F1 2011 Review

I don’t know a lot about F1 racing. Actually, the only real knowledge I had before playing F1 2011 was the following:

– The cars are incredibly fast and the racing is incredibly technical.

– Wasn’t there a F1 race in “Iron Man 2”?

Unfortunately, only about half my knowledge was accurate. “Iron Man 2” didn’t have F1; it had an Indy Car race. So with only my prior racing game knowledge to use as a launching point, I delved into F1 2011. And the learning experience began.

F1 2011 is a polished and waxed racing game from Codemasters, which, being a British company, definitely knows something about the sport. For newcomers, the game does little to teach you the stops. Within minutes of pressing start, you’ll be behind the wheel of your ferocious dragon car, and God help you if you have no clue what you’re doing.

180 mph will effortlessly vacate your speedometer. You won’t even know how you got there. You’ll look down and, “DEAR GAAAAHH—-“. What happens when you meet a turn at that speed depends on your level of handling and the level of gameplay.

Mercilessly, F1 2011 is set to Easy mode by default. In this setting, your car will automatically brake when approaching a sharp turn. This confused and irritated me at first. How dare the game do the work for me? Cocksure and fueled by successfully staying on the track for one whole lap, I turned off the braking assist. When I was able to complete another lap, albeit an ugly one, I just got stupid:

“Automatic? Psh. It’s Manual time, son.”

Prison sentences should be arranged for people who do to their cars in real life what I did to mine in the game. It whined. Gears grinded. I spun off track. I weaved back onto the road as dirt and grass stained my tires. I skidded and damn-near realistic physics refused to let me gain control back. It was defeating but also educational. I was learning how precise this type of racing is through a game that bent no rules about it.

Those rules also include the heavy customization aspects of the sport. Your car is your own. Change the tires (spelled tyres), the engine, the durability, the drag, and anything else you can think of. You can even change the gearbox, which will change the setting of the rev limiter. Also, I still have no idea what that last sentence means.

Most of my experience with F1 2011 was spent this way. I’d explore the lists of menus and stats the game offered and only bury myself deeper in its technicalities. Luckily, though, the game also has preset customizations for a quick change and easily adaptability. Say it’s raining. You can simply change the setup of your car to “Wet”. Sunny? Change it to “Dry”. You can also utilize DRS and KERS. The former will give you more drag during races, allowing for tighter turns. The latter gives you a temporary power boost. Each is interesting in theory, but actual utilization seems ineffective.

Career mode offers the usual. You pick a team to drive for and then name your racer. In between events, you’ll answer inconsequential media questions or you’ll hang out in your trailer. There you can check emails, learn the weather conditions of an upcoming race and pick which type of helmet you want.

Races themselves are just as involved, if not more. You can choose the distance of race, which range from 3 laps to 78 laps. Prior to the race, you can do a practice and qualifying run, respectively. Your team will assign placement objectives for the qualifying run and the actual race. Placing within the objective or higher will award you more experience and increase your reputation.

You can also gain some swagger by playing Grand Prix mode. Here you can set up your own racing tournament and mess around with different cars. This mode is also useful as it allows practice runs on tracks that would otherwise be inaccessible in career mode. There’s also Proving Grounds, which has Time Trial and Time Attack modes.

As someone who didn’t understand the true finesse of this type of racing, I felt I wasn’t playing the game to its fullest potential. The customization proved daunting as the overwhelming amount of options left me dizzied. This game is aimed toward the live-and-die fans of F1 racing. Everyone else will feel like they stepped into a math course a level above their comfort zone. If you have time to buckle down and test each aspect, the game will reward you handsomely.

Playing it on the fringe, with the braking assist and any other handicap turned on, will give you plenty to work with. For a true run though, discipline and practice are needed. There’s nothing quite like watching your car feast on the open track before it and push its engine to the limit. The howl of it all, the blurred peripherals, the sheer, simple fun of watching 180 mph roll out in front of you; it’s pure joy. But if you want to be able to downshift, cut that upcoming corner and remain a threat to your AI opponents without the shameful “Easy” mode selected, you’ll have to earn it. Not even Tony Stark could do it so elegantly.


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Author: Greg Galiffa View all posts by
Greg Galiffa is an Associate Editor at GamerNode. He's also an apologist for the first TMNT film. You can follow him on Twitter @greggaliffa

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