All the official teams, logos, drivers, tracks and sponsors are here, as well as all the licenses. The gameplay is decent at times and the features are pretty cool, you could say this is a slimmed down version of the PS3/XBox 360 big brother. You could, but I wouldn’t as this 3DS version is not as good. Having said that, for a handheld racing game, this is a pretty fun effort and the online multiplayer also helps to increase the time you will spend with it.
You begin by creating a profile, this includes your name, country and helmet type, and once this is done, you can begin the game. The different modes are vast and begin with Quick Race, which allows you to just jump in and using the bottom screen to tap on a random driver and random track to race on. Next up, is Time Trial, where you choose a team, then driver and then track to drive around and beat the lap record. This is followed by the Grand Prix mode, where you can again choose all the above but this time you can have an entire race weekend, meaning Friday practice session 1 and 2, Saturday practice session and qualifying followed by the race.
There are also different modes including the Championship mode where you can choose all the normal options for driving aids and then play through an entire championship season. The most interesting mode, is the Career mode where you first have to choose a lower team such as HRT or Lotus and then play through three seasons where you move up the reputation lists and finally drive for one of the big teams. This is done pretty well as you can move time forward to race day or take part in the full race weekend. You can also tinker with your car and undertake test laps and see how the changes have affected lap times. This is a gearhead’s dream, as every option you could think of is here. During Career mode you can view your mails via your laptop and view upcoming events on the calendar. The menu design is smooth and the music is a nice rock/pop accompaniment.
The controls are pretty easy but sometimes can be uncomfortable; I think a little bit more testing is needed here. Steering is via the circle pad or the D-pad, accelerate is A, brake is B, K.E.R.S is X and opening the rear wing is Y. You can also shift via the left and right shoulder buttons. During driving, it’s hard to press accelerate at the same time as the K.E.R.S button to get a boost. The steering is also hard to begin with as it’s quite sensitive, but after some practice you will master it (to be fair you can increase or decrease the sensitivity via the options). The biggest problem in driving, however, are your AI competators, they are just dump, sometimes driving on the correct line and other times just driving into you. And the weird thing is, when this happens you incur the drive through penalty.
Also be prepared to have a lot of penalties, as its very easy to get them. Your team will tell you over the radio when you get one, but still it’s too easy to get penalized even on the beginner setting. As you move up the difficulty ratings the game gets very hard very quick, so be prepared for a hell of a challenge. The graphics are decent looking for a handheld, once the 3D slider is up you really see the difference as your car suddenly becomes fleshed out and looks rather nice, generally the environments look average, but sometimes they are very blocky. I can understand this though, as the processor in the 3DS may not be able handle such detailed graphics. The frame rate is also a problem when you have the 3D on as it sometimes gets choppy, but mostly it’s smooth. The crash mechanics are also not that good as pieces of your car don’t fly off, and while your wheels bend you don’t see the carnage you do in real life. Tyre wear does decrease your speed over the course of the lap though.
The music is very nice, with the engine growling like the beast it is and calming down durking braking. The noise of the car going over the different surfaces also makes a pleasing sound. The in-game menus and laptop moments also have pleasing tunes to go along with them. One good feature about this 3DS version are the Challenge mode, in which you have to undertake various missions such as drive through the lap avoiding obstacles, or reach the checkpoints with a decreasing amount of time. Along with the online multiplayer, these modes dramatically increase the lifetime of this title.
Overall, F1 2011 for the 3DS is a good attempt to port over a bigger game to a smaller handheld system. The 3D option is used very well and the driving is mostly fun. The game is sadly let down by irritating AI and some weirdly choppy frame rate issues. Fans will love this as you can have a full 2 hour race, but in all honesty who wants to race for two hours straight? The multiplayer and the challenges make this a more fun game and add life to it, but overall I can’t help thinking a lot more could have been done. Maybe next year, F1 2011 fans flock to your 3DS system.
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