Windows - 2000
Description of F1 2000 Windows
Stalled on the line
On the box it says that you can get this game rolling on a P233 MMX, and its recommended system is a PII 450. So all in all, I believe I was entitled to expect a satisfying performance on my PIII 500. You know, I had such a fun time in the display menus before my first race, flicking on every single option thinking that this was going to be one hell of an experience. Cockpit details, stick them on high. Mirrors, set them to full. 1024x768 resolution? Yup, I'll take that. Shadows? The more the merrier.
It sure was one hell of an experience, but not exactly in the way I'd imagined. To put it simply, frames per minute struck me as a more appropriate way of describing the frame rate! So I hastily retreated back to the menus, and this time slashed the screen resolution down to 640x480. Any joy? Not really, as the game was still so jerky that the slightest steering input would result in a spin. The last time I've seen a game go so slow was when I tried playing Grand Prix 2 in SVGA on my old 486 DX2/66!
Finally I managed to get an acceptable frame rate when I opted for a test session with no other cars, and with a number of features switched off. And all this on a system that exceeds the recommended spec! I've been following the dedicated F1 2000 High Gear forum, and it would appear that you need something on par with an PIII 700mhz with a Voodoo3 card to get a good playable result. If you have an nVidia-based chipset then you'll have problems (the game doesn't seem so happy with the GeForce and TNT cards).
Every now and then we get a game that redefines "entry level" with its very high system requirements, and as gamers we accept this because this is how progress is made. But this is NOT one of them. (And what would be the point? By the time you had the hardware necessary to enable everything, F1 2001 would probably have hit the market!) You can't put this down to a hyper-realistic physics model (Grand Prix Legends ' excuse) or a state-of-the-art graphics engine. Why? Because if you dig into the configuration files in the F1 2000 directory, you'll be able to make some tweaks that let you play it in a window. The transformation is remarkable - 1024x768 was finally a viable option for solo driving, and 800x600 for racing . Once the tweak is in place, you can now really appreciate the graphical quality of this game, although it does pose the additional problem of having to resize your desktop to get a view that fills the screen.
In my book this is sloppy coding, pure and simple, and it pervades throughout the entire game.
(For those interested in the tweaks I made: alter your "config.ini" file in your F1 2000 directory by changing the WindowedMode setting to 1. You may also have to open the "video.cfg" file and make sure the AllowWindowed setting is equal to 1. Warning - make backups before modifying anything!)
One Light, Two, Three, Four...
This is one game I'd been seriously looking forwards. For the first time ever, we would be able to race in a sim against the same cars and tracks that we were watching on TV, as opposed to those a couple of seasons past. Everything from the new-look BMW-Williams, to Alesi's defection to Prost, to the inclusion of Jaguar-Cosworth and the US GP circuit is here. Kudos to ISI for pulling out the stops on this front.
When you first load up the game you can't fail to be impressed. The game oozes the high-tech clinical precision feel of real F1 with its intro movie (featuring the Benetton boys whom, as we now know, worked in collaboration with ISI), slick interface, and thumping soundtrack mixed with a sackful of ambient sound effects. Again, so far so great.
Better still, if you're lucky enough to have a juggernaut of a system capable of running this, (or if you've tweaked the game to run in windowed mode) then congratulations. You'll be able to enjoy the best graphics of any F1 game to date, period. The abundance of detail in the car liveries and track details, the metallic gleam and shiny reflections on the surfaces (you can see it the sun's reflection on the nose of your cockpit as you drive), the fully-featured virtual cockpit which reflects the G loadings and lets you look from side to side, the accurately depicted track layouts with their dramatic elevation changes and bumps... it's just stunning. The engine sounds are also well done, with the characteristic high-pitch whine of a highly-tuned V10 firing away sounding spot-on.
And the physics model is superb! Once you get rid of all the aids you effectively have a true F1 simulator... which means that these cars bite. You need to be super-smooth and precise in your actions if you want to control the 800bhp on tap, the phenomenal braking power and the high level of grip you are given. A touch too much power in the lower gears and the rear wheels break traction spectacularly, making the car swerve violently. Overdo the brakes and you'll find yourself carving a straight line. Turn in too fast and you'd better be ready to catch that vicious snap of the rear-end. And the best thing is that you can take your time in getting into the game with the plentiful supply of driver aids. ABS, traction control, opposite lock assistance and automatic braking are all there, making this a game you can play on many levels. In a game which is almost as complex to drive as Grand Prix Legends, it betters it in this respect. F1 2000 would be a great trainer for GPL.
...But the Fifth is broken.
The game features three full screens worth of setup options (Gear Ratios and Aerodynamics / Tyre Pressure and Suspension / Advanced Suspension). Let's ignore for the minute the fact that the manual only teaches you about the first and resorts to a cause-and-effect summary sheet for the other two. Let's assume that you are a bona fide grease monkey and you know exactly what these setup options do. Now how exactly are you supposed to use them without telemetry? How can you tell where you were faster on one lap than the other, where the car is set up too low or too high, or where there's a lot of suspension travel or wheelspin? All it gives you is a tyre temperature gauge which, although certainly useful (it also shows up the surprising amount of negative camber dialed into the default setup), is just not enough. You have more information in the car than out of it! - the cockpit features a simple tyre temperature indicator and a tyre wear indicator. It also has a bottoming out icon but there is nothing to tell you how fast the underbody plank is wearing out. Telemetry in a modern F1 simulation is so fundamental that it's almost unbelievable that anybody could leave it out - it makes dialing in your car much more difficult than it has to be. And whilst I'm on the topic of setup grievances, the saving menu is plain silly. It makes no attempt to separate setups for different tracks, and then hides them all when it prompts you to save a new one. Very clumsy.
I've already said that the game looks great at first glance, but you quickly pick up its shortcomings once you begin to probe around. The replay option is very inaccessible - to see it you have to finish your session (which you can't save) and return to the main menu. The circuit selection menu is bizarre in that the circuits seem to have been arranged in no appreciable order. And the control selection menu is tiresome if you're trying to set up a joystick or wheel, as it prompts you to enter the keyboard control first. Though on the plus side, there is a wide range of joystick options from speed sensitivity to dead-zone definition, so you can easily dial in your particular device.
In the car the cockpit readings are difficult to read in the heat of the moment, and you notice some strange priorities here. If you don't have telemetry then I'd have thought that speed and rpm would be more important than the timing information the game gives you. The split times given are always between your current lap and your best time in that session, and never between you and the fastest car on the track - which is what you need in qualfying. And there are about 15 split points which I find a little confusing - I preferred the TV-style system with 3 split times. At least you then know exactly which parts of the track you're dealing with for a given sector.
When you're driving, there are some graphics options you definitely do not want on. It's bizarre to think that something as simple as the placement map (a bar on the bottom showing the relative positions of every car) could have such a hit on frame rate. And of course mirrors are also a heavy load, although these can be quickly toggled on and off for critical moments such as the start by pressing "R". What would have been nice, in view of the number of people who will struggle with this game, would have been to put a heads up display on the no-cockpit view. Instead, whilst you'll get the best frame rates in this view, you'll lose all the information (gears/speed/rpm/fuel etc), rendering it useless unless you have every single driving aid on.
A.I. - Artificial Idiots
I'm not done yet - I haven't even touched upon the computer cars! The AI in this game is totally screwed up. They spin on the formation lap (which the computer controls entirely, making it pretty pointless), they get involved in massive pile-ups at the start, they seem reluctant to overtake each other, they have a lot of trouble at certain tracks (though there is a 3rd party effort underway to patch their lines - you can find the patches and other useful utilities at the Blackhole Motorsports site) and they have no regards as to where you are in relation to them. In a race at Imola I made a good start off the line and was racing down towards Tamburello alongside Jenson Button. I was on the line, he wasn't. His solution - turn into me and push me off the track! I don't mind aggressive AI, but F1 2000 takes this too far. I've had more acidents in the first lap in this game than in any other, and it makes your blood boil when you've worked hard for a good grid position.
The game features a pit-to-car radio which is of limited use. The race engineer will let you know the times to the car in front and behind (though better would have been an indication of how fast the gaps were changing - a perfect way of increasing in-race tension as you so often see on TV), and will congratulate you on a pass or give you a ticking off if you take an off-track excursion. Even he however is afflicted by the AI curse - what use is the message "Alex Wurz is just ahead of you" when your nose has been tucked under his diffuser for the last three laps? And how about this - once he told me "Eddie Irvine is pitting in this lap. You'll have to stay out longer!". A nice touch, except that I'd been in the pits for the last 5 minutes looking at the classification sheets. Errr...
Finally the game boasts "Full TV Style Presentation: Pre and post race presentation by TV's Jim Rosenthal, replays and licensed music." But don't expect anything like the post-race analysis you see on TV, for all Jim seems capable of doing is reading out the top three championship positions at the start and end of every race. Although now that I think about it, this is exactly what he does in real life anyway...
At the end of the day it's just so frustrating! F1 2000 had the potential to be a superb game, but with all its shortcomings it's simply a mediocre one. Things may improve in multiplayer (which I didn't get a change to test), and driving a simulation of this calibre is great fun, but racing the AI has virtually zero appeal. To their credit the developers have produced a patch called the Mobil 1 Race Challenge where players are invited to send in their fastest laps for a track just before that particular grand prix, with a VIP trip to a GP up for grabs. But this aside, it's very surprising given ISI's impressive past track record with Sports Car GT to see them produce a game in this condition, and you have to wonder whether EA should share part of the blame for pushing this game out early.
Whatever the case, it's a big "Must Do Better" on their report card this time round.
Review By GamesDomain
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