There are a number of driving games being previewed this month, but perhaps the most eagerly-awaited is Psygnosis' pc conversion of Formula 1, which sold approximately five billion copies on the PlayStation and looked nicer than... er... a very big, very well-cooked meal looks to a hungry person. (How apt. How appropriate to the game in question - A Reader.) Alright, you think of something, then. I'm in a hurry.
On the psx, it looked very good indeed - personally I thought it made F1GP2 look a little flat. But then I'm colourblind: it may look infinitely worse for all I know. Anyway, it's going to look even better on the pc, because it's coming out with a 3Dfx native version and a Direct 3D version on the same cd. And as you'll see from the screenshots (providing nothing horrible has happened at the printers), it looks very nice indeed.
Make it easy on yourself
Basically, the game's aimed at people who like the idea of launching into an fi season, but can't be arsed with all the crap that goes with it: studying telemetry, setting up cars to within an Angstrom unit of accuracy, wearing silly tight overalls, shagging tall blonde women with foreign-sounding names in caravans... Instead, you get all the fast driving without the tiresome bits. There are two basic driving modes, both with individual difficulty settings: Grand Prix is harder and more realistic, with practice and qualifying sessions, pit stops, collision damage and tyre wear, whereas Arcade takes an old-fashioned bumper-cars, finish-in-the-points-to-get-to-the-next-round approach.
Bizarre Creations, the developers got the licence to produce a Formula 1 game based on the 1995 season, which was licensed by foca to Fuji Television. In terms of gameplay, this means that you get exactly the same game as the PlayStation version: Schumacher's still at Benetton, and for those of you who liked to sit around during Grand Prix wearing fake moustaches and wrapped in a Union Jack, Nigel Mansell is available as one of the four McLaren drivers. It also means, at the default settings, that there are 17 circuits, including Adelaide (F1's last visit before they banned it) which you'll race in the order they appeared that season. But if you refuse to race in Adelaide in protest at their outrageously pro-eco decision, you've always hated the Hungaroring, or have only ever wanted to race at Monaco, you can customise a season as much as you want.
Arcade... er, accuracy
Although the game takes a more action-orientated approach than F1GP2, everything has still been thoroughly researched. The tracks are spot-on, right down to the advertising hoardings, having been produced from official surveyors' maps which give track elevation, widths, and even locations of lavatories with doors missing for voyeuristic drivers. All the surrounding buildings have been added too, from careful study of the maps and more hours of live video footage than you'd really want to sit through. And yes, there are floaty things in the harbour at Monaco. Well, that's what what you get when the doors on your toilets are hanging off.
The car's the star
The cars are also accurately modelled, using team diagrams, photographs and video footage as reference material, and they too are accurately spattered with advertising - hardly surprising really, given that it's their primary purpose - with everything except cigarette sponsors right where you'd expect it to be.
And although the more arcade-orientated approach means you won't be able to pore over pages and pages of mind-numbing telemetry, pretending you know what it means, all that black-magicky mumbo-jumbo has been interpreted for the game so that lap and race times, braking distances and so on are all as accurate as possible. At the easiest Grand Prix level, and in arcade mode, you may be able to beat the real-life track records by chucking the car about, cutting the odd chicane and generally being Cheaty McCheat, but at the harder settings times of the other drivers are faster, more accurate, and very difficult to match. And any jumping across chicanes will see you flying through the air toward the nearest stretch of Armco. Remember to duck.
Commentary is provided by Murray Walker, but if you just can't stand the man, you can always opt to listen to the German commentary by Jochen Mass, French commentary by Philippe Ee-Aye Alliot, or show off your linguistic talent with a choice of Spanish or Italian. Or you could just switch it off. The game's not finished yet, but the versions we've seen running look pretty darned cool so far. We'll give you a full review when it's finished. (We're like that.)
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I don't know what they eat for breakfast in the UK or if there is something in the water, but whatever it is, Psygnosis continues to put out top of the line titles for the Playstation. Formula 1 is no exception. Get ready to jump behind the wheel of a high speed Formula 1 racer. Psygnosis packs in all of the excitement of real Formula 1 racing without the expensive insurance premiums. Is this the best racing sim yet? Methinks it's pretty close.
Formula 1 is a very in-depth title that consists of 17 tracks, 35 drivers and 13 racing teams that are all modeled after the actual Formula 1 specifications. As if that alone isn't enough, all of the engine sounds have been taken directly from one of these little babies. Throw in pit stops, weather, and a ton of game modes and you will be playing this one for hours.
When I first received ) Formula 1, I headed straight for my Playstation. I am a sucker for a good racing title any day of the week. Well, I cranked up the sound and got ready to rip. Being the adventurous fellow that I am, I refuse to read the manual before trying to play any game. All I did was check the controls for gas, brake and steering. To make a long story short, I was kicking everyone's ass in every race. There was always someone fairly close but it was never much more than a two or three car race to the finish. Why was this so easy? I started thinking that Psygnosis had let us down. Then, all of a sudden, a strange thing happened. I leaned over to answer the phone (I needed some sort of challenge during the race) and my car almost made a corner without me even using the controller to turn. Hmmm, something was not right so I bowed down and consulted the manual. The answer was staring at me like a teenage girl staring at Brad Pitt. The steering and braking assistance options were on. Here I thought the game was just easy. I don't think I will ever make that assumption again.
So you are probably wondering what makes this game so good. Let's begin with the controls. After learning that I was not really kicking everyone's ass but the steering assistance was on, I decided to try the game with no help from the computer. When I went into the first corner, I understood that this is not a "lay on the gas and power slide around the corners" type game. I have never played a racing game that relies so heavily on braking. This is good, because it is realistic. You are racing on slicks so your tires don't just hug the road. Since I know you will try to take the corner at top speed the first time anyway, you will also get to experience what racing slicks feel like on grass. Of course you will also do the same thing as I did and punch the gas. Bad move. Remember, these are racing slicks.
Once you get the feel of the tires, you will find the steering and braking quite responsive. This is more of a thinker's racing game than a bruiser's racer. What I mean by that is instead of trying to power your way through the tracks, you will need to do some strategic planning and calculating. Using the other cars to your advantage around corners also takes some time to perfect, but when things line up just right, it is a very effective method of cornering.
Formula 1 has a gameplay mode for just about everyone. There are three broad race categories with fine tuning options available under these menus. The first mode available is the Quick Race. This is an arcade style race that gives you the choice of team, driver and track. Just jump in and race. The second option is the arcade mode. This mode gives you cars that are easier to handle and is a race against the clock and other drivers. The fine tuning options are available in the arcade mode. The final mode is the Grand Prix. This mode allows you to pick a car from the 1995 season, make any adjustments, and work your way through the races.
The fine tuning I mentioned above is where you designate the actual type of race you want. You can choose a single race. This is one race against either the whole field or a two-car duel. The second race type available is the championship. This is a season of 17 tracks to see who has what it takes to finish in first. Points are awarded to finishing positions, so you are never really out of the running. The last race type is called the Ladder. This is my favorite. This is a race with all of the other racers, but one car has been marked. You must finish ahead of this car to advance. It does not matter if you finish in place 24 so long as the marked car finishes in place 25. This is cool, because your goal is completely different than the championship and it keeps the game fresh.
I don't follow Formula 1 racing so I have to take Psygnosis' word for it when they tell me that the drivers are the real deal. I think out of all the drivers, I have only heard of Michael Schumacher. Anyway, the drivers are supposed to be very representative of their human models and all of the teams are here. This will be a big plus to fans of Formula 1 racing.
Graphics and Audio
When you see the Psygnosis name, you can nearly always rest assured that the graphics are going to be good. Formula 1 has some great tracks and backgrounds. There are multiple views to race from, ranging from the through the windshield to the overhead view. As you zoom out from your car, the vehicle looks a little non-detailed but this is minimal. The crowd that lines some of the courses is very animated and if you happen to spin out, they appear to be cheering you to get going.
The coolest thing about Formula 1, aside from the gameplay, is the audio. The engine sound of the cars is incredible. Formula 1 cars have a very different and distinct sound that Psygnosis has captured perfectly. The in-game music was done by guitar gods Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Very cool soundtrack.
Formula 1 is a great racing game that has a mode that will please any type of racing fan. The controls are excellent, and it is nice to see a game that focuses on control instead of just speed. I think this game has captured the spirit, feel and sounds of real Formula 1 racing. This is a must have for any fan of the sport. Keep the quality games coming, Psygnosis!
Formula 1 is Psygnosis' entry into Grand Prix simulation racing on the PC. How does it fare compared to the likes of Grand Prix II and Indy Car Racing II? Despite one major annoyance and one major omission, it's not all that bad. You get 17 tracks fully modeled after real world circuits, 35 drivers, and 13 teams also modeled after the real thing. Among the 17 circuits you will find enough variety, including track layouts for racing, and different surroundings for scenery, to keep you from getting bored of this title any time soon. You also get to choose between Arcade mode and Grand Prix mode with various levels of reality (difficulty) to choose from. You can go for a quick race, a full-blown Season of 17 races, or a "Ladder" option which puts you up against one other car for a series of 12 rounds. For a single race, you can select whether you race against one car or the full set. The one major omission in Formula 1 is multiplayer support. The odd thing is that when you are selecting your options for your race, the screen titles state "Single Player Race" as if there is a multiplayer option.
Formula 1 in arcade mode has to be the one of the funnest racing games I have played yet and is ultimately what makes this game great. The AI is challenging but not impossible, the sound is excellent and the graphics scroll smoothly, even on my P90 with 40 MB RAM and an Intense 3D Verite board, which, if you look at the requirements below, is actually below the minimum. There is a good sense of speed and the AI keeps the suspense up. Oddly, though, the default view is like standing rather than sitting on the driver's seat, which I thought took away from the realism in the game. I almost gave Formula 1 a lower score because of this, but I accidentally found that I could change my view by pressing the bottom buttons on my SideWinder 3D pro. This functionality was nowhere to be found in the user's manual or the game interface itself (oops, someone messed up). I managed to find a view that worked particularly well for me, which was basically a road-hugging view from the nose of the car. For purists out there who want a truly seated view as in Indy Car Racing II, Psygnosis left it out for whatever bizarre reason.
The one major annoyance, I discovered, is a completely unforgivable reverse view that pops up every now and then while you are racing. Imagine being in fourth place, coming up to the top three on a tight curve, and the view changes to rear view only. You go smashing into the curve and end up falling back to 14th. Unforgivable -- and there is no way to turn this off. I don't know what it is with Psygnosis, but they always seem to manage to throw in something unbelievably irritating in their racing games. Yeah, reverse view might be kind of cool at certain times, but let us control that with a hat switch or some other key, or at least let us disable it. This irritation nearly ruined the whole game for me and cost this review score several points. One last thing I found kind of lame as far as realism goes is that you can actually bounce off other cars without damage in even the most realistic mode. No major accidents here as in Indy Car Racing II.
The graphics for Formula 1 are simply outstanding. This is a 3D accelerated game and it shows. Again, frame rates on my P90, Verite based system, with the graphics options maxed out were more than acceptable. All the scenery is true 3D and well detailed. There is absolutely no pixelation and at times your opponents will leave cool smoke trails that you can drive through. You will also find a good variety among the 17 tracks, including boats, tunnels, buildings, hills and the like.
Along with the good, there is always the bad. Fortunately, the bad in Formula 1, as far as the graphics are concerned, isn't too serious. The first thing I noticed was that although the colors and texture maps were gorgeous and vibrant, they were a little more on the arcade side than the realistic side. I liked it, but this will disappoint those of you looking for the utmost in realism. On this note, the asphalt didn't scroll as fast as it should have in my opinion, hampering the sense of speed found in, say, Indy Car Racing II. There was also a little clipping now and then, including "Goodyear" labels that floated on a plane apart from the tires rather than directly on them. This again was only a minor annoyance and didn't really detract from the game.
The audio in Formula 1 is outstanding as well. Microphones where attached to the racers, ensuring that you heard the real thing. Qsound Virtual Audio was used for surround sound. One thing I particularly liked is how the audio changed appropriately as you went through tunnels, realistically creating that echo effect. The music consisted of typical rocker pop as expected, and the announcer is "the legendary Murray Walker" who can be annoying at times, but can be turned off. Unfortunately, Walker will sometimes shout, "That was a close one!" or the like when you literally ram into someone, so his presence seemed to be there more for effect than realism.
The documentation for Formula 1 is minimal, to say the least. It consists of the handy-dandy jewel case pamphlet. The manual lists all 17 circuits, their length in km and their 1994 Grand Prix Stats, as well as the drivers and their cars. What the manual doesn't list is any extensive information on the tracks, cars or racers, which I think would have added more depth to the game. The documentation also lacked a troubleshooting section, which should have covered the Redline driver issue for Verite based accelerators. Considering Formula 1 was designed for 3D accelerators, and a good amount of these accelerators are Verite based, this should have been covered in the manual and not the readme file. Again, the documentation failed to include something as basic as how to change your viewing perspective. Did I miss how to set up multiplayer support maybe, please?
Windows 95, 3D Accelerator Required: - 3Dfx 4MB (Diamond Monster 3D, Orchid Righteous 3D) - Matrox Mystique 4MB - Rendition Verite/3D Blaster 4MB - 3D Labs Permedia 4MB - Bundled with ATI XPERT@Play 3D Accelerators
Supports Direct3D at 640x480. Native Support for cards with 3Dfx chipset at 640x480, and Rendition Verite chipset/3D Blaster 320x240, 512x384, 640x480, 2X CD-ROM Drive.
Pentium 100 required for native video accelerator support
Pentium 120 required for Direct3D (Pentium 133 recommended)
Note: I installed on an P90 with an Intergraph Intense 3D, Rendition Verite based board. In order to get Formula 1 running I had to download the latest Redline drivers from Intergraph. I found this info in the readme file for Formula 1. If you have a Verite based board, go to the manufacturer's site and download and install the Redline drivers before running Formula 1. You will save yourself one massive headache. Always refer to the readme file when all else fails.
Despite some major complaints, Formula 1 by Psygnosis ended up being a heck of a lot of fun for me. As a standalone arcade racer, the graphics and gameplay blow the competition away. The controls are solid and the frame rate on the low-end minimum requirements is more than passable, with all the graphics turned up. Unfortunately, the lack of multiplayer options and some minor annoyances, namely the rearview mode that comes up at the worst times possible, prevent this title from being truly exceptional. The reason I did give Formula 1 an 80 out of 100 is because in the end, it is an extremely fun game to play.