Formula 1 98
Unfortunately new developer Visual Sciences has had a tough job making any obvious improvements to this series. F1 97 was probably about as good as you're ever going to get with a PS F1 game. It was fast, smooth and packed with all the necessary goodies. So why buy this? Well, the new season is in there--so if you subscribe to the current sports mentality, chances are you'll want all the right teams, cars and drivers. Fair enough. Here they are. And if you're in the market for your first F1 game--you might as well get the most timely. But new stuff? Well, the split-screen, link-cable combo for four players is a fine addition, but the new graphics engine is nasty. There are some serious texture warps and polygon tears that detract from the fact that this is one of the fastest-feeling racing games around. Ben and Jerry would be proud of the number of different gameplay flavors, although Arcade Mode is probably a bit too arcadey for my liking. Call me old fashioned, but I've never been a big fan of F1 cars powersliding, regardless of how slick the controls are. The Sim Mode is tough; crank the difficulty and it's a serious challenge thanks to some not-too-shabby opponent Al. Unlike previous games, other drivers actually get out of your way and don't just mindlessly stick to the racing line.
I don't know why this series has been so augmented since the first two editions but it's totally different now. Out are the sharply detailed cars. In are bigger, polygonal offerings. Along with that, there's some unsavory line draw-in and weird textures. Driving a quick race on Arcade Mode isn't bad but using the Sim Mode is just plain frustrating. Overall I agree with John--'97 was the best year for this Formula One series.
Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I liked playing Formula i's Arcade Mode and driving around all crazy like, taking shortcuts off-road when I could and pushing my opponents around to make them spin out. The graphics are really sweet, and I like the control quite a bit, but I can't say I enjoy the Simulation Mode at all. Overall, for those of you out there who just want to race (and don't care about the sim stuff) F1 98 isn't bad.
Seeing as how I know very little and care even less about F-1 racing, I play die-hard sims like this for one reason--to see if they can up my interest in the sport. Last year's model of Fi did; this year's did not. The shoddier graphics are part of the problem, but even worse is the hefty difficulty of the full-on Sim Mode. It just isn't fun. The Arcade Mode, however, is enjoyable, but then other games do arcade racing better.
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About two years ago, Psygnosis brought out the original Formula 1 game for the Playstation written by Bizarre Creations. How successful was it? More than 2,000,000 copies have been sold, and it was the first game developed in the West to reach number one in Japan. Last fall, the game was updated with the release of Formula 1 Championship Edition, again breaking sales records. Just after the release of Championship Edition, Psygnosis acquired an official license from FIA allowing them access to all the drivers, teams and tracks that avid Formula 1 fans want. Is Formula 1 98 (F1-98) the game they've been waiting for? Perhaps.
What F1-98 wants to bring the game player is all excitement, endurance and details (especially the details!) that make Formula 1 racing so popular. It has two primary modes of play, Arcade Racing and Grand Prix Racing, both of which support the Dual Shock Analog controller. Multiplayer racing is also supported in both modes via two-player split-screen racing and two-player link cable racing. This review focuses on the single player option.
Let's cover the Arcade mode first. Arcade Racing lets you stick the game in and start racing. The cars are pretty easy to drive in this mode and are forgiving. As you get better, there are options to keep it challenging, such as the option to allow your car to become damaged. The standard levels of difficulty (novice, amateur and professional) are also available. You can have time trials, a standard single race or enter the 'arcade challenge.' The arcade challenge is a progressive racing mode that starts with easy races and gradually takes you to aggressive drivers and difficult tracks. The arcade challenge makes you learn how to handle the cars and also teaches you how to best drive on each track. As in all the modes in F1-98, tire marks on the track show you the recommended driving line to achieve optimal driving.
The Grand Prix mode is where this game seems to be squarely focused. The Championship consists of 16 races that follow the 1998 season order. Each race provides for practice, qualifying and race sessions to fully simulate the F1 experience. Within this mode there are so many options that I wanted another option to reduce the number of options! F1-98 lets you set laps, difficulty, steering and brake assist, weather, damage, failures, tire wear, fuel depletion, and flag racing. The cars have the following setup options: transmission, suspension, brake discs and bias, front and rear down force, fuel load, gears and tires. Luckily, you can save both car and game options to the memory pack so you won't have to reset them every time.
Being more of an arcade racing fan, I found this to be difficult to play at first, but I quickly caught on to the basics and was able to race—no matter what the two commentators initially had to say about my abilities. The cars in the Grand Prix mode reflect the actual car behavior of the licensed teams. While I can't vouch for how accurate this is (my actual driving experience is limited to my Mazda Miata driving at under 70 mph), I did notice differences in the way the cars handled.
The graphics in F1-98 are really quite good. I haven't played the first two versions of this game, but Psygnois claims it has reduced the amount of pop-up and increased the distance a driver can see. When you're in the cockpit, the feeling of speed does take over! Only the still-remaining amounts of pop-up and distorted visuals slightly take away from the overall experience. Are the graphics better than Gran Turismo? Not in my estimation, but don't forget, the tracks in that game don't exist anywhere else.
With all the modes and options, who should get this game? If you're looking for a F1 simulation game on the Playstation, then look no further. If you're a gearhead, F1-98 has your name on it. If you love arcade racing and want to learn more about the overall F1 experience, I'd also recommend this game. If you're a flat-out arcade racing fan, stay with Gran Turismo.