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
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
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.