Formula 1: Championship Edition
Windows - 1998
Description of Formula 1: Championship Edition
Why this game?
Immediately after installing Psygnosis' Formula 1 97, I asked myself why this game was ever produced. Not that this is necessarily a bad title but to me, it's one that you really don't care if you have it or not. It's a mediocre sequel to the mediocre original, which was fairly popular in 1996 because it was one of the first games to make good use of 3D hardware acceleration. Later on it was often part of the game bundles given away with some Voodoo chipset cards as it was ideal to show what a hardware accelerator can do.
What was visually breathtaking then is still well done today. There can be no doubt about that, the game still looks good. On my P200 with a Voodoo card, the frame rate is quick while still offering smooth and attractive graphics. There are a few pros and cons in the graphics department, though. It is generally acknowledged that Psygnosis did a good job with the recreation of the Formula 1 courses. There is an obvious love for details, particularly in Monte Carlo, where you are allowed to look through the pillars in the tunnel. On the other hand, there are problems. For example, on this same course a skyscraper by the turn towards the sea appears incredibly slowly, drawn one floor after the other. Very awkward.
F1 97 's track details are good enough, but again I am not totally satisfied. While racing through the forests of Hockenheim I had the instant feeling of tree-walls adjacent to the track. I know this is entirely subjective stuff but the trees don't look very 3Dish to me. Adding to the disappointment is the driver's view (which is one of the biggest improvements over last year's edition), which does not offer mirrors. Oh, the mirrors are physically there, but they offer nothing but a flat grey surface. And look again at the screen shot above. Tthe speed and your current gear are written in grey on the upper right --- not where you really want to look during a high speed race! All in all, the graphics are good enough. Other games, however, such as Microsoft's ****Cart Precision Racing*** or Ubisoft*'s ***Formula 1 Racing Simulation*** feature far more in terms of look and feel.
The sound effects are more of the basic stuff with one notable exception: there is dual commentary provided by Murray Walker and Martin Brundle. The former is particularly well known in the United Kingdom for his TV commentary on Formula 1 races, so for British customers this may add a big recognition factor. I am a huge fan of live commentary for sports games, my personal favourite being Actua Soccer 2, but car racing games leave me the least convinced about commentaries. Race one round with F1 97 and you know the geographical surroundings and the names of the turns. After a couple more rounds I got annoyed by the repetitive commentary big time and turned it off. Furthermore, I had sound problems with my engine noise in simulation mode which I couldn't resolve.
This game's tyres remain fairly cold
The average graphics and sounds are accompanied by average gameplay. The arcade mode is entirely obsolete --- it's simply not any fun to race around in a Formula 1 car in this way here. The driving model is similar to Sega's racing games, but since Formula 1 courses are not looking very arcade-like, it may be a problem related to the genre of the sport rather than the designers of the game themselves. I lost interest before I even saw all the courses. If you are generally interested in arcade racing, why not go for Ultimate Race Pro or even one of the titles from Sega. They're better, faster, and more fun to play than this one.
The simulation setting --- called Gran Prix Mode --- makes the game a little more interesting. You can play around with the most common features of a Formula 1 car and try to win a single race weekend or the whole season. These tuning features are designed for beginners and intermediate drivers. They are appropriate for people who either lack the understanding of advanced car setup or don't have the time to go through hours of car adjustment.
For me, it's a similar problem as in Andretti Racing. Why should I bother to play with my wings or tyres when I know that there are games available which offer far more realistic setups? Problem is, the driving model follows these limited tuning options. The worst aspect of it is the usage of brakes. Imagine racing on Hockenheim, lots of straights with topspeeds and some nasty chikanes. Normally, you would have to spot braking points to slow down in time, but in this game all you have to do is release the throttle and the car loses all of its speed in a second. Strangely, this occurs only if you use the cockpit view --- but then you wouldn't want any other view in simulation mode.
All in all: the ideal game for bundling
Don't pay for this game. If you want a serious Formula 1 game, take home Formula 1 Racing Simulation instead. If you are looking for a good arcade game, choose Ultima Race Pro. And if you can't really decide what you want, I suggest Andretti Racing, which offers better graphics and better gameplay. It's also old enough that you can probably find it in a bargain bin or second hand.
Formula 1 97 is not a totally bad game, it's just that there is nothing in it that's really worth your money. It may be a nice chip-in though, if you can get it bundled with a 3D card. Aside from that, though, don't bother.
Review By GamesDomain
Captures and Snapshots
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