Codemasters' F1 2010 --the first Formula 1 game in almost four years --
set a lofty precedent for a follow up with its gameplay and graphics.
And F1 2011 has definitely surpassed the quality of F1 2010.
The game, which was released on September 20th, features all 24 F1 drivers from the 2011 season and includes new real-life F1 technology features like the Drag Reduction System and the KERS electronic engine boost technology. (Think of the KERS as a magic mushroom each lap.)
The graphics are spectactular, as each car is recreated in vivid detail, down to the manufacturer chassis differences.
In F1 2010, it was very easy to slam the brakes and mash the gas entering and exiting every corner and manhandle the car lap after lap. (Admittedly, this is how I drive on racing simulation video games.) That strategy is much harder this year, even with traction control enabled. A slight mistake or overcorrection can send you off course and usually into the wall.
The car also doesn't feel as planted into the track this year -- another realistic improvement. As someone who drives with a controller instead of a wheel, it was a change that took a lot of getting used to, especially coupled with the lack of traction upon acceleration. Tire wear with the different compounds is also incredibly realistic. It can be jarring to see how braking distances and grip levels are impacted when you first run a lap on a set of option tires.
But after an hour or so of practice at the various F1 circuits, I was able to run fairly competitive laps and jump into career mode, albeit not on the hardest level.
All 19 circuits are included, including the new India track, plus you can also now race with a full field of 24 cars (16 users) online. While that sounds intriguing, it may also be a little daunting given talent disparities that can often pop up during online races. (How would you like to be taken out by a backmarker out to cause a crash on the first turn of an online race?)
Overall, this is possibly the most realistic racing federation game ever created. Even if you don't know the slightest thing about Formula 1 and enjoy driving games, at least give it a look. You may be hooked.
(Note: A copy of the game was provided to Yahoo! Sports for review purposes)