Formula One 2001
Review of Formula One 2001
I can remember that crispy, Friday, September morning in 96 when the first Playstation Formula 1 game was released as clear as I recall the moon landing. Following a massive PR campaign it didnt take a rocket scientist to immediately spot the huge stride that had been made from previous console racing creations. It had everything a Formula One fan dared fantasize about (minus the bugs). Named drivers from the previous FIA F1 World Championship. Accurate team colors and motifs. All 17 Grand Prix circuits (the best we had at the time was an extended single Ridge Racer track). Accurate TV style commentary. You could even link up with a mate to take on all the cream of F1.
One small step for Psygnosis… one giant leap for Murray Walkers bank balance..!
Every year since then we have been subjected to a new and improved version, although it is my opinion that none have notched their mark in history like the first (even though the 98 Visual Sciences version bore remarkable similarities to The Black Death).
So 2001 brings not only a new racing season, but also the next generation of gaming consoles. However, under the big question mark lies the ultimate point of issue…. more Moon dust… or has man finally reached Mars?
A TV style intro provides the corridor towards the detailed set-up screens where we discover just how intricate the new F1 engine can be. On our journey we pass by the doorways shielding the usual game types and options (check Features) and only raise an eyebrow by the strange inclusion offering the choice to spectate a season. Now why anyone would want to pay out good cash to watch a fantasy F1 race beats the Hell out of me…? Regardless, all the teams and drivers seem present and correct, so no more Williams Driver No.1 to contend with.
Before play you must make a decision over what should be a relatively simple question… how demanding do you want the game to be? There are four difficulty levels, several driving assists and a car set-up screen that may turn out to be too complicated for the many, while pleasing the few (more later).
For those who wish to just jump in and go a basic Quick Race proves to be the arcade equivalent. Sadly there are no knockout challenges, link-up or split screen seasons. All you get is a solitary race of varied length against 6 CPU competitors in two-player split mode, or full 22 grid as a single player game. In this mode I heartily recommend the use of driving aids, especially the traction control. Failing to make use of this extra grip your car probably wont see out a lap without pirouetting and cart-wheeling several times… even when avoiding other vehicles or misjudging the tight bends. After thrashing around half a dozen of the already well known circuits (unless youre a newbie) it quickly becomes apparent that there is little to retain your flagging interest, so apart from the occasional split screen trouncing of your mate this mode soon becomes redundant.
Time Attack mode may have some use when a crowd gets together at your house because up to 16 players may be named to take part in a speed contest. There is also a challenge mode involving clocking the fastest time around the Belgium Spa circuit and then recording your given time code on the official Formula One web site for posterity.
This leaves Test Drive and World Championship modes, which appear to go hand I hand. Make your own mind up on this, but what you seem to be given is a high powered racing car so out of tune that it could easily be a Spice Girls record. There will be no jumping straight into a full World Championship and collecting maximum points this time (unless you switch off all wear and damage, turn on all assists and only use the easiest difficulty setting… but wheres the challenge in that?). Oh no… you must first spend hours tweaking and tuning EACH vehicle for EVERY circuit and then trying it out in Test Drive mode. You can, if you wish, take care of all tweaking during the 5 test periods of a race weekend but that time is best kept for practicing braking and accelerating points of your new set-up. Because the cars are so out of tune when you first get into them this kind of leaves you with a Rubiks Cube puzzle to solve just to have any sort of control over the car. I can just imagine SCE Liverpool saying… Heres the tools, now get on with finishing the development. I cannot make my mind up whether this is just lazy programming or a fine idea for a true racing simulation? After all, you cannot imagine Ferrari or Williams buying in a fully tuned racing car. All I can say is that the first few days play proved very frustrating and I can imagine many gamers not sticking this out. So you decide! Im just warning you.
Graphically the game looks fine, although we were surprised that the jagged edges noticeable at last years E3 demonstration remain present and uncorrected. Car models remain detailed and realistic, while every bump and twist of the circuits has again been captured meticulously. Apparently a new physics-and-dynamics model was created to provide realistic crashes therefore contact with another racer really does cause parts to fly, leaving pieces strewn across the track. Should you slam into a barrier the car will literally be demolished, with body pieces and car parts launching spectacularly across the track.
A fair grumble would be the lack of viewing angles with the highest of the three available making judgment of upcoming corners very difficult, especially those without barriers. In fact the difference between last years Playstation 1 game and this PS2 version is not as great as you would have hoped and comparing the visuals to EAs detailed and smooth F1 on PS2… well they dont even come close.
Finally the sound effects are awesome. Theres the roar of 22 engines leaving the grid, jockeying for position and then the screeching of brakes as you reach the early arrival of the first corner. The crowd cheers, cars crunch together, while the pitch and volume of the summarizers gets higher as the tension mounts. Murray Walker and Martin Brundle again provide commentary for a dual opinion of the racing action. However this time its not so constant, which is fine by me because scathing repetitive remarks when constantly clipping the side barriers can quickly cause a fuse to blow.
In summary… we can orbit Mars… but have yet land to on it.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Formula One 2001' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Martin © Absolute PlayStation
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