It's pretty common these days for the PC code to be largely based on the console versions, with additional effects, improved artwork and the ability to run at much higher frame-rates being the main benefit. F1 2011 is no different in this regard, and appears to be using the 360 build as its base, and then building on top of that. A 360 and PC comparison video below gives you a clear view of the upgrades on offer, while we also provide a PS3 and PC comparison vid for those interested in seeing how that version holds up.
The main benefit in switching over to the PC version comes with the ability to run at higher resolutions at sixty frames per-second, providing an experience that is both smoother and even more responsive. The subtleties in the accomplished handling mechanics are further brought to the surfaces, and you start to really appreciate the level of depth on offer. We had no trouble in doing this on our Core i5 and GTX460 set-up, with sustained performance at this level being easy outside of the replays and cut-sequences. Running at 1080p60 on max settings requires a little more grunt - we got between 40-50 FPS with the GTX460 - something more along the lines of a GTX570 would do the trick.
Elsewhere, the initial upgrades are less forthcoming, and serve as extra window dressing than a lavish boost in visual splendour. For example, the ability to ramp up edge-smoothing to 8x MSAA has less of an impact than you might expect outside of a resolution boost to 1080p - this really serves to show just how polished the 360 game looks with just 4x MSAA - although sub-pixel aliasing is reduced.
Upping the resolution however, does show the artwork and some of the visual effects in a much better light - you can see the cracks and bumps in the road texture more clearly now, while the graphical upgrades in other areas bring about an extra level of clarity boosted by the leap in pixel precision. These graphical upgrades also translate very well when playing in 720p too. The reflections on the cars and road surface are rendered in a higher resolution compared to the consoles, and motion blur is also given a higher precision implementation that results in small, but tangible difference in how motion is represented - even when running at 30FPS the PC game looks slightly smoother.
It comes as no surprise that the PC version of F1 2011 is the most visually accomplished of the three releases, and is the one to get if you've got a set-up capable of achieving a stable 60FPS - even at 30FPS it still represents a worthy upgrade over the consoles, but especially when running at 1080p, in which the extra clarity on offer is a nice bonus.
On the other hand Codemasters has taken a step back in terms of delivering a close multi-platform conversion with regards to the consoles. While PS3 owners now get identical road surface reflections and track textures, the impact on the graphical make-up of the game doesn't quite translate into a worthy trade-off. Image quality suffers greatly from the use of MLAA - which seems ill-fitted for the art style of the game - while the admirable PS3 optimisation effort present in F1 2010 has fallen way down the wayside. On the plus side, the slightly pared back effects work still look good in motion, and game is fun to play when the engine isn't having a hard time keeping up with the action.
Out of the two console SKUs, there's simply no doubt that the 360 game is the one to get this time around. The difference in image quality is instantly noticeable: there are no major issues with aliasing and the enhanced smoke and water effects appear fuller. Performance is the real clincher: the more predictable 30FPS update makes for more enjoyable experience all round. That said, the PS3 game is still playable, and is worth picking up if that's your only option - bearing in mind the excellent optimisation effort in the last game, we'd like to hope that the issues are being resolved and a new patch released. If and when that happens, we'll be sure to update.
Article by David Bierton.