F1 2011 3DS review
- F1 2011
Made2Game F1 2011 3DS review score: 8/10
Format reviewed: 3DS
Developer: Sumo Digital
F1 2011 3DS is the best driving game on a handheld platform that I have ever played. As a racing game however, it’s pretty poor and in some ways actually broken.
What Sumo have got right is the feel of driving. The physics, the handling and the controls are all the finest we’ve experienced on a handheld console. They’re not up to the standard you’d expect from a home console but for the first time they are within spitting distance of the big boys. Driving a hot lap at full tilt around one of the 19 official F1 tracks gives you the feeling that you are right on the edge of control, and if you can hold it together it’s going to be a fantastic lap, but one false move and you’ll have lost seconds from your lap time.
How does F1 2011 3DS manage to do this? The 3DS doesn’t have sprung trigger buttons for an accurate-feeling and sensitive throttle and brakes, and the default control layout is pain-inducing for adult hands. Quite simply, they cheat. Despite having the option to turn on or off driver aids like throttle and brake assists, turning them off doesn’t actually give you full control over the throttle and brake.
No matter how hard you hold down the accelerator button (which you should change to one of the shoulder buttons to reduce, though not eliminate, the threat of hand cramp), when you turn hard your revs drop, preventing you from spinning off. Likewise, slam the brakes on full at over 200 mph and rather than lock up your wheels and start to spin majestically off the track, you’ll find some sort of magic ABS system is still in place to protect you.
Once you realise that the game is cheating it does make you feel a little cheap, but when you think about it what else could they do with the hardware in your hands? It’s a pretty clever solution and one that to a great extent works and tricks you into giving the game engine more credit than it probably deserves.
Weak ends at Bernie's
Hot lapping feels great, and there’s a Challenge mode (which its console big brother didn’t have) that will delight anybody who enjoys driving around cones or arcade ‘time-gate’ races, and there are also race-specific challenges such as finishing a race in the points on slick tyres after it has started to rain. Pretty much anytime you are on the track on your own all is good. The music is average, the graphics are disappointingly jaggied but otherwise okay (although Monaco in particular looks a bit N64-ish), the touch screen isn’t used at all, and the 3D isn’t aside from when you’re on the track - even the opening cinematic is in 2D.
When 3D is used it works well on the car but the tracks still seem quite flat. Also, some views break the 3D effect. For example, the far chase camera makes the back of the F1 car a blurry mess in the middle of your vision. The in cockpit view is much better if you’re going to keep the 3D turned on but again the 3D gets bust up by some of the on-screen info graphics clashing with bits of the car.
The AI of your opponents is very poor. On some tracks the other cars simply can’t drive around the track properly and generally the whole field race around together in one messy lump, which makes the frame rate drop when you get mixed up in it. It looks like a primary school football game, all the players moving around the field in one group jostling and bumping into each other. And if you do get involved and you have penalties turned on, you will be handed a penalty.
The Career mode is mainly run via e-mail notices, some of which get quite repetitive (either that or Mark Webber is obsessed with saying he doesn’t think much of me and thinks he’ll beat me despite the fact that I’ve won the championship already). Choose your difficulty wisely at the start of your career, though, as the only way to change it is to restart the whole thing. Oh, and there isn’t any damage modeling. Your back wing gets a bit wobbly sometimes but that’s all really.
Alone in the (Albert) park
F1 2011 3DS boasts three online multiplayer modes for up to four players at a time, but I’ve only spotted two other people online. Ever. I tried a lot. A LOT. The one complete race I managed to get through ran really smoothly and provided a really good competitive race, so possibly if you have some friends who have the game and can organize being online at the same time it could be fun, but if my experience is anything to go by, don’t be relying on finding random online people to play with. Oh and you have to know how many people you are playing with before you start playing - choose to set up a four-player lobby and the game won’t start until you get four people.
This all sounds a bit negative and some other reviewers have been very down on F1 2011 3DS, which is understandable with how broken some elements are. But, it really is the best feeling driving game on a portable device I’ve ever played and it is very enjoyable. It just isn’t going to satisfy that racing itch you probably have. You might have to find something a bit more… Karty to satisfy that.
Words by Simon Downs (Twitter: @SDDowns)
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