PS Vita Review – F1 2011

Formula 1 racing has debuted on the PS Vita in the form of Sumo Digital’s F1 2011, but is the port worth a purchase?

With recognizable circuits, drivers and cars from the real F1 world, die hard Formula 1 fans will be pleased. The game brings with it a fully licensed stable of Formula 1 cars and every 2011 F1 team is represented including Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. The cars are even driven by recognizable names straight from the F1 world. So if you are looking for a sim racer for your Vita, and love Formula 1, you may want to check this one out.

Before jumping into a Quick Race or Career, I strongly suggest you try out the Challenges first. This is a great way to get the feel for how the F1 cars drive, and can help you decide how much you want to rely on driving aids. For true sim drivers, these aids will always be off, but for those that aren’t as skilled, they can be very useful. The aids include steering assist, ABS, anti-skid and predictive braking. The challenges give you a variety of tasks to complete, and then you are graded on how well you performed. Do well, and more challenges are unlocked. Do poorly and you’ll find yourself repeating them. With 60 challenges in all, ranging from checkpoint races to slalom style driving, these are a great way to get to know your F1 cars.

Challenge Screen

When it comes to driving, how much simulation you want is completely up to you. With all of the driving aids turned on, and the difficulty set to Beginner, just about anyone can drive these cars with very little skill. Turn off all of the aids, and set the difficulty to Expert and the game becomes an entirely different experience. Finding a happy medium somewhere in between will probably be your best choice. The game uses the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) and the DRS (Drag Reduction System) straight from the F1 world, and for full-on sim drivers, mastering these is a must in order to be competitive and win.

Career mode will have you trying out for an F1 team by driving on the track of their choice and having a target time to beat. Communications between yourself and everything Formula 1 can be found on your laptop. Once you qualify for a team, and they decide they want you, you will embark on a 3 season F1 career. Contracts are only for a year, so do well and you just might have a rival team knocking on your door. No cut scenes or interviews are shown and any off-track drama can only be found on your in-game laptop. Your laptop uses an in-game email system to give you information regarding upcoming races, comments from other drivers about previous and upcoming races, and recruitment invites, amongst other things. This is the only story telling aspect of the game, and that’s a little disappointing. No cutscenes or videos are to be found anywhere. The console version of the game used not only cutscenes, but also had an interview system where you were able to answer questions and develop somewhat of an identity in-game. Sadly that was completely left out on the Vita.

For those looking for a quick season of racing, Championship mode is for you. Choose any team and any driver to race as, and you’ll embark on a single season of racing. 19 races, that includes practice sessions and qualifying, from Melbourne to Sao Paulo. While not quite as in-depth as far as career mode, it’s still a fun experience. If you’re not looking for any commitment at all, you can just jump into a quick race and take the wheel as any driver in the game, on any track.

While the overall experience of the game will appeal to true Formula 1 fans, the game does have a few downfalls on the PS Vita. First, the touch screen of the Vita is never used. The rear touch pad is used for either accelerating or you can use it as shift paddles. Steering is by d-pad or the left analog stick only, though. No motion controls are used. Why they didn’t add in tilt steering is mind boggling. Due to the fact that the developer decided not to use the touch screen, menus can only be navigated by using the buttons and the analog stick. Why have all of this cool tech, if you’re not going to use it?

The second downfall, and possibly a deal breaker for some sim fans, are the graphics. From a distance the game looks great, but up close and personal it loses the detail and sharpness that you would expect on the 5 inch OLED screen. Cockpit views are great to drive by, as long as you can look past the not so pretty steering wheel and fuselage. Vita racer WipEout 2048 looks far better – if you put them side by side, they’d look like they were from different consoles.

The audio almost makes up for the flaws, though. To fully enjoy the game, you should play with headphones or sound cancelling ear buds. The cars all have their own sound, and the engines sound just like their real life counterpart. Hearing the engine wound up, screaming for a gear change, can be music to your ears. Diving into a corner, you can hear the tires biting down and begging for traction. The audio is crisp, loud, and everything you would want it to be.

Multiplayer has 2-4 player racing, either local ad-hoc, or online. You can choose from any of the 19 tracks and any of the available drivers. Race modes include head-to-head racing, time trial, and Constructor Face-Off. Time trial racing will have all of the racers on the track, but you’ll each be racing the clock for the fastest lap. The Constructor Face-Off is a team battle, with you and your partner pairing up to get the best combined finish. A 2nd and 3rd combined will get you the win, even if you don’t actually finish in 1st. Strategy can come in handy, so be sure to use your headsets and communicate with your mate.

Formula 1 fans should be very pleased with the game, even with its flaws, and the actual driving and handling of the cars (with the aids adjusted to your liking) does give the game a good sim feel. It’s just too bad they couldn’t have made it easier on the eyes.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ 19 tracks from real world settings

+ The cars sound real

– The graphics are not good

– No touch screen and no motion control steering used

6 out of 10