Upon firing up F1 2011 for the first time you’re greeted with an exciting video of what’s to come – beautiful machines built for nothing but speed dicing it up on some of the most picturesque and storied racetracks in the world; drivers experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat; the frenzied activity in the paddock as engineers ready the cars and the media swarms the heroes who pilot them.
Then you actually jump into your virtual car and realize it looks nothing like that incredible video. What you just witnessed was in-game footage of the 360/PS3 version of F1 2011. What you’re playing is a stripped down version of what you saw, featuring low-poly models, low-res liveries, and none of the pageantry surrounding each event that exists in the console game.
None of this is to say that F1 2011 on the Vita is a bad game. It just strikes me as odd that those making the game would choose to highlight the game’s visual shortcomings right at the outset. Even if you enjoy the game for what it is, there will always be that reminder of what it was.
With all that out of the way, though, it has to be said that F1 2011 on the Vita is a pretty solid game. Car control is spot on, if a bit on the arcadey side. Sliding the rear through the odd tight turn is not a bad thing in this game, and honestly feels like it’s pretty much required to get a good time on some of the tracks you visit.
Likewise, you’ll be dealing with a lot of contact with other cars, due mostly to the fact that the AI here is really not all that good. Competitors tend to brake extremely early for the most gradual of bends even if you have the difficulty set to maximum. They also seem to have a particular problem navigating the tighter courses in the game, like Monaco. Especially when they’re bunched together.
The net result is that those looking for a full sim experience here are going to be disappointed. Ramming into the back of the car ahead will become the norm for even the most seasoned of racers, meaning you’ll want to leave the damage options turned off. The best way to victory is through aggressive, off-line passing maneuvers, which means contact is pretty much inevitable.
If you’re looking for a more casual racer with a ton of options, though, F1’s got you covered. Every car, driver and track from the 2011 season is present. And you can choose to run single races, full grand prix weekends (including all practice rounds and F1’s unique, knock-out style qualifying process), a full season, or even a career mode where you work your way through the various teams on the grid as you attempt to become the next Sebastian Vettel. Plus there are a decent amount of setup options to fiddle around with if you’re so inclined.
Formula 1 racing has been approaching the realm of video games for a while now, what with the DRS passing zones and KERS boost system bringing some excitement and strategy back to the sport, and F1 2011 on the Vita captures that excitement admirably. It’s just a shame that the technical side and human element aren’t captured in this game like they are on the PS3 and 360.