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Codmeasters Birmingham has clearly spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel improving this year's F1 game...
F1 2010 was one of our favourite driving games of last year and, without doubt, the best F1 game in almost a decade, so we just had to check out this year's instalment at Codemasters' E3 stand earlier this month. True to form, the publisher's Birmingham studio is staying bang-on-target with a fast changing sport while adding key features to the series at the same time...
The 2011 F1 season so far has been as thrilling as it has been confusing. With a whole host of new rules for fans to get their heads around, this high-octane sport has never been so exciting in recent history. The Codemasters team are all big followers of the world's premier motor sport, including the Senior Producer, Paul Jeal and the Chief Game Designer, Stephen Hood, who were both on-hand at this year's E3 to talk us through our play session with the game.
Codemasters' Formula One release last year was an unexpected success, ultimately becoming the fastest selling F1 game in history. This welcome surprise meant that the pressure is now on for the team to deliver another high quality, fun racing game that still manages to retain the simulation of the real thing. All the new updates to the real life sport have been implemented into the game, resulting in some new gameplay dynamics. The Pirelli tyres have complicated pit stop strategies, and the KERS system has granted drivers the ability to boost past their competitors a limited number of times whenever they feel it will be most beneficial for them. F1's interesting new Drag Reduction Systems, or DRS, also allows drivers to receive a speed boost during long straights, though its use is restricted to when the car is one second behind an opponent, thus strongly encouraging overtaking manoeuvres.
The core gameplay of last year's effort remains the same, albeit with these new changes afforded by the evolution of the source material. Many of the changes are regarding elements off the track. The visuals have drastically improved, especially noticeable when Jeal shows us side-by-side screenshots of various track environments. The fidelity of the flora is particularly pretty, and all of the real-life track improvements (such as the refurbishment of Silverstone) have been reflected in-game. Cinematics have not only been visually touched up, but they now feature a more diverse range of topics, including the coverage of podium wins and an increased variety of context-sensitive events, such as the celebration of the team mechanics should your team over-perform.
F1 2011's career mode has been improved too, now featuring a more advanced and tangible press feedback system than last year. The new track at New Delhi is present, and players may now encounter engine troubles and other damage failures if they drive recklessly, some of which will be slow-burning issues as the race progresses. Tyre wear is also an important element factor to try and keep on top of, as the gradual and dynamic deterioration of Pirelli's highly fallible rubber will occur alongside other car wear and tear.
Brilliantly, the career mode can now be played with 2 players via split-screen. Taking the role of driver one and two at a team of their choice, they must work together (or sometimes against each other) to improve the successes of their employers. Although the career mode cannot be played online, there is a more expansive online mode available. Up to 16 players can go head-to-head in a classic Formula One race, with 8 AIs making up the other cars on the grid, across a variety of differing game modes and race lengths.
Spanning the release over three platforms (360, PC, PS3), with handheld versions for the Vita and 3DS to follow, Codemasters is broadening its approach to simulation of the famous motor sport. Thrashing a ridiculously fast car around the world's most prestigious tracks feels better than ever before, and an intelligent feedback system forces players into learning the proper way to drive in a meaningful and realistic manner. Enhanced visuals, online play, relevant rule updates and a co-operative career mode all help to steer this already-excellent racing game in the right direction.
Update: Thanks to an anonymous post on the comment boards, we've now updated the article with a couple of corrections. Thanks for the heads-up.
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