Second place is the first loser.
In a distinct case of d'j" vu, I find myself writing about another Formula 1 game. Not to be confused with Electronic Arts' F1 2001, 989 Sports' Formula One 2001 is actually a different game altogether. Okay, so maybe the titles are basically the same: they're both sponsored by the FIA and there's an ever so slight resemblance in the tracks, cars, and well, everything. But even though the chassis of these two games look the same, their insides are quite different. Gentlemen, start your engines'again.
Before we even get off and racing, it's easy to see that Formula One 2001 has less under the hood than its counterpart. You can play typical Quick Race, Single Race and Test Drive options (all of which are as simple as they come) along with the World Championship, Time Attack, and virtually useless Spectator mode. No challenges, custom championships, or teammate rivalries here, people. Even the multiplayer game runs thin, with only a Time Attack and Quick Race.
In a total reversal of fortune, the graphical quality does a flip-flop with EA's game. Here, the details aren't as refined. There aren't any nice reflections in the cars or helmets and the weather effects are as plain as you've ever seen. But when you play from a third-person view, the cars look much better. If these two teams of developers got together, we'd have one great looking game.
While Formula One has a much smoother control than F1, it doesn't carry the option for a Simulation style of racing. If you're new to this type of racing, it won't bother you as much, but any hardcore fan will miss the "real feel" of an F1 car.
The one unique thing that Formula One does with control is the option for a manual transmission with a clutch. When I think about it, I can't recall any racing game that does this. In any case, I couldn't for the life of me figure out what this 'so-called' clutch does. I shifted without clutching and found no noticeable negative effects. I clutched, then shifted, but it wasn't different at all. I held down the clutch like I was clinging to life itself and all that resulted was a normal manual (without clutch) drive. I guess what we have here is just a mysterious placebo button. It only works if you think it does.
The available customization options are largely the same as F1. You can do all kinds of tweaks to the car's gear ratios, aeros, and other parts as well as plan out a pit schedule for your race. You can also turn on the F1 rules, adjust the weather and toggle the damage.
And if there's one option you want to see, it's the damage. While it definitely makes the game harder, watching pieces of F1s flying all over the place sure is fun. Just be careful, since losing a wheel or other equally vital part will put you out of the race.
One thing that you will want to lose, however, is the announcer. Possibly the game's worst feature, Formula One's announcer suffers from a deadly case of inflection-itis. It was forgivable back in Joe Montana Sports Talk Football, BUT the announCING in this GAme WILL drive you CRAzy. For god's sake, go to the options and shut that guy up.
Also noteworthy (but not nearly as annoying) are the game's three camera angles. The nose cam still doesn't work well, the over-the-helmet is still limiting, and the external cam is still sitting to close to the car's rear end. All I want is to raise that external camera a little and push it further back so I can see better. Is that too much to ask?
Pretty much all that's left is the Image Gallery, which you'll unlock through sheer patience and the skill required to win the World Championships at each difficulty level. I've never known anyone to get excited about unlocking pictures, but it's there if you're interested. I'm still hoping to find some kind of worthwhile unlockable, but so far all I've come up with is a headache.
When put side by side with EA's F1 2001, Formula One 2001 doesn't quite make the final cut. It's got plenty of options and the same basic content, but it doesn't go the extra mile to make playing it a riveting experience. On its own, you'll find just an average racing game, but why settle for average when you can do better?