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Another day... another Formula 1 racing game, or so it seems to be recently. Hot on the heels of UbiSoft's impressive Monaco Grand Prix Racing, Psygnosis' return to glory Formula 1 '99 and Eidos' blunderful F1 World GP, comes a new runner in the Grand Prix stakes, F1 2000.
I must admit at being amazed to see EA Sports enter the F1 arena, but not entirely surprised. After all they have taken on board most other sports and succeeded in almost all, be it soccer, golf, ice hockey, basketball, cricket, football, boxing, rugby (soon), NASCAR and recently superbikes. But what have they to gain by recreating the very same tried and tested circuits? More importantly what do they stand to lose should they gaff?
Perish the thought! EA Sports appear to have thrown every resource into making sure that F1 2000 succeeds. And you know what? They may just have done that. For starters this is will be the first F1 game to feature the brand new 2000 season. Officially licensed from the Formula One Administration Limited, it features real drivers, teams, cars and tracks from the 2000 FIA Formula One World Championship and uniquely it will be available at the start of the brand new season. This is a massive plus as for the first time, players will be able to play along from the beginning of the real life season as the drama unfolds.
For those who have been in a coma for the last few decades the annual F1 World Championship intoxicates a worldwide audience of billions, with its cocktail of speed, danger, glamour and rivalry. Sport's most exotic show has made household names of its mega-star drivers and front-page news of their glamorous life-styles. With the last four years championships, going 'down to the wire' with a final race decider, Formula One has never been so hotly contested and so closely followed. And with the price of success getting ever higher, only a team commanding a nine figure budget and the finest talents in the world, stand a chance of basking in the glory at the pinnacle of world motorsport.
Sound and Vision:
From the front end to the finish line it is plain to see that EA Sports are onto a winner when it comes down to looks. The graphics in F1 2000 are exceptional. The game opens with a full-blooded FMV that captures all the adrenaline and excitement of the sport of motor racing in a matter of moments. The live action segments have been crafted, rather than thrown together, and backed by a mesmerizing classical soundtrack that draws you into a hypnotic trance. Of course we have all seen these laden intros wither away and fail to bear fruit. But the further you are drawn into F1 2000, the better it seems to get.
All 17 tracks that make up the 2000 Formula 1 racing season are remarkably realistic, capturing every straight, corner and bump of the actual circuits. From the ever-popular streets and tunnels of Monte Carlo to the new Indianapolis circuit, all of the grandstands, advertising hoarding, even cities on the horizon have been carefully recreated.
There are five selectable viewing angles ranging from first person to above and behind vehicle. What is immediately noticeable from the out of car view is how realistic the vehicle looks. Everything from the deep groves in the tyre grips, right through to the team logos and coloring has been perfectly replicated. The in-car view shows the drivers hands steering frantically at the wheel, although the dashboard sadly has no working parts. Regular updates of race position, lap times, gap times, speed and gear shift appear on screen in whichever viewing angle you choose.
Weather effects are remarkably realistic, which range from bright skies to overcast and rain. On wet circuits the glow from the rear of the car reflects across the shiny surface, while spray from the car in front is visibly lifted and thrown back into your drivers face. On the grid at the start of a race the heat from the engine actually distorts the view presenting a wavy heat haze through the center of the vehicle. Accidents are usually spectacular with heavy smashes displacing section of the car onto the track and even removing a wheel. Limping back to the pits in such a state is not only a chore but also highly embarrassing.
There is a two-player mode and the good news is that CPU controlled cars also take part. There may only be two of them, but at least it raises the challenge and gives the opportunity to pass a few vehicles... or indeed be passed yourself. Obviously the graphics are slightly grainy to compensate, but the frame rate stays at a healthy pace.
What would a Formula 1 racing game be without the excitable tones of the one and only Murray Walker? Not as bad as you would think actually. Pre-race introductions come from real life TV presenters such as Jim Rosenthal (UK), Jean-Louis Moncet (France), Kai Ebel (Germany) and Ivan Cappelli (Italy). During the race all you can hear are the realistic engine noises and voices from the pit-crew relaying key information about the state of your car and racing strategy. And it works!
Music between the levels is straight out of the top drawer with a catchy vocal from Placebo entitled 'Every You, Every Me' and the highly addictive 'Phat Planet' from Leftfield. So far, so good.
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