There's no doubt that F1 2010 marked a triumphant return for Formula One video games after a few years off the boil, winning Codemasters a BAFTA as the game charted at number one, making it the first F1 game to make it to the top of the charts since 2001. F1 2010 was also the fastest-selling Formula One game ever, which puts Codies' Birmingham racing studio in pole position for F1 2011, which won't be resting on its laurels for its second year.
As a matter of fact, the F1 development team confirms that F1 2011 will be a whole lot more than just a workmanlike update, looking to improve in all areas, including those that fans already deemed more than satisfactory. As such, there are huge new features planned with Codemasters keeping its eye on a long-term goal for the franchise. “F1 2011 completely overshadows F1 2010,” declares Senior Producer, Paul Jeal as he and Chief Game Designer Stephen Hood unveil pre-beta footage of the game on the track and some comparison screenshots to show how the game has come along since F1 2010.
Improvements on the track itself include the changes to the rules that have affected the sport itself, so now KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and DRS (Drag Reduction System), which allows the driver to adjust the angle of his rear wing for overtaking manoeuvres play a major part, essentially adding an overtaking weapon to a driver's arsenal. With KERS and DRS, the exciting overtaking seen in this season's races will now be possible, which should add yet another layer of race strategy to both qualifying and the race events proper. There's also Pirelli tyres across the board rather than Bridgestone tyres this season, which changes the tyre strategies drastically with a choice of two different compounds, namely 'option' and 'prime'.
Rival driver AI will also drive more like an actual human, deploying the KERS and DRS systems where appropriate, so while you'll have all of the tools that drivers have this season, the other contenders on the grid will obviously have them too. As well as improved AI and new tyre compounds, there'll also be enhanced damage and failures for the car and a greater degree of driver feedback too. Consequently, your car will be affected by factors based upon how you look after it, rather than hitting you with random failures, which was something hardcore fans asked for. It makes sense as a compromise for those hardcore F1 fans that failures will only strike if you've neglected to take care of your car. It beats unfair random breakdowns any day. Codies is also promising heightened circuit detail and fidelity across its 19 official tracks that will now include Buddh International in Delhi and the iconic Nürburgring in Germany.
'Be the Driver, Live the Life' was the mantra for F1 2010, but F1 2011 is tacking 'Go Compete' onto the end of that now, so being the driver and living the life is still at the game's core, but there's now an increased emphasis on providing a more comprehensive multiplayer component to boot. Sharing DiRT 3's tech allows F1 2011 to now offer 2-player splitscreen, which going hands-on with, we see involves a reduction in detail so that it runs smoothly, much as we'd expect to be fair. There'll also be a co-op championship mode that will allow 2-players to team up and experience a similar kind of team dynamic that you'd find within any Formula One team like McLaren, Red Bull or Ferrari. Will you compete for the championship and have disputes over team resources, or will you work together? Online, there'll also be a full grid with 16-players able to get involved with 8 AI racers filling in the gaps.
On the whole 'live the life' front, the parc fermé has been massively transformed as well, so you'll now operate out of the actual office space that a driver would in real life and there's enhanced garage visuals with proper reflective, shiny floors and recognisable engineers who you may even grow attached to. Or perhaps not. You'll also still have to deal with the press and respond to newspaper articles coming out about you and your team too, so there'll be improved mechanics in that particular department too. Other improvements include more of the parc fermé to visit rather than the same old bits, which will be more populated and lively, while back on the track there's superior visuals, a marked difference between night and day racing and more all-round detail.
With a brief hands-on before we rushed off to our next E3 appointment, we get to sample F1 2011's handling advancements, which we're sure Formula One aficionados will appreciate. The game certainly looks fantastic – although F1 2010 was no slouch in the looks department – and the visuals are much more accomplished than its predecessor's, and there's still three months of “polish and approval” to go on F1 2011's development say Jeal and Hood, which should ensure that F1 2011 wins itself another podium position when it releases later in the year.
F1 2011 will be popping the champagne corks on September 23rd, 2011 in the UK and September 22nd, 2011 in North America.