What is Formula One?
Under the assumption that most Americans get their vehicular racing in the form of NASCAR, it is necessary to provide a little background information, as Sony so graciously forgot to when they plopped Formula One Championship Edition into non-European territories. Formula 1 is the highest class of automobile racing on the planet; the fastest thing on four wheels on a very large course with other vehicles of its kind. The average F1 vehicle travels at around 190 miles an hour while cruising around the varied courses. That’s hot
If you, however, read that paragraph and learned absolutely nothing, then you’re undoubtedly one of the 580 million people that watch F1. If you are, then go buy this game now, because you’ll probably like it. Although some may be wary of its alleged Gran Turismo or any-NASCAR-game-ever-like pace, those folks will be pleasantly surprised when they find that F1 will raise your pulse and eventually make you smell horrible. For their sake, please send your loved ones out of the room.
Perhaps one of F1’s most touted features is its capture of the speed, with gratuitous amounts of motion blur throughout, and the visual emotion of real F1 racing. Simply put, this is superbly executed. F1 requires a considerable amount of concentration, as turns come at your very fast, and at times weather (the rain is particularly vicious) can limit your ability to see them as you approach.
F1's audio is less spectacular. Don't get the wrong idea, it isn't poor to any extent. There just doesn't happen to be anything that truly impresses. Engines sound like engines. Pit stop operators sounds like a pit stop operators. Also, the repetitive TV commentary & Pit Crew audio can occasionally get on one's nerves. That's essentially all there is to it. What it does, it carries out practically and fine; but simply put, don't buy a surround sound system for F1's audio.
Take control of the fastest thing on four wheels
F1 has a robust amount of depth to it. Prior to each race, you can fine tune, test your settings on the track you’ll be racing on. You have the ability to skip this, if you aren’t the gear-head type. But if you are, you’ll find a cornucopia of course and driver settings.
All the courses in the actual Formula 1 league are beautifully represented in F1. They look good, but they don’t necessarily carry traits of their respective country. If one friend told another that the Bahrain track was actually in the United States, he could have very well believed you. One must realize that this is the way these tracks actually look (for they are accurate and beautifully represented), but just know that this is no Cruisin’ USA.
Each track in F1 plays in each own individual way. Some have more straight-aways, while some have a number of twist and turns. Given the different shape of the courses, each has it’s own inherent difficulty. The Melbourne course, for example, is much more difficult then the Bahrain course.
Considering the length of the courses, the average 6 lap race can take about a half hour. Thankfully, the developers included a save system that would let you save your progress within a race. This may be a burden in disguise though, as you’re simply dropped into the race hurtling through the track at 200mph.
Courses vary in difficulty, usually dependent on the number and degree of turns, and weather. In order to appeal more to the not-so-savvy enthusiasts, Sony Liverpool thought there ought to be a driving aid included in the game. The driving assists apply the brakes as needed to help you navigate the turns.It sounds as if the game can play itself, but even with this assistance, the majority of the burden is on your shoulders - the pressure put on the brake during the turns is minimal, and still requires your immediate attention.
Weather adds an interesting dynamic, as the changes to the surface of the course can cause you to slide, and the changes to your vision can cause you to go barreling into a wall. The rain effects are simply gorgeous, as each droplet of water will individually respond to your speed. Go slow, and the water stays in the center, go fast and the water runs off the sides of your visors. It’s amazing how something as simple as weather can add another level of difficulty to a game.
On the grim side, the lack of the advertised PSP mirror function is quite unnerving, as even though it is present in the PAL version of the game, it isn't functional. The developers have been tight-lipped on whether an update will allow this feature in the future.
Luckily, the controls in F1 are fluid, and cruising through turns won’t be your biggest frustrations with the game. It must be mentioned that even while the controls work well (and they really do), the lack of force feedback is a major loss. As a result, there is a very light "feel" of the wheel as a result, and the sensitive steering requires very steady hands. Those with steady hands may be able to make very precise, acute turns while those without will most likely find the biggest amount of difficulty in trying to stay on the road, not spin out, and not get rammed into a sandtrap by an opposing driver. There is a bounty of things that can go wrong, and if they can, then they will. Getting back into the pack after getting stuck in 40 feet of dirt and grass can be extremely difficult and tedious, and you might find yourself restarting in an angry rage after missing a key corner. Even with driving aids on, F1 is certainly no walk in the park.
Generally underwhelming, even at 200 mph
Online play is featured in F1, but it doesn’t quite feel all there. All the necessary parts are present and accounted for, but the small number of people playing, and general lack of interest from the people that were playing made F1 feel a bit more boring than other online offerings from Sony. F1 fans will be upset that they can't even compete in a full race online, as each race is limited to 20 laps. There is also a lack of "car setups" in the online mode (tweaking your setup offline is useless, as you cannot use that setup Online). On a final note, who thought of the system in which you can drive through AI controlled cars but not through human contenders?
Overall, I would not immediately recommend Formula 1 to someone who is not an F1 fan. If you’ve played the downloadable demo available on the PlayStation Store, and enjoyed it, then the full version of F1 will likely be your cup of tea. With amazing graphics and an exciting amount of features, F1 is definitely a top notch, though possibly niche, racing title. It’s a shame the online play is so drab though.
-The Final Word-
Formula One is a quality, though niche racing title. If you're a fan of the sport, this'll be your cup of tea - but if not, give it a rent to try it out first.