closer. With all these extra buttons to consider, the upshot is it now feels like rubbing your stomach and patting your head while programming the timer on a 1980s VCR. And balancing on a tightrope. Over a crocodile enclosure.

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For those desperate to get inside the sport as it stands in 2011, it's perfect. As before, Codemasters Birmingham's commitment to authenticity is unparalleled and, whether it's tyre choice across a longer race or when to squeeze the KERS button lap by lap, you'll be making exactly the same strategic calls as a real driver has to. The benefit for seasoned owners of F1 2010 is that there's a whole heap of new techniques to get your head around, making the racing substantially different from last year.

Of course, for drivers who already stink up the back of the grid, it means more things to get in a time-sapping pickle over. It's not just the new buttons you have to worry about either. Perhaps because of the new purposefully slippery Pirelli tyres, or perhaps because of the work on the handling model, the rear end of the car is far more lively. Chuck it into a sweeping corner on cold tyres and you'll feel the tail make a trouser-browning bid for freedom.

If anything, the suspension seems more pliant this time around, turning the blast up Beau Rivage at Monaco into a rollercoaster, particularly if you're unhinged enough to wind open your rear wing in practice. It's arguably tougher to drive at the limit than it was last year, but for hardcore sim-heads it'll be more rewarding as well. For beginners, the standard complement of driver aids are there, along with a racing line that rises intelligently around corners to show not only where you need to brake but also, helpfully, which direction the course is going. With 19 of the buggers to learn, including the new Indian track and a different German circuit, it's a small but vital addition for newcomers to the game.

One area that hasn't enjoyed much of an upgrade is the single-player career. Barring a few presentational tweaks, and a new interviewer in the shape of Five Live's David Croft, it's pretty much the same story as last year. There's a little more needling from your team if you're failing to outperform your team-mate, and you can now explicitly choose a rival at the mid-point of the year, but there's little functional difference. As before, though, it's engaging enough to carry you through at least a couple of seasons.

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Far more exciting is the co-op championship, which is a feature we want in every racing game forever more, and is absolutely the way to enjoy F1 2011. You and your buddy line up side by side in the same team, collaborating to win the constructors' championship but competing to claim top honours as a driver. The grid is a full 24 cars, points are tracked according to the official rules and championships can be saved and returned to - all of which justifies going for lengthier race distances and spreading the experience out over days or weeks. Not availed of a Live Gold subscription? You can run exactly the same experience in the excellent, newly added split-screen mode.

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