Viva la France!
I was extremely suspicious when I started Formula One Championship Edition. Here in America, we watch NASCAR and race real cars. Europe makes European cars, like little Fiats that two people can lift and throw. F1 is Jean Girard, sipping tea through his helmet and talking like he has peanut butter on the roof of his mouth. I feel faint! The room’s spinning...
[image1]So maybe my impression of Formula One racing is a little screwed up after watching Talladega Nights. Sony threw one in with every PS3, clearly they wanted me to be afraid of F1. Fortunately (for me at least), Championship Edition is a solid, good-looking game that helped me get past the Will Ferrell jokes for an enjoyable racing challenge.
Like Jean Girard, this Formula One franchise debuted in Europe just last year, a pair of well-received but homely simulation titles for PS2 and PSP. Championship Edition is a strong follow-up with the same rock-solid action, and a major graphical overhaul.
It also delivers hyper-realistic racing action in single, weekend and season-long servings. You’ll want a few practice races before you enter your avatar in the no-nonsense Grand Prix or Career modes, where you have to qualify to race in either mode.
New players should have no problem shaping up with the help of a few good interface features. The most significant is the rhythm-game style overlay that shows when to accelerate or brake. It felt great having a guide on the track, and it never got in the way of the game or graphics. Tuning your car is also made simple in Evolution Mode, where the game automatically tunes your car up while you play practice laps. Even though it's a highly technical, somewhat snooty game, Championship Edition is very friendly to beginners.
[image2]Championship Edition supports Sixaxis pads or a handful of Logitech steering wheels. One control scheme makes you tilt the Sixaxis to steer left and right, but I will keep using the d-pad until I can change or adjust to the high sensitivity. Maybe motion control is the future, it takes games like Championship Edition reveal the learning curve. The longish ten lap races are broken up by a cool lightning-fast pit stop minigame, and then you’re off again.
With the reflection of clouds streaming over your car nose and lens flare gleaming over Shanghai and Monte Carlo, Championship Edition
may be just the kind of graphical leap that PS3 owners are paying for. F1’s
only weak spot is the crowd of incredibly low-resolution spectators. In general, Championship Edition
looked better and faster than the current Gran Turismo HD
demo (see our “Drift Challenge”
clip for the comparison).
Whinnying engines and the crunch of fiberglass top off a fairly standard sound design. The announcer seamlessly lists off the eight leading racers while your pit crew chimes in when you need to make a stop, and the roar of the audience is nice as you slide into first place. The Europop club music is harsher than Gran Turismo’s classy jazz soundtrack, so I was content to let the sound fly by with the rest of the scenery.
[image3]Large, eleven player races are fun but torn apart by the fledgling PlayStation Network’s missing functionality. Championship Edition gives you online leader boards and a friends list, but it lacks split-screen multiplayer, so you’re forced online where there’s no voice chat support. Your only chance to talk trash or anything is to type on a USB keyboard between races, as if everyone’s going to jump on that. I guess you could always System Link two PS3s together, because people normally do that... right?
The game looks good, but will it last? The hyper-realism is impressive at first, but Championship Edition lacks the flash and fanfare of most racing games. The mild weather conditions and tiring voiceover do little to shake up the core game. The racing is fun and there are classic F1 cars to unlock, but the sleek, subdued presentation reduces the sense of victory we get from placing in any of the races; the dozens of menus and loading screens do little to encourage you through your F1 career.
Before I started playing, I thought I'd just want to retire to Stockholm and develop a currency for cats and dogs to use
, but I may stick with Formula One Championship Edition
for awhile instead. It may come as a challenge to our NASCARs and mud rallies, but I am grateful that it broke into the American PS3 catalog. In fact I’m going to hit the ol’ crepe house after this and get a whole mess o’ crepes.