Official Formula One Racing
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In the immortal words of Brian Moore: "It's up for grabs now!" The official Formula One licence has been thrown open to the floor, with a flurry of publishers scrambling for a piece of the lucrative FI pie. One of the first off the grid is Japanese publisher Video Systems, whose three-year deal with Eidos Interactive for an official FOA licence allows them to co-produce a game based on the FIA World Championship. Several high-powered meetings and focus groups later, the name Official Formula One Racing was decided upon. The game is being developed by French outfit Lankhor.
WHAT YOU SEE...
Until now, licences were granted on an exclusive basis only, latterly to Psygnosis, who still managed to get into all manner of legal mither over some vague technicality. The licence is still something of a judicial minefield - demonstrated by the fact that every screenshot on this page had to be approved for publication by the FOA. It's a farce - although, on the plus side, we did manage to bring an Eidos PR executive to the verge of a nervous breakdown by sporadically hitting 'Print Screen' during a recent demonstration of the game. However, is a bastion of honesty and decency, so the shots you see are the shots they want you to see - although, for reasons unknown, they are all of the software version. However, to quote the press release, the "software version is as good as any 3D card version". Of course it isn't. Otherwise, why would they bother with an accelerated version? A lie is a lie. Forget it. Move on...
Darren Hedges, producer of Official Formula One Racing, explains the benefits of the contract: "Having the official licence makes a great deal of difference because we have the blessing of the FOA. This means we can use all the teams and drivers in the relevant season."
But with the official licence being openly - albeit expensively - available, is there is a danger that the quality will be diluted? "No," says Darren. 'The quality is in the execution of the product, and with so many games out there, it can only create healthy competition."
"I have seen other games in the marketplace and I think most of them are aimed at either the arcade or simulation market. Official Formula One Racing has both modes, and we feel it does them better than the competition."
How difficult is it to make an original Formula One game? "Fairly hard, it has to be said. But we feel that the options and the way we have implemented the features in the title separate it from all other FI games."
DOWN TO DETAILS
What's so good about it? "It has the most up-to-date teams and drivers; the software mode has to be seen to be believed; also, the attention to detail is second to none. We modelled the circuits using accurate drawings and video footage. For a few of the more difficult tracks, the Lankhor team went to the track and photographed them, then modelled them by hand. There has been participation from FI teams, but I can't say who."
By 'up-to-date', Darren of course means the game features last season's data. Basing a game on the current season is nigh-on impossible, given the traditional annual pre-season switching of cars and drivers, like some elaborate themed edition of Mike Reid's erstwhile quiz show, Runaround. Of course, Murray Walker is synonymous with the sport, and his inimitable tones are... nowhere to be found in Official Formula One Racing. "We felt that the commentary in the FI genre was getting a little tiresome," Darren explains, "so we instigated pit chatter and a few other surprises. This actually makes the game feel more realistic to the player."
As fans will be only too aware, the televised coverage of Grand Prix switched channels a season or so ago, much to the chagrin of dedicated viewers. So, is Official Formula One Racing more ITV or BBC? "Well, it's definitely not Channel 5! It's more like Sky Sports. We've covered all the angles, and the presentation is superb."
We'll be the judges of that, and our early look suggests that Darren might not be exaggerating. The helicopter fly-over of each track is a nice touch, setting the atmosphere as well as pointing out any potentially hazardous areas.
The game certainly seems flexible in terms of difficulty - offering novice, standard and expert modes, but also enabling you to tweak the AI of other drivers.
They can behave realistically, randomly, or in one of five different categories, the lowest akin to the back-of-the-grid Minardis and Saubers, and the highest on a par with the Ferraris and McLarens - although if the opening Australian Grand Prix is anything to go by they're going to have to start from scratch. Oof!
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