Formula One 2001
Formula One racing. Proven time and time again a difficult thing to do well, 989 Studios has stepped up and delivered Formula One 2001, one of the newest F1 racing games, for the PlayStation 2 platform. Promising all of the glory and thrill of handling a real Formula One race car, can it deliver the goods?
As racing games go, Formula One games can provide a temperamental experience for many racing fans. Not quite as exciting as the more wild, action oriented sci-fi racing games, but more controlled and speed oriented than a NASCAR simulator, Formula One games can be very complex. They are at once both a must have for a real speed fanatic and also difficult to design, due to the complexity of the F1 racing technology itself.
Formula One cars are built to exacting specifications, representing a pinnacle of quality design and performance. With many different things to track on each car, a good Formula One game needs to balance the control complexity with the ease of use that many gamers are expecting. With a wide assortment of drivers, tracks and options, Formula One 2001 attempts just that.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Formula One has the 2001 complete roster of teams and tracks, letting you race on the same surfaces with the same drivers seen world round by F1 fans. A host of game play modes, with time trial, quick race, season mode, and more, give you plenty of gameplay and more than enough racing to suit anyone's needs. Given the length of an average F1 race, you could be driving for quite a while on each track before you finally beat the season mode.
Controlling the car is relatively simple, using either an analog or digital control mode, depending on whether or not you like to use the paddles on the PS2. The game races somewhat like a Formula One car, whether manual or automatic, allowing you to quickly throttle up to the absurd speeds that F1 cars are known for. You'll quickly notice one of the more dramatic aspects of F1 racing. There is no way to accelerate the entire race, as moving at even half your top speed will cause you to leave the track on a turn.
Strangely, I found the collision physics to be a bit bizarre, given that not only was I able to flip other cars with a minor bump, occasionally I could collide with them a number of times without exhibiting any damage to my car or the opponent. Unable to obey the law of gravity, I managed to toss my car into the air many, many times, usually landing without a mark. When I finally discovered the secret to destroying the car (you've got to hit at a high speed at a really sharp angle to something), small portions of the car would break away, turning the rest of the car into a brick, which quickly stopped in its tracks, unable to continue skidding along at 150mph.
Along with the actual racing, you've got a full pit crew and a host of different car modifications you can make, including the angle of your spoilers and the balance between your front and rear brakes. This part of the game didn't seem entirely finished, with extremely simple menus and diagrams.
Now onto the bad points.
I've never actually driven a Formula One car in real life, but I'd swear that they aren't capable of some of the things I've seen while playing this title. For one thing, although the physics of the car held up at normal driving speeds, the controls seemed to be pretty sketchy at lower speeds. Even moving the car at just a few miles per hour (thanks to the analog controls on the PS2 controller) produced a nearly uncontrollable vehicle that was just as likely to spinout as it was to actually drive on the road.
Also, while the repair/modify controls let you change nearly whatever you like about your car, they're very primitive looking, appearing more like simple readout text with a poor quality diagram of your car to highlight the change you're making.
Some of you may remember screenshots from PS2 launch titles that were less than stellar. Filled with jagged graphics, they highlighted just how much the hardware anti-aliasing on the PS2 didn't live up to expectations. After months of waiting, it turned out that the screenshots that showed all of those jagged graphics didn't take into account the fact that the North American PS2 handled resolutions differently from the Japanese release. As a result, we've had a bounty of attractive, detailed games, nearly all remarkably devoid of those early graphics flaws. Formula One 2001 is not such a game, as highlighted by severe jagged edges along both the track and the edge of the cars. Add to that spectators who look more like blobs ofrandom color than actual people and a color palettethat's drab and uninspiring, and you've got theingredients for a graphically unsatisfying game.
It is not an understatement to say that the audio from Formula One 2001 is downright annoying. The engine noise that emanates from the vehicle reminds me more of an alarm buzzer than a highly tuned racing engine. You may even disable some of the sound once you've listened to the announcer for more than a race or two, as his droning voice and stilted speech make for unbearable background noise. My greatest criticism from this part of the game is that the announcer's voice cuts out for an obvious moment as the game pronounces your racer's name.
In a world of good racing games for the PS2, this one is a big disappointment. Aside from not producing the kinds of graphics that you'd normally see out of a PS2, Formula One 2001 also has a lackluster interface, unconvincing physics and damage engine, and a shortage of good audio effects. All in all, a good shot at a Formula One title, but mostly just disappointing. While it is a good enough game to be playable for a short while, I'd skip this title and wait for the next F1 title to be released for the PS2.