After a long, long stint of not having an official, licensed Formula 1 game in the PC platform and having to make-do with modified sims like rFactor or Grand Prix 4, it was announced last year that Codemaster, the company behind such fun titles as GRiD, Dirt and Dirt 2, had been given the rights to exploit the F1 brand, and was working on a racing game for all the fans and those who didn't even know what F1 was.
After the announcement of course there was a long wait, and when the product was finally in our hands, we all wanted to love it. But it was hard to love something so bug ridden as F1 2010 was.
Still, since there was nothing better around, and as a fan who just wanted to drive those shiny Formula One cars, I had to put up with the weird bugs and handling problems, until Codemasters told us it was working on a sequel, obviously named F1 2011.
I got as excited as a dog who's just been told he's going out for a walk and couldn't wait for it to come out. Pre-ordered it on Steam and waited impatiently till September 27, been playing it ever since.
I was pleasantly surprised when I started playing it, as many of the previous gameplay issues seemed to be solved. Many people (including me) complained that the cars seemed to spin around too easily when some of the kerbs were touched, and this has been addressed thoroughly. The suspension now seems to be working on another level of realism and while it's possible to spin the car, it is often a fault of the driver and not the game that makes it so, most likely an over eagerness of your right foot on the throttle making the rear tyres spin uncontrollably. There's a lot more feedback to the driver as far as how the car is behaving, and the tweaks you make to your setup (aerodynamics, suspension, gear ratios, etc.) do make a difference on track. Finding that fine tuning, perfect balance for your car and driving style can be the deciding factor in a race.
For people who are not that much into the technicalities and finesse of driving a sophisticated machine like an F1 car, there are plenty of driving aids and difficulty settings to make the experience more friendly and relaxed.
Graphic wise it looks pretty and not much has been done to improve on what was already established with the previous title, and the reason for this, while I can't confirm it, must be "It has to run on the xBox 360". The cars are all faithfully recreated, and so are the tracks, including the brand new Indian Grand Prix, as well as all time classics like Monaco or Spa.
The dynamic weather provides an extra challenge. If it starts raining, when is the right time to put on those intermediate tyres? Decisions like this could win or lose a race.
One of the main improvements is the first person view which, for some reason, is a lot more usable now. I find myself using it more, and having better results, than the TV-Pod camera (looking from the car's airbox down to the nose, which lets you see exactly where your front wheels are). Turning off all aids, all on-screen-display and using the first person view is quite the challenge, bringing immersion and realism.
The AI was one of the main complaints about the previous title. It used to be all over the track and make things that no racing driver could or would do with their car. Honestly it is not 100% fixed or improved. They seem to drive faster than you most of the time yet they don't attempt overtakes that much, and when they do, they rarely make them stick. When they do overtake you, they start pulling away at blistering rates which leaves you wondering why didn't they overtake 5 laps ago.
This is just nitpicking, overall a race is quite challenging and rewarding in a balanced amount. Good, but there's room for improvement.
There is also a greater focus towards multiplayer, with a maximum of 24 players at once (just like a real F1 race). It is a fun experience... when you're running against people who seem to know how to drive and compete fairly. More often than not though, it is a demolition derby and it can get pretty frustrating.
Sebastian Vettel just won the Formula One Driver's Championship today after dominating the season thoroughly. Now get F1 2011 and see how you fare in the king of all of motorsports.