Competing with the likes of WipEout 2048, Asphalt Injection and MotorStorm RC, does F1 2011 manage to grab a spot on the Vita launch podium or is it a racer you should avoid? Read on to find out.
Game: F1 2011
Developer: Sumo Digital
Fire up F1 2011 on your Vita, take a quick look at the menu and you’ll get the impression that its up there with its home console counterparts. However, on you step into the virtual cockpit and have a few laps on any track, you’ll realise it doesn’t really play anything like the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or PC versions. With it being a handheld title, that’s understandable in some respects, but Codemasters’ efforts on the home consoles have always been about replicating an authentic F1 experience and the Vita version falls short in that respect.
The handling model is more arcade than simulation, even with all the assists turned off. Unless you’re a total newcomer or know nothing about F1 whatsoever, you’ll rarely find yourself in trouble. Even though the sense of speed is decent, that feeling of being on edge whilst pushing the car to its limit (something that the home console versions did well) is very rarely replicated in the Vita version. Still, that’s not to say the cars handle terribly, far from it in fact, it’s just disappointing that Sumo Digital chose to move away from the simulation experience that served the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC versions well. The game even has all the tuning and set-up options you’d come across in its home console counterparts, which makes the decision to shift to a more arcade feel slightly strange.
Controls, especially the default set-up, might pose another slight issue for some, with accelerate, brake, KERS and DRS all assigned to one of the face buttons. This, of course, means if you want to make use of KERS or DRS, you’ll need to lift off the accelerate button, an action which is particularly ideal. Thankfully, you can choose from several control schemes, which helps negate this issue, but it’s slightly baffling as to why Sumo Digital chose to have this set-up as the default. That slight issue aside, the controls shouldn’t pose you much of a problem, although it might take some people a couple of practice sessions to get used to guiding the car around using the Vita’s analog stick. It’s also nice to see that, like Asphalt Injection, F1 2011 makes use of the Vita’s rear touch pad to change gears. Whilst it this feature might not compliment the nature of the gameplay, it’s still a welcome addition to the game.
Content wise, there’s plenty to do in F1 2011 on the Vita. If you’re a fan of the sport and get the Vita version’s gameplay, you’ll be certainly be playing this title for a while. Almost all the modes from the home console versions make the transition to the Vita, however the three-season based career mode is missing the “live the life” presentation that gave races a more authentic feel. In addition to the usual modes, the Vita version boasts a platform specific Challenge mode. Here you’re tasked with completing a variety of bite-sized events, including overtaking a set number of cars. Depending on how well you do, the game awards you with a grade (A, B or C), but you’re never told what the criteria for each grade is. Even with that slight issue in mind, some of these challenges are fun, offering a nice change of pace from the stresses of actual races. Multiplayer modes are also present, with both Ad-hoc and network mode allowing you to play with a maximum of four players. That number is notably less than the home console versions, but understandable when you take into consideration the platform.
Taking into account the power of the Vita, F1 2011 is very underwhelming from a visual standpoint. Car models and track are represented well, but textures (especially the liveries) are very blurry. It looks more like a high end PSP title than a brand new Vita game, as it doesn’t make use of Sony’s new handheld well at all. Dips in frame rate are also very much apparent (on some tracks more than others), doing a disservice to the game’s sense of speed, which is otherwise very good. The sound of the F1 cars is quite impressive though, matching up to the home console versions very well.
As far as first efforts go, Sumo Digital has done a decent enough job in bringing F1 2011 over from the home consoles to the Vita. Sadly, the transition has resulted in the game losing some of what made the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC versions so compelling. Despite the handling model being decent, that feeling of pushing a F1 car to its limits whilst being on edge is missing. The visuals are also very disappointing, not making the best use of the Vita’s power. That said, there’s plenty of content on offer, including a three-season career mode and a fun, Vita specific Challenge mode. If you’re a fan of the sport and need a dose of F1 action on your Vita, then F1 2011 is a worth a look. Just don’t expecting the same experience you had your PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or PC.