Game: F1 2011
Developer: Sumo Digital
Available on: PlayStation Vita
Formula One is one of the more popular of the racing types, especially here in the UK, so it’s no surprise that it’s gotten its own series of video games. Towards that latter half of last year we saw the console release of F1 2011, gaining pretty modest scores, a little later we saw the release of the Nintendo 3Ds version, then the version for the iDevices. Now it’s the turn of the newly released PlayStation Vita, and with the visuals that we already know that the device is capable of, it could be something pretty special indeed.
It’s been quite a while now since the first version of F1 2011 came out, has it already been too long? Would people be expecting the next iteration of the racing franchise? Perhaps this PS Vita version emulates the console experience in a way that no other handheld console has the capability to do.
GRAPHICS: We already know that the PlayStation Vita is capable of some pretty impressive things visually, sadly the visuals in F1 2011 are nothing more than standard. They serve the game adequately and nothing looks particularly out of place, it’s just that we now know that the PS Vita is a capable of so much more that it feels a little bit disappointing when those expectations aren’t met. As far as handhelds go however, F1 2011 on the Vita is about as good looking as you’re going to get on the move. The previous versions on both the Nintendo 3DS and the iOS devices, aren’t anywhere near as visually impressive as this version, which isn’t anything special in itself.
The other aspect of the visuals which needs to be mentioned is that the whole game is extremely menu heavy, every aspect of the game is preceded by menus, every race is started and ends with a menu system and – eventually – you’ll find yourself sick and tired of going through menus just to get to the next race.
SOUND: The sound in F1 2011 can sometimes be rather disappointing. While the sounds of the vehicles and all the other sounds that you would expect to hear during a normal race with cars of such power are done rather realistically, there are some sounds that don’t come off too well. The most obvious of these disappointing uses of sound is with the pit manager that talks to you mostly during the times when you’re not driving (although he does yammer on quite a bit when you’re driving too; not distracting in the slightest). The pit manager will let you know who’s currently going out on another qualifying lap, or if they’ve come back with a decent time or not, and it’s when the pit manager is saying the names, or telling you for the thousandth time that “you’re in P1″ that it starts to get a little bit annoying rather quickly.
The rest of the sounds within the game are done fairly well, although naturally everything sounds much better when listened to through headphones. The cars themselves, the main reason people will play a game based around the sport of F1, sound appropriately powerful and help maintain the illusion that you really are in control of an F1 car, travelling at over 200 mph around some of the toughest circuits in the world. There’s no doubt that the sound design could have been done a little better but it serves its purpose, especially considering that only the die hard F1 fans may throw up a fuss anyway.
GAMEPLAY: As you would expect from a Formula One game, a lot of the emphasis of the gameplay is placed on the actual racing; but not as much as you would expect. The main game mode is the career mode, where you create a driver and take them through three full seasons, hopefully finishing at the top of the leaderboard and walking away in first place. This is the mode that most people will be spending their time in, partly because it’s the game’s main mode but also because it takes absolutely ages to get through the full career mode. The career is split up into the aforementioned three years, which, in turn, is divided into individual Grand Prix’s (of which there are nineteen). That means that there are a hell of a lot of races for the player to take part in in order to get through their driver’s career, especially when you consider that each one of those Grand Prix’s are even further divided into practice races, qualifying races and then the actual race itself. The amount of times that you’re going to be going out onto the circuit, mostly the same one over and over again, is absolutely exhaustive.
The main problem with this is that, unless you’re a die hard fan of Formula One, you’re going to find yourself getting pretty bored with the whole racing process quite quickly. Either that or you will find yourself skipping most of the practice laps in order to jump straight into the main race itself, which could be dangerous for your career. As much as going through all the practice laps can get a little boring, they’re there for a reason; for you to actually learn the track and all the little nuances of the various twists and turns you’re going to be making as well as when you can put the pedal to the metal and just floor it down a straight section.
With all that being said about the impressive, if a little slow paced, career mode, if all you really want to do is get involved in a competitive race with other racers, with the emphasis being placed on your position in the race instead of how fast you can go around the track, there’s the standard ‘Quick Race’ mode that you’d be expecting from a game such as this. Diving into the ‘Quick Race’ will be what a lot of people are looking for, there’s nothing special about it, but if you just want a quick race then it’ll be much better than attempting anything in any of the other modes; especially Career mode.
LONGEVITY: The longevity of F1 2011 is closely tied to how long it’ll take you to complete the main career mode. There are three seasons in a full career, each of which take place over almost twenty Grand Prix’s, each of these in turn has three practice races, three qualifying races and then the main race to get through. Each of these are optional (except the main race of course) but if you want to finish with a place on the podium then you’re going to want to jump through all of the hoops that the game throws at you. Considering how competitive the sport of Formula One racing is, a lot of the bigger F1 fans are going to want to spend the majority of their time in the multiplayer mode, racing against other like-minded fans around the world and hopefully coming out on top.
VERDICT: If you’re a fan of Formula One racing and you’ve been waiting for the day when you can take your passion with you wherever you go, then you may just have found what you’re looking for with F1 2011 on the Vita; it certainly is the definitive version of the game available on any handheld device. That being said, it’s a game that is aimed squarely at fans of the sport and not at racing fans in general, the sheer amount of menus alone will bore most people that just want to get into another race as soon as possible, as will racing around the same track over and over again while you get through the practices, qualifying stages and finally, the main race itself. If you’re a fan of racing games then there are already a few games out there on the PlayStation Vita that may be more suited to your tastes, however, if you’re a Formula One fan, you may have just found the game you’ve been waiting for.