Okay, so Formula One isn't the most popular sport in the world here in Canada, but elsewhere in the world, Formula One reigns supreme. This much is apparent from the last title's 84 Metacritic score (the same as the mighty Gran Turismo 5) and the fact that it held the number one worldwide sales spot above the platinum selling Halo Reach.
We managed to get a hands on with the new title at Codemasters' booth, and while I'm obviously not the target market for such a title, I came away very impressed with the title's enthusiastic representation of the sport, its great graphics, and tight physics.
Improved from last season are the inclusion of three new 2011 rules, including the KERS, DRS, and Pirelli Tyres systems, which essentially give your cars legal boosting. For example, KERS gives your car a 6.6 second power post, while DRS is a Drag Reduction System. By using these different systems, you can create some intense last second photo finishes. You'll be able to try out these systems on 20 different real-life circuits, including Nurburgring, Delhi, the Buddh International Circuit, and more.
The game also allows players to "live the life" of a Formula One driver, right from dealing with the press. Say the wrong thing or even the right thing, and it may be misconstrued in the press, causing havoc amongst your team. Get to know the system, and you'll able to manipulate the media to your liking.
Of course, being a racing game, F1 2011 lives or dies from its racing action. Fortunately, our hands on time really made look forward to putting these speed machines through their paces. Like many other popular driving games, there are a smattering of driver assists that can be used to make the game easier or more realistic to the player's liking. The driver AI was also surprisingly dynamic, blocking your passes and making small mistakes of their own. Being a sport of gentlemen, you can't just smash your way through the grid and making contact with the other cars will cost you in terms of your final time.
Cars will also have to be maintained, lest you cause system failures. Unlike the real life sport, there will be no random failures, because that simply wouldn't be a fun mechanic to experience on the 35th lap of a long race. Rather, the failures will be caused by your own driving, such as downshifting too early or putting your tires off the track.
The graphics on F1 2011 are simply spectacular. Environments are very well detailed and packed with animated crowds. Tire damage can be spotted at a simple glance and blades of grass will stick to the wheels. Even on the PS Vita version that we played, the graphics were simply stunning. It actually even looks better than Gran Turismo 5, and all at a super smooth frame rate.
Even at the pre-beta phase, F1 2011 looks good enough that we have nominated the game in both our best racing and best graphics categories in our 2011 Best of E3 Awards. Hit the track for yourself on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC on Sept 23. 3DS and Vita versions are coming soon after.