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E3 2011: F1 2011 hands-on

E3 2011

Our session with Codemasters at E3 began with a reminder of the franchise’s history. F1 games haven’t sold well for years, which is probably why they were able to get the license in the first place. Yet F1 2010 was the fastest selling game of the sport ever, reaching pole position in the charts.

Codemasters, they say, don’t want to rest on their laurels and just pump out another game with the new teams and cars for the next season; this is a chance to look forward at the future of the franchise.

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One of the challenges with developing an F1 game is also one of its greatest opportunities: the rules. Since these change on a yearly basis, they provide a greater difference between instalments than in other sports. Recent developments in the sport like KERS and DRS are also perfectly suited to a racing game.

If F1 2010 was about singleplayer, this year’s game is about multiplayer. Before, 12 players could race online; now it’s 16 plus 8 A.I. drivers, making up the full 24 car grid. There’s also a co-op championship mode, allowing two players to race for the same team through a season, complete with the inevitable rivalry to be the main driver for that team.

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The graphics have also received an upgrade. We were shown several before and after screenshots of the game, including Parc Fermé, tyres and tracks. All showed a significant improvement. There’s also an interesting new damage and failures model. Components in the car degrade over time, depending on how you drive, and are therefore more likely to fail.

I got to play F1 2011 on a wheel and pedal setup for a few laps. While this isn’t indicative of how most people will play it, it was an enjoyable, if brief race. Avoiding a pileup on the first corner seemed to be the main challenge, and it was unforgiving if you span out or crashed, much like the sport it’s based on.

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Last year’s game was undoubtedly a hit with F1 fans, who have been without a major publisher taking the franchise seriously for some time. F1 2011 looks like it’ll build on this success, not with a straightforward update, but with an instalment full of new features and improvements. This will be one to watch come September.

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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