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New Features

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New Features

Post  EMW Raul on Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:01 am

http://sarcasticgamer.com/wp/index.php/2011/07/sg-hands-on-f1-2011-adding-more-realerism.html

Codemasters’ F1 2010 was a massive hit – certainly in the UK – and fended off myriad sports titles (mainly those involving hoofing a glorified pig’s bladder into a net) to win the BAFTA for “Best Sports Game” in 2010.

As with their other driving titles – such as those in the DiRT and GRiD series – Codemasters is well-known for their superb balance between simulation-style features and arcade pick-up-and-play accessibility. Now, Formula 1 is arguably one of the nerdier and technology focused motorsports out there. Yet despite the close association between driving at breakneck speeds and geeky blokes in lab coats, F1 2010 managed to offer a game that satisfied both (for want of a better phrase) bespeckled technology nerds and fans of driving games that are more arcade-y.

Well, the good news is that F1 2011 manages to repeat the success of its predecessor – as you’ve doubtless heard from Yamster already – but there’s been some serious thought into incorporating the underlying science and strategy that is such a key part of Formula 1.

Want to find out what’s going on under the hood of F1 2011 as well some answers to some questions from the great and good of the SG Community? Find out after the jump!


The technology and rules of Formula 1 can seem quite daunting to the uninitiated, and it comes in the format of a book that’s roughly the size of – and has the same readability as – a telephone directory. But so much of the rules in Formula 1 are to encourage what fans love to watch; daring overtakes, team strategy and working out the best time to turn up the performance of the cars.

F1 2010 certainly had some of those features, but they’re a core part of the gameplay in F1 2011 and certainly help elevate it to being a real strategic racer. All the rules, regulations and technological advances and shortcomings are all present in F1 2011. Here’s a rundown of how the defining characteristics of the motorsport make their way into F1 2011.

The Tyres

Now, although this sounds a tad on the dry side, one of the biggest changes in this season of Formula 1 was a change in the tyre supplier from Bridgestone to Pirelli. The new tyres have being specifically designed to wear out at a faster rate. This means that teams have to trade off whether they want to run their car at breakneck speed, but forcing an earlier pit stop – or whether they want to go easier on the tyres to complete a few extra laps before they have to come into the pits.

Codemasters have accurately replicated the characteristics of the new tyres and how they degrade during a race in F1 2011 – right down to how the grip of the tyres ‘fall off a cliff’ when run for a few too many laps. The tyre restrictions that are present in the real Formula 1 are also there in F1 2011; you have a set number of tyres for the whole race weekend (i.e. for practice sessions, qualifying and the race) as well as restrictions on the tyre compounds that you have to use.

For example, in a race you have to use at least one set of ‘prime’ tyres (which are more durable, but offer less grip) in addition to the ‘option’ tyres (which are less durable, but offer much more grip). That is, of course, if it isn’t raining. Then you only have to slap a pair of glorified Doc Martins on your car so that you don’t have a series of unfortunate car-scenery conflagrations. Working out which tyre to use when is the key to success in both the sport and the game – and adds a really enjoyable strategic element to F1 2011.

KERS and DRS

You’re probably thinking ‘OMG! WTFBBQ, Cap?’ as you read those seemingly impenetrable acronyms – but what do they actually mean? Well, in layman’s terms, KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and DRS (Drag Reduction System) are features of this season’s Formula 1 cars that make them considerably more awesomer by making them go faster. For the sake of argument, do feel free to label the buttons to activate these features as ‘awesome buttons’ if that makes it easier for you.

KERS is based on the same technology that the rather prosaic Toyota Prius uses – but is thankfully infinitely less tedious in the grand scheme of things. All Formula 1 cars have some electric batteries in them which, at the push of one of the aforementioned ‘awesome buttons’ chucks an extra 80bhp of power to the rear wheels, hence making the car go quicker and, by extension, more awesomer. However, with great power (well, 80bhp of it) comes great responsibility – you only get around 6.6 seconds of it for each lap, and whacking it on halfway around a corner inevitably leads to the world going a tad sideways. It’s a great trick to have up your flame-retardant sleeve for helping with an overtake or defending your position.

Another tool that you have at your disposal – and plumbed into to the second ‘awesome button’ is DRS. Activating DRS ‘opens up’ the rear wing of the car by moving one of the flaps – hence decreasing drag and increasing speed, but greatly reducing downforce (again, problems with an unwanted car-scenery interface can result). DRS can be used at any time during practice and qualifying, but is only available at set points in a race if you are within a second of the car in front of you. Again, this adds a great element of strategy to the sport and to the game, and really helps pull off overtaking maneuvers, but at a bit of a risk to the stability of the car.

Of course, if you want to engage ‘hyper mega-awesome mode’ (my words, not theirs), you can engage KERS and DRS at the same time, but you’ve got to keep your wits about you if you don’t want to go careering off the track. Again, this kind of risk-reward is what makes Formula 1 so fascinating to watch – and F1 2011 so entertaining to play.

Teams – Tactics and General Shenanigans

Now, as I’m sure you all know, there’s a number of teams in Formula 1 – 12, to be precise – that vary in performance. Right at the top end, you have teams like Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull; but at the other end you have outfits like Hispania, Lotus and Virgin (who, ironically, are pretty screwed). Every team comes up with their own tricks to push the rules to the limit, and there’s more than a smidge of industrial espionage behind the scenes in Formula 1.

Although F1 2011 doesn’t have a mode where you’re charged with infiltrating another team’s garage armed with nothing but a Polaroid camera, Codemasters have faithfully recreated the performance that can be found from the cars the different teams are fielding in the 2011 season.

One of the things that was great to hear from the developers was that all the Formula 1 teams were fully involved with the game – and were pretty honest when it came to ‘fessing up about how good (or not) their cars are. This translates through to the single player game as well – if you’re driving for Virgin Racing, for example, your team boss isn’t going to expect you to finish 1st but would be jolly British and stoical about the whole situation and be chuffed if you finished 18th. One of the things that Codemasters wanted to get across in the game – and appear to have done so successfully – was to give you, as the player, a good race no matter where you were in the field. So you can have as much fun competing for a hotly-contested 10th place as you would if you were trying to get a podium finish.

The varying strengths and weaknesses of the cars also come through into how your team plans their strategy. For example, some cars burn through tyres more quickly – and your race engineer keeps you updated through the race as to what strategy they think your competitors are running, and advise you when to pit based on that information. All the drivers from the 2011 season are also in the game – and their individual styles of driving are portrayed in the game. Jenson Button, for example, is a calm and measured driver – the very epitome of the modern racing gent. Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, is a bit of a mentalist (but also quite good at racing).

The information you get whilst driving around the tracks has also been greatly improved in F1 2011. In F1 2010, you selected a lap to pit in on and kept your fingers crossed that everything was going to work out spiffingly. In F1 2011, you get information on your predicted position when you emerge from the pits – and can take advantage of early pitting much more easily, if this would help your race.

Although your race engineer is an AI character, the advice he gives you is now based on a whole host of in-race parameters and changing race conditions – which really keeps that fourth wall well and truly propped up.

Another great feature of the game is a co-op season mode. You and a buddy can pair up to be the two drivers for any of the teams; and it works just like the singleplayer. So if you constantly outperform your buddy, you’ll get all the lovely shiny new toys for your car first. Thankfully, you can do one race (or even one session within a race weekend) at a time – so you don’t have to worry about setting aside half a day to get some racing done. This sounds great – F1 2011 is the first title to have such a game mode – and will doubtless make for a great co-op driving experience.

Car Handling and Tuning

One of the few gripes that people had about F1 2010 was that all the fancy-pants tuning you could do didn’t really seem to have much of an effect on the handling of the car. But not so with F1 2011 – although the tuning options aren’t as in-depth as, say, Forza 3, the basics are there (downforce, spring stiffness, brake balance, gear ratios, etc.) and really affect how your car feels out on track.

This is a really welcomed upgrade to the game – as you can now tune the car to suit your driving style much more than you could in F1 2011. Along with this, F1 2011 also tracks the wear-and-tear on the various components of the car, which can lead to cataclysmic, facepalm-mungous, mechanical failures. This approach is much better than the alternative, namely random failures, as it encourages the player to look after the car and not get frustrated with failures that appear for no reason.

There are also some settings that can be changed in-race. For the past two seasons in Formula 1, cars aren’t allowed to refuel during a race. In real life, teams tend to slightly over-fuel their cars to allow for drivers to ‘turn the engine up’ if they need some extra power during a race. This wasn’t really reflected in F1 2010, but is very much a key part of the gameplay in F1 2011. You’ve got the option to crank the engine up if you feel the need (the need) for speed, but this will come at the cost of burning more fuel. Again, this is an extra little feature that really ups the strategy that you’ll have to use as you race in the game and it makes it a much more engrossing experience than simply honing around for a couple of laps without a care in the world.

What the SG Community Wanted To Know

Well, I thought it was only fair to vaguely find out what the great and good of SG wanted to know about the game. Being the true professional that I am, I endeavored to find out the questions that needed answers at least a full five minutes before rocking up to the event – ‘cos that’s how I roll.

So, without further ado, here are some of the questions that I got. Not all of them are necessarily on topic.

Q. Does it have a survival mode? – ShinyMilburns
A. No, you big silly. There are no zombies in it either, before you ask (although, incidentally, Bernie Ecclestone does arguably looks like one of the undead).

Q. Are there cars in it? – TudorVII
A. DERP.

Q. Are DRS and KERS in the game and are they realistically portrayed? Also, what other rule changes are in? – LarzimusPrime
A. Yep – as I’ve said, DRS and KERS are a key part in F1 2011 and have the same restrictions on their use as in the ‘real’ Formula 1. Virtually all the other rules are in there – with the exception of a formation lap and safety cars.

Q. Will Ferrari order you to pull over if Alonso is faster than you? – LarzimusPrime
A. Nope. They’ll just say he’s faster. Over and over again. Until you pull over.

Q. Are there trains in it to keep Yamster happy? – RyanArcher95
A. Yamster’s disappointed that there are no trains in F1 2011. The rest of us, however, are bloody ecstatic that there aren’t.


So Should You Pre-Order It?

If you’re a big fan of Formula 1, it’s a total no-brainer – stop reading this and preorder it now. Even if you’re not a massive follower of Formula 1, F1 2011 looks like it’s going to be a fantastic racing game! All the nuances of the cars and the rules of the sport are going to make this an engrossing game, with a strategic element that’s rarely seen in this genre.

Although I only got hands-on with early beta code, made available to the press at an event funded by Codemasters, the game looks fantastic and handles like a dream. The promise of a co-op season mode as well as dynamic weather across all 20 tracks should give this game some serious longevity.

Admittedly I’m a massive Formula 1 geek, but F1 2011 is shaping up to be a truly worthy successor to the BAFTA-winning F1 2010.

Codemasters’ Formula 1 2011 will be released on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on September 23rd 2011. 3DS and PS Vita versions of the game will also be available at a later date.
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