Exclusive hands on with F1 2011

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On Sunday I was sitting on my couch with a beer watching the Grand Prix and complaining to my brother-in-law about how badly Hamilton was driving and how could he not see Kobayashi before taking himself out of the race.

Obviously I could do better and I really wish I had been given the chance… then not 2 days later F1 2011 lands on my door and it’s my turn to prove how great a racing car driver I could have been.

Well that was the plan, in reality I managed to help paint every single crash barrier around Spa while taking out a multitude of other cars.

So much so that I got quite irritated with the constant penalties that the stewards were handing out to me via my engineer who is like a second voice in your head.

But lets start at the beginning, my hands on started with the Time Attack option where you get to try to beat your time with a standard car setup on varying different tracks. I started out on Monza, with it’s long straights and sweepings bends I thought this would probably be the easiest to get to grips with.

While that may be true I quickly realised the game isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination and I found myself sliding off the track at pretty much every corner. It appears that much like Hamilton I find myself hitting the corners to fast and then desperately trying to regain control before leaving the track.

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As soon as a wheel touches the grass or gravel on the side of the road it’s pretty much all over. Any power sent through to the wheels then results a spin and your lap time being destroyed.

After a while though you start to get used to it and once you have completed a first lap you are then racing against the ghost of your best lap. It’s not a new mechanic by any stretch but it’s a great way to suck you into doing more and more laps while at the same time improving every time.

And then… then I found the button to activate my DRS and as I came around the corner onto the long straight I opened up the flaps and blew past my ghost car in front, the improvement in speed was incredible and I knew I was going to destroy my previous lap record with this new found button. As I reach my braking zone I hit the brake and careened straight of the track.

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Apparently DRS has quite an affect on your turning ability.. good to know. Over the next few laps I started perfecting my DRS braking zones and also the use of my KERS system which gives the car that extra little kick when you need it most.

Now that I was a seasoned pro, or at least able to get around the track without falling off, I decided to try a different track and chose Spa. Time Attack on Spa means being put into a Williams and thrown out into the rain. I won’t lie, I can’t race in the rain. It drove me insane and I spent the entire time ogling over the gravel that appeared to be permanently stuck in my tyres. In fact it was more that I was constantly going off the track but still.

The difference in racing lines, speed and physics in the wet compared to the dry option tyres is incredible and it’s going to take months to be able to perfect both styles of driving. Never mind having to perfect the intermediate and hard tyres as well.

After my time attack experience I decided to try my hand at a real Grand Prix. I jumped into Hamilton’s spot which was 6th on the grid and headed out to show everyone what I had learned.

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Into the first corner I managed to destroy my front wing, take out 2 other cars and then leave the track for destinations unknown. Start Button -> Restart game.. hit cars… Start Button -> Restart Game… repeat ad nausea.

Let me clarify something here, this game is hard. Very hard, if you’re a driving ace then you may get into it quicker but if like me you generally only race for fun every now and then you are in for a steep learning curve. I went into the setup and added in some helpers such as brake assist and driving lines and then I could at least keep on the road around the track with the rest of the back runners.

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During the race you have the opportunity to implement some racing tactics by bringing up the tactics screen (D-Pad) and choosing between tyres or fuel and the options within that.

Personally that’s far to advanced for when I currently am in the game but it’s nice to know that the game isn’t simply about the racing but more about the whole experience.

You can also bring up a screen to see where everyone is on the track and if you pitted now where you would be re-joining, something which is crucial to that perfect pit stop.

And that unfortunately brings me to the end of my hands on, thankfully I still have the disc tucked away in the console so I can practice this weekend and hopefully by the time F1 2011 releases I can completely dominate online.. or at least hold my own. We’ll see.

Oh before I forget, the graphics… I’m playing on a preview build so the graphics aren’t yet finalised but from what I saw the fantastic water effects from F1 2010 have returned and are better than ever. The damage however doesn’t yet look as awesome as I’d hoped and the overall in game graphics are fine but nothing to get excited over. You can see Codemasters haven’t spent 6 years detailing every nut and bolt of the F1 cars, but really it’s a racing game and it’s the racing mechanic that really counts.

And from what I’ve seen racing fans aren’t going to be disappointed when they stick F1 2011 into their consoles and attempt to dominate all comers much as Vettel is doing this season.

Questions?

PS: Yes driving into the back of Michael Schumacher at 200mph is as much as fun as can be expected

Last Updated: September 2, 2011

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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