F1 2011 Vita Review
F1 on the go has been pretty much non-existing, until now. Codemasters took second row in the production of F1 2011 for Vita, leaving the dirty bit to Sumo Digital. Sumo is most known for F1 2009 PSP, the one that broke the silence, and the 3DS version of the game we’re reviewing today. Does F1 2011 fully utilize the Vita’s new hardware capabilities to skyrocket to pole position? Or is racing on a portable device still a myth? We’re about to find out.
Unlike it’s bigger console brothers, F1 2011 Vita features a systematically menu with little going on besides the occasional change of background. What matters most though is what’s printed over those images, and it’s quite a lot. F1 2011 let’s you race in all the modes we’ve come to expect from the series, including: career mode, championship, challenges and co-op. Multiplayer is in up to 4 players in simple races or team battles (i.e. Ferrari vs Mclaren). At the moment activity isn’t particularly blooming, but the few races we did participate in all worked extremely well.
Also different on the Vita is challenge mode. Contradicting the push for realistic scenarios, here you’ll face mostly arcade styled mini-games like breaking moving billboards or reaching as many checkpoints as possible. They’re surprisingly fun to do and can prove quite the party trick when battling out with mates for the top spot.
Career mode is also present and it looks very similar to F1 2009′s adoption. You start out a rookie driver with a single test for Lotus and HRT (no virgin surprisingly). A good test will land you a racing seat, while a bad performance sends you packing. When you do score a contract, you’ll learn that your career lasts a puny three years only, but they don’t tell you that in the beginning of course. News and contract offers come in on the laptop and that’s all said really. Live the life and Q&As haven’t made the jump over, but that okay. I appreciate the fact that the reputation system isn’t broken down in levels, as a result it’s actually more realistic than the PC version, although I did jump from unproven to racing legend within the first 5 GPs of my career – odd.
You’re obviously wondering how it drives, are all the modes discussed so far actually worth playing? If anything the game begins promising. In garage you can change the setup of the car to great extend, even altering the wings from 0 to 100% front and back. You can also view the session to see how your rivals are doing. That’s something we really missed in the PC version of the game.
Once the action gets underway however, it doesn’t take long to notice the first problem: DRS. The four available control schemes are set in a way to make use of the system particularly difficult. First of all you need to keep the button pressed at all times, which is a hassle. Secondly it’s assigned to triangle meaning you need to take your finger off the gas to use it, bringing the car to a complete stop rather than improving top speed. Doesn’t make sense does it?
F1 2011 Vita is an arcade racer and doesn’t claim differently. Driving these cars (even without aids) feels like in a rocket ship; stable and insanely fast. Even without altering the setup, I managed to crack a 1:19 around Barcelona, beating the track record and earning myself a shiny gold trophy to share with all my friends. Hint: 0. I still managed competitive times with my wing broken and tires on yellow, so confirmed it’s not a realistic game. Realism aside though, the rocket ship is actually very enjoyable to drive. Pushing these things to the limit can result in quite the exciting moments and twitches.
The real issue doesn’t present itself until a little later; here it goes. The absolute, clearest, biggest problem by far of F1 2011 is the speed of the AI drivers. The computer drivers are between 2-8 seconds too slow on the hardest difficulty (no aids). As a result, most races become quite the “Vettel”, lonely and long at the head of the field. Talking about Sebastian, his team Red Bull is consequently at the front of the grid, but surrounded by all kinds of teams. HRT, Lotus and Virgin can all score points in this game, the difference between the teams is marginal if at all present. Shooting away from the grid every single race, and to see Trulli and Barrichello on the podium is a sure way to disappoint any F1 fan.
But does it look good? The PlayStation Vita has produced quite a few good-looking games on launch day already; unfortunately F1 2011 isn’t one of them. The most obvious graphical feature is the extreme use of the ‘bloom effect’. Bloom is the difference between light in a scene and the way light reflects from objects. On curtain tracks, Instanbul especially, the cars appear to illuminate. Behind the wheel things don’t fare much better. The low-resolution texture from the cars and confusingly small steering wheel don’t add to the feeling of immersion. The pre-session presentation doesn’t bode much better in that respect. It’s like Sumo Digital decided to take the DS version and release it on Vita, without making any use of the device’s additional power. A statement that can be supported by the lack of compatibility for Vita’s many control mechanisms – limited touch screen controls being the prime one.
Sound-wise the engines all sound the same with a hefty downshifting noise added to increase the authenticity while driving. They do a proper job in reproducing the engine of an F1 car.
Somewhere things went horribly wrong with F1 2011 for Vita and I think I know where that is. Everything points at this being a direct port from the DS version of the game, which is awful because Nintendo’s console can’t compare to Vita in any way. I’m very heavy hearted about F1 2011 Vita because it has quite the potential. But when you’re playing along it’s just too obvious that this game hasn’t been designed with Vita in mind. Odds are you just opted for this fast but expensive little black device, but you can’t use all the toys on it because the game doesn’t support any. The only conclusion being: you’ve invested in lacking software. Therefore we can’t give F1 2011 a high score, there’s just too much untapped potential here to make it worth the purchase.
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