As the only ‘sim like’ racer available at launch I had high hopes for F1 2011. Producers Codemasters have handed the development of the game to Sumo Digital. They developed F1 2009 on the PSP so their back ground in Formula 1 games is decent. Being a portable game it’s safe to assume it’ll have limited capabilities compared to the full console versions. Which is true, but it’s not that limited.
If features all the tracks, teams, cars and drivers as you’d expect. The cars look decent enough and the tracks are recreated well. To be honest the graphics are slightly below what I was expecting on the PS Vita and fall well short when compared to something like Wipeout. The game is by no means ugly but there is a lot of room for improvement. Although when the game gets busy onscreen there is little or no slow down or frame rate issues. The damage modelling on the cars is pretty basic but sufficient. Damaging a wing or a wheel will impact on performance. You will need to do some serious damage to warrant a pit stop though. Quite unrealistic but understandable with a portable game.
What makes or breaks a portable racer in my opinion is the physics. I’m happy to say F1 2011 does a amazing job of creating a game that handles as close as possible to it’s console brothers. As expected it does suffer by not having analogue inputs for the throttle or brakes but the great sense of speed and game play physics more than make up for it. One of the biggest disappointments with the game is the AI. I’ll admit I noticed similar issues with the console version but it seems to be amplified on the PS Vita. The opposition (especially on easy or medium) tend to race/drive random and unpredictable lines which can make passing (or even following closely) a lottery. With penalties and damages on it can be quite frustrating. Plus on the hardest difficulty and all assists off it’s still only moderately challenging. Again it’s forgivable on a portable console but a harder AI setting would’ve been nice.
Along with career mode and championship mode there is a challenge mode. Here you jump in and race quick fire challenges. Ideal for quick 5 minute burst of fun and with a real arcade feel. A good alternative if you haven’t got the time to invest into a three qualifying sessions and a full race. F1 2011 also features 4 player multi-player online or local racing. I managed to find a couple of online races and it worked well. Having only 4 players is a little restricting but fun with the right people.
Closing comments: As a portable racer F1 2011 is pretty damn good. You can either have a quick 5 minutes hoon or complete a full couple of hours Grand Prix. The game is not without it’s problems but is still great fun to play. Plus as the only ‘sim like’ racer I can highly recommend it to all petrol heads out there. Available now on PS Vita.