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Rich colors, smooth textures and an almost cartoony appearance gives Formula 1 Arcade a unique guise. Not Ridge Racer, more an Actua Golf 2 look, strange as that would seem. This mode could never be accused of being a simulation, more a out and out, tear-arse, cut-corner, smash-your-opponent-to-oblivion racing thrash and the appearance suits the purpose.

There are plenty of amazing effects to enjoy from the tyre marks that burn into the tarmac (and remain there for the entire race) and the sparks that spit from your engine, to the spectacular collisions which on one occasion lifted my car high into the air, over the barrier, only to land in the pit lane.

If there's one complaint I have with Arcade mode, it's the lack of feeling any real speed. It's not sluggish by any means and everything appears to be moving at a fair old frame rate, it's just that travelling along the long straights of Hockenheim at 120mph feels the same as covering the same ground at over 200mph. Perhaps it only lacks the feeling of acceleration. Against that, it's probably fast enough for younger players, especially when you reach the more demanding circuits, therefore we speed freaks will have to settle for the more adventurous Grand Prix mode.

Sounds and Effects

Screaming engines backed by a selection of rock soundtracks that combine synthesizers, guitars and drums to provide an up-tempo beat at a pace that gets the adrenaline pumping.

Entering the sound option screen brings up a tasty looking CD player where a every conceivable effect can be tampered with, track selection, style, sound effects and commentary. F1 '97 can be programmed for Mono, Stereo, Q Sound or Dolby Surround.
There are two types of commentary available in Arcade mode. Murray Walker will respond to every single mishap by stating the obvious with quips such as 'He's into the barriers' and 'He obviously mis-timed his braking and ended up colliding with the car in front'. Come on Murray, this is arcade racing. There is also an Arcade commentator who screams out a selection of one liners such as 'Hey, watch it pal!', 'Did you get his licence number' and ' That sucks! Wipeout!' Thankfully this idiot can be switched off completely. Be grateful for small mercies.


So far we have determined that Arcade appears with a fresh new look. So how does it play? Let's find out.

Selection of Arcade mode brings forward another menu screen where you may select to enter an Arcade competition or test your speed in Time Attack mode.

Time Attack is an arcade style race with no other drivers in which you simply race against the clock and attempt to beat your previous lap times. There are three difficulty levels which are divided into groups of five racing circuits.

An Arcade competition features a style of racing that allows you to simply pick up and play. The cars are more robust and easier to handle than GP mode and you are racing against the clock as well as other drivers. A clock counts down from the centre of the screen with extensions awarded for good checkpoint and lap times.

Similar to Time Attack there are three difficulty levels. The first group includes circuits that are recognized by their long straights and high speeds which are Hockenheim, Silverstone, Imola, Barcelona and Montreal. The medium section includes Estoril, Nürburgring, Hungaroring, Magna Cours and Monza. The most difficult tracks are deemed to be Suzuka, Buenos Aires, Interlagos and Jerez. To progress within each section you must finish in the top six where points are awarded from ten down to one. The remaining three circuits are hidden within a fourth section titled Epic. To gain access to these sections a player must amass enough race points in the 3 other sections. Finish first on each circuit and you will begin to reveal bonus tracks.

There are eleven cars to select from, one from each constructor. Every car has different handling which is displayed in a bar format denoting the amount of speed, grip, acceleration and braking capacities. Gears may be selected to be automatic or manual.

A final option screen allows you to calibrate the Analog control pad, save your progress to a memory card, set up the CD player and screen. Finally it's time to race. Phew!

Starting from the back of the grid you get a three second countdown, which is just enough time to check out the on-screen info. Race position, best time, lap time, lap number/remaining laps, rev counter, gears and speedometer. Yep, nothing missing this time.

As you scream down the opening straight everything appears in order. Here comes the first corner, I'll just give the brakes a little nudge... Weeeeey! Powerslides! Not only that but you don't even have to time them. Just hit that brake and away you go, cutting corners and sliding sideways through chicanes. When overtaking an opponent just clip his rear tyre and watch him cartwheel down the track before dusting himself down and charging straight back into the action. It's like a scene from a James Bond movie. Although Arcade mode is not to be taken too seriously it will still provide a stern test to win each race to unlock the secret tracks. Pure arcade, pure fun.

Arcade mode can also be played in the all new two player split-screen mode. This can be viewed either horizontally or vertically and will surely add to the lastability of the game. Unfortunately the two player game only includes a head to head mode and as there is no catch up option you will find that you will probably complete an entire race before you see each other again. That is, unless your equally matched.

Value for Money

How many other arcade racers offer 18 circuits, 22 drivers, 11 cars, Time Attack, Arcade Competition, 2 player split-screen and not forgetting to mention the bonus and secret tracks?

Most people will buy Formula 1 '97 for the Grand Prix mode, but if that option proves too stern a challenge then you will not be disappointed with the amount of gameplay included in Arcade mode.

Value for money? You bet!





Most of my time will be spent playing GP mode but the kids will love Arcade mode. Don't be fooled into thinking that this will be easy to complete, as it will still take a fair amount of skill to finish each course in the allowed time. The two player split screen is more suitable to this mode as you will have great fun smashing each other off the track, but a catch-up would have been nice.








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