Don’t tell me Rubens Barrichello is still turning up



F1 2011 (2011)

It may perhaps have skipped your notice, but there’s a big football tournament going on at the moment known as the World Cup, although it doesn’t feature every team in the world and the trophy isn’t even classed as a cup (and to be classed as a cup, you’ve got to be able to drink champagne out of it).

You may hate this cavalcade of football, or soccer if you prefer, as much as all other sports, and you may find yourself annoyed that it’s been taking over popular culture and all of your news feeds. And you’ll doubtless be even more annoyed that you’re now beginning to actually learn of obnoxious players, soulless teams and shameful incidents through cultural osmosis. Right?

Well, your apathy towards sport may be where we differ, and it may well be tough for the two of us to now build a solid rapport after suffering this early blow, but I suppose I must accept that not all men are into all sports – we live in a ‘metrosexual’ society now, or so my more simpering female friends tell me when I swiftly try to insult desperately skinny men for their pointy shoes and “dainty” manbags. I just thought it was something that I had to do as a man, an obligation of sorts characteristic of my gender, but apparently I’m now regarded as an oaf for this. The more you know!

Regardless of all of my intolerance, if you’re not into football, then maybe something else tickles your manbits. You could be a rugby man, you could be a gridiron man, you might even be a man of the horrifically barbaric sports we have here in Ireland. You might be nothing at all.

Or you might be something that we really do not see a lot of – a Formula One man. Or woman. Look, I know there’s no-one out there reading this, but it’s important to be inclusive. If you actually deigned to click on this article, you’ll have noticed that even the two word title, “F1 2011”, committed two major fauxs-passes.

Firstly, it’s a sports game, which no self-respecting gamer would play. They’re the kind of garbage that you get lumbered with when you try to buy a console bundle off a two-bit online merchant website, or when you look at job lots of games on eBay and see one actual good game alongside three or four bits of clag, with the price driven right up as a result.

And secondly, Formula One’s not even a common sport that you can at least have some engagement with. Actually, have a third fox pass on me – this game I have is not even up to date, which really lets you, the reader, down if anything. It’s three years off the pace, and in Formula One terms that’s the Ice Age. From me, it’s a sloppy effort all round. Can’t I get anything right, you ask? But it had occurred to me that I haven’t bought myself a new game since we lost MH370, and I’m both into racing games and Formula One, so I thought “why not give this one a bash?”.

Okay, I say I’m into Formula One, but I want you to be perfectly aware that my name is not Clive. Nor is it Adrian, Jeremy, Sheridan, Nigel, Malcolm or Gareth. And if any of you reading do share any of these names, well I’m very sorry to you, but best of luck with the trainspotting. I like the sport probably because it reminds me of how desperately inadequate I am as a person, the engines sound cool (or at least they used to), the tracks and locales look great, there’s occasionally grid girls, there can be spectacular crashes and sometimes drivers give the finger to each other.

What more do you need? Why watch millionaires kick or throw a ball around when I can watch millionaires go at mega speed and cheat death? Although Formula One is a bit too safe these days, with it being over 20 years now since the last fatality, which is… well, better not keep on that route.

The fact is, I enjoy racing games. And I especially adore racing games where you go very fast indeed. Further still, I really lap up games where you go very fast but need immense concentration so as not to spin out and explode in a hellacious ball of fire, slaughtering yourself and about seven others – a total death race. So you’d think this effort would be heavenly for me.

And it is, with a total of 12 teams of 2 drivers each, all battling it out over 19 perfectly modelled tracks of the 2011 F1 season. No Murray Walker on commentary unfortunately, or even David Coulthard (or James Hunt, although we’d need to bring a well-spoken impersonator in for poor double-end-candle-burner Hunt the Shunt, wouldn’t we), but you do have an insistent fop technician in your ear all the time, who grates quickly – but at least you’ll bashfully giggle to yourself at defying his desperate pleas for you to strut on into the pits.

Belt through a 19 race Season in Career Mode (and you will belt through it, until you ramp the difficulty up to nigh-unbeatable levels), avoid cutting corners, and avoid crashing into your slovenly teammate who is seemingly actively out to get you – in my case, a geriatric Rubens Barrichello.

The AI of the other racers is decent enough, which is a start. They are at least aware of your presence on the track, putting it a far sight from Gran Turismo 5’s efforts. But they can sometimes fall asleep in their cockpit or sneeze or go into a coughing fit or something and just throw their cars into yours from the side, in some sort of aggressive statement of intent.

What makes this worse is that the penalty programming is a little bit iffy; probably more than half the time, you suffer a ten second peno for ‘Causing a Collision’ even if it’s someone else just veering into you as you take the ideal racing line. This racetrack fascism puts you at a disadvantage for something not even close to being your fault, doubly so if you need to take a pit stop immediately afterwards to let Adrian and Colin fix your car. The crashes themselves do look pretty swell though, with car debris excitingly becoming strewn about the track like confetti, although way cool air-time can be a rare thing.

The corner cutting warnings can be a bit topsy-turvy as well; sometimes you can cut the rump off a chicane and get away with it, other times you get done for barely going over the wee red-and-white kerb covers (known as rumble strips, don’t you know). But it can be fun trying to push the game’s boundaries like this, so I don’t look at that as a fault – I may be a hopeless cynic, but I do love a bit of sneaky cheating as well.

There was an online mode, but I arrived way too late to the party for that. In any case, online play is where you don’t want to be, because there you have to interact with real people. And you’ll inevitably be matched up against the Clives and the Geoffreys, who’ll immediately report you to PSN or XBox Live for you giving their car a friendly shunt in the name of camaraderie or for having the wrong engine noise or something.

Even having read this piece, you are not going to buy this game. Christ, I wouldn’t expect anyone to. If you’re actually into the sport, chances are, you’ll have it already, or one of its identical brothers. But the thing about these yearly releases is that usually one instalment does you per console. If you want a racing game with little nonsense, great accidents, realistic settings and intense speed though, why not?

06 July 2014

One thought on “Don’t tell me Rubens Barrichello is still turning up

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