Must go faster, MUST GO FASTER!
Any commuter will tell you that mornings suck. Usually you drag yourself out of bed, get dressed, and go to work for yet another lovely day. But some mornings don't go exactly as planned - especially when the alarm clock fails to go off. So you jump into your car and jam on the gas, only to get trapped behind some old lady in a Gremlin doing 50 in the fast lane. You stare at the back end of her smoking tailpipe and realize that, contrary to her license plate frame, happiness is not being retired. Happiness is an empty lane with a car that can do 190 mph. You'd definitely rather be driving an F1.
If you're tired of racing toy cars and the thought of an oval just makes you queasy, then make sure to check out Electronic Arts' F1 2001. Officially licensed by the FIA Formula One Championship, F1 2001 features all the tracks, teams, and drivers of real F1 racing. As F1 games go, it's not half bad and still leaves plenty of room for casual racing fans to get in on the action.
Single player gameplay modes are straightforward enough. To start with, you can choose between Quick Race or Challenge mode. Quick Race lets you take a spin around the track and Challenge functions like Gran Turismo's license test. The downside is that you won't be able to compete in any of the five Grand Prix modes until a certain number of the Challenges are completed. It's definitely a bummer if you want to get started on the season right away, but at least the Challenges won't take very long to complete.
In a surprising turn of events, some of the extra single player modes are pretty cool. One of them, called Teammate Challenge, is vaguely reminiscent of Super Monaco GP (my favorite F1 game) for the Genesis, where you get to compete with rivals for a spot on better teams. It's not as deep as Monaco, but it's still a nice addition. There's also a Custom Championship mode that will let you set up your own Championship season.
F1 2001's multiplayer modes offer more than just a head to head matchup. Racers are also treated to a Tag Team and Last Man Standing mode. Each of these extra modes is pretty simple and none of them will knock you socks off, but it's nice that EA decided to do a little more than just 1 on 1.
Controlling the F1 cars is a pretty interesting prospect for anyone unfamiliar with F1 games. Both arcade and simulation styles are offered, and frankly, both are pretty squirrelly. Arcade control will give you much better handling and leeway with the track, but driving the car still feels much more clunky than it should. Sim handling is for those hardcore fans that want a more realistic experience. With this style, you'll need to watch your cornering and acceleration more closely, but again, the control doesn't feel as smooth as it should.
One of the great things about F1 2001 is its choice of options. Play with traction control, ABS, weather conditions, damage and more in the handy options screen. You'll even be able to turn on the FIA rules or try your hand at interactive pit stops. I love choices.
Another thing I love about the game is the amount of detail. Hop into the cockpit view and you'll see your 'hands' actually changing gears. Race in the rain and watch the water effects screw with your vision. Check out the pit crew as they go through the motions to get you back in the race. They'll even talk to you over the pit to driver radio, keeping you up to date on what's going on in the race.
The graphics in F1 2001 aren't as good as I'd hoped. The overall color palette is washed out and the cars look really plain. The textures are boring and unconvincing. On the other hand, you've got nice helmet/car reflections and smooth replays, but the overall style and look isn't very impressive. At least the framerate is solid.
Most of the sound effects are fine, but the main engine noise sounds too high pitched. It sounds more like you're driving a high-end Hoover than a sleek F1.
Another slight problem the game suffers from is the camera. Even though there are four choices (nose, cockpit, helmet and rear), none feel completely comfortable. The nose cam has always been a bad idea, the cockpit and helmet cams are limiting, and the rear cam sits too close to the car's back end. A definite bummer, but at least you can work with it.
While F1 2001 doesn't have quite the sim feel that some hardcore F1 fans are after, it does cover enough bases to provide decent entertainment for all racing fans. Lots of options, some cool details and plenty of modes make up one solid racing game.