- Publisher: Codemasters
- Developer: Codemasters Birmingham
- ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
- Genre: Racing
- Pros: Great presentation; fun gameplay; more accessible than last year; plays awesome with a wheel
- Cons: Can be overwhelming for casual F1 fans; A.I. a bit too perfect
F1 2011 carries the official Formula 1 license and, of course, features all of the real teams, drivers, and tracks. Modes include a Grand Prix mode where you choose whichever races you want to run. Multiplayer includes both online and offline splitscreen races. Online races feature up to 16 players while splitscreen only two, but both modes fill out the rest of the slots with A.I. drivers for full 24-car fields. There is also a new Proving Grounds mode where you are given specific cars, circuits, setups, and conditions and have to set the best time, which makes for some fun leaderboard chasing since everyone has to use the same car and setups.
The main single-player mode is Career Mode and it is mostly the same as last year. You start out on a low-level team as a rookie and have to race your way up the rankings toward offers from better teams. During the season you also have to do interviews with the media, and it is always interesting to see how they spin your answers through press clippings you can read at the end of each race weekend, so you have to be somewhat careful what you say. New this year is a co-op career mode where you and an online friend join the same team and try to win a constructors championship as a team while trying to beat each other for the driver's championship.
For hardcore fans looking for a simulation, all of those options are still here. The handling has been tweaked a bit with better modeling of the suspension, new tyre compounds, and the cars feel a bit heavier. These handling changes have a real tangible impact. Corners you mastered last year have to be taken differently this year - new lines, different braking points, etc. - which makes the experience feel fresh even though you might have played these courses dozens of times already. The cars are a bit harder to spin out than they were last year as well (all bets are off in the rain, though), which helps you feel more in control and be a bit more competitive against A.I. drivers that seemed to be able to push just a bit harder than you could without penalty. The A.I. is still pretty superhuman in terms of running near-perfect lines all the time (forget about seeing the new Safety Car on the track all that often unless it is you bringing out the caution), but at least they post believable lap times and actually have to make pit stops - two big glitches solved this time around.
All in all, the gameplay is considerably better overall. It can still be a bit overwhelming for casual fans that don't appreciate the long race weekend or know how to use the new systems, but this isn't really a game meant for them. It is nice, though, that the difficulty and assist options do allow for an easier learning curve if casual players do want to give the game a try. This is a game meant for the hardcore fans. Players that revel in running practice laps to learn new lines. Players that like tweaking and tuning their cars down to the smallest detail to try and shave a few tenths of a second off of their lap times. Players that know they don't have to win every race to succeed. These are the players that will enjoy F1 2011 the most.
Visually, F1 2011 is a very nice looking game. Gone is the washed out look of last year and instead the game has bright, clear colors that look far more realistic. The car models look great and feature working suspension and aero features - things you won't notice while you're racing but will blow you away when you see everything working during replays. The weather effects are also very nice with the game looking quite stunning in the rain.
The sound is also very well done. The real star here is the scream of the engines, and they are nice and loud and perfectly captured here.
There is little question that F1 2011 is a better game overall than F1 2010. It solves most of the issues with glitches from last year, tweaks the handling for the better, introduces some new gameplay tricks, features new multiplayer modes, and improves the overall presentation quite a bit. We liked F1 2010, even with some glitches, but F1 2011 is a definite improvement. It isn't a racing game for everyone - even with some tweaks to make the gameplay more noob-friendly it is still pretty challenging and casual players likely won't appreciate the subtle differences between this game and the last one - but fans of Formula 1 should have no worries. F1 2011 is highly recommended for a purchase.