F1 2011 PS Vita review
Here’s the quandary for any Formula 1 game – the sport attracts a special breed of hardcore fan so caught up in rear-blown diffuser measurements and 107% rulings that nothing short of an actual F1 car could ever sate their desires.
Appealing entirely to these superfans is madness, because for the mainstream crowd your game becomes more unwelcoming than a cuddle with Bernie Ecclestone. A good F1 game lives and dies by its ability to find the balance between convincing sim and compulsive racer, and striking that balance on a handheld platform is about ten times more difficult.
F1 2011’s PS3 version needed to lose some fat to fit into Vita’s slim trim, and generally makes cuts in the right places to deliver an accessible racer that brings immediacy and a quick-fix play style to the world’s most demanding motorsport.
There’s still the depth of a full race weekend or a three-season, 60-race career mode for those dedicated drivers that want it, but F1 2011’s challenge mode is the more enticing prospect here. Requiring just two minutes of Kobayashiesque heroism at a time, such trials task you with overtaking as many cars in one lap as possible, or hitting as many checkpoints in a time limit as your reflexes allow.
As well-judged as these bite-sized chunks of motoring are, though, you do blitz through the limited number on offer a bit too quickly. Handling feels more forgiving on the portable, giving you a few extra PSI in your brakes and a bit more bite in your tyres. It can’t be scaled up to anything like a simulation, but that’d be frustrating like playing Monopoly against Schumi.
It would be good to see Vita’s unique features exploited more imaginatively, though – KERS and DRS controls in particular have great potential for inventive touch control. However, the process of stripping down PS3-spec F1 2011’s surplus parts hasn’t been entirely for the better – oddly, the AI behaviour is now disastrous.
Neither the podiumaddicted Vettels nor the treacle-treading Trullis tried to block my advances at any point in my unprecedented, championship-winning debut season with HRT. They could no more take a defensive line or slipstream each other than grow a pair of wings and gift Red Bull the greatest moment in marketing history, which seriously compromises any aspiration to compete with non-human drivers at length.
At least there’s four-player multiplayer to alleviate the hollow AI racing. There’s an even bigger spanner in the spokes than dim-witted drivers: it looks perplexingly terrible. The tarmac’s shine and rubbering still pleases, but tracks themselves are super-low detail.
Car textures are also completely washed out, and tyres are positively octagonal. Wipeout 2048 demonstrates that Vita’s capable of cracking racer visuals, and the gap in quality between the two is shocking.
This would be a problem for any game, but for one conveying such an intensely visual spectacle, and that’s already nursing major problems, it’s calamitous like getting stuck behind Vitaly Petrov.