IGN Review of Formula 1: Championship Edition
While Americans seem to generally favor NASCAR as their preferred racing league, folks elsewhere tend to flock to Formula One for its extremely technical racing. In truth, the sport's hardcore following is tremendous and gaming fans accept no less than perfection from titles based on it. With slick visuals, quick pacing and promises of racing bliss, Formula One Championship Edition attempts not only to please the sport's direct fans, but general racing junkies the world over as well.
One issue that always creeps up with regards to F1 games is that there's a fine line between the simulation aspects, accessibility and, most importantly, fun. Sony and SCE Studios Liverpool have attempted to address this by providing a number of options that allow anyone to quickly get into the game. Aside from AI difficulty, you'll also find options for turning car damage on and off, adjusting weather variance, racing lines, traction control, automatic spin recovery, brake assist and more.
In this fashion, the game does make itself fairly accessible, at least to anyone who's into technical racing (like Gran Turismo). Because Formula cars have extremely quick acceleration and bow-tight brakes, having the assist options turned on makes it appropriately easy to maneuver around the track, even for first-time racers. For hardcore fans, not only can you switch these assists off to create a more realistic simulation of the sport but you're able to jump in and tweak your car's settings to dial in the best lap times possible.
While all of that works, the main Career mode is too restrictive to jump into. Before you can actually begin racing, you have to earn a spot on a team by applying for a trial run. These runs task you to either beat a single lap time or compile a low total time over three cumulative laps. In either case, the times are extremely stringent and you actually need to be very practiced before you'll be able to pass any of them, even on Easy. Stepping up to Medium requires perfect driving, and not of the passive sort. You really need to have your skills honed-in before you'll be able to join a team at this level.
To make matters worse, even if you pass the trial, some of the sponsors will only offer you a test driver seat. You'll then be delegated to testing out settings and such while you sit back and wait for the results on race day. If you can manage to perform well as a test driver, you may eventually get offered a driver's spot. There's simply too much stuff here that gets in the way of your ability to join a team and hop into a race. Sure, if your skills aren't up to snuff you'll finish in the back of the pack, but at least you can try.
If you don't want to hassle with qualifying for a team in Career mode, you can jump into the World Championship mode and play through a single season. You'll have to assume the role of an existing driver, but at least you can get straight to the racing.
As for the racing itself, there's a fair bit to like here, at least if you're a fan of technical racing. The controls are tight and very responsive, allowing you to hug corners at high speeds with little effort. While the engine allows you to speed up very quickly and the brakes let you stop on a dime, the times and competitors you'll be racing against are very tough so you'll need tons of practice to finish at the top of the poles. Formula One Championship Edition is less of a game about learning how to drive and rather how to manage the courses. The cars will do almost anything you ask them to, so the real challenge here lies in learning when to hit the brakes to take a 180-degree corner as best as possible.
Having said all that, this is obviously not a game for everyone. There aren't a ton of amazing crashes, and there isn't a whole lot of subtlety in the cars' performance (excluding the ability to tweak and fine-tune them). So what we're left with is an extremely technical game, one that doesn't have a lot of flash to it. If you're not a fan of perfecting lap times by memorizing a course and prefer the feel of a muscle car, this isn't the game for you. However, if you're a Formula fan and love this sort of thing, it won't disappoint.
As for track design, the game uses real-world locations used in the 2006 Formula One season, so they're about as good as you'll find anywhere. Featuring tracks like Suzuka, Monza, Indianapolis and Monte Carlo, the count totals close to 20 courses.
Formula One Championship Edition offers a fair amount of replayability through both online play and a number of unlockable vehicles. You can unlock a number of classic, and extremely cool, Formula cars by finishing at the top of the leader board in one of the single-player modes. Unfortunately, you can only use these cars in Time Trials, but at least they're there.
As for the online play, a fairly standard set of options and such are available to you. Up to 11 players can join in and race in a field of up to 22 racers, with AI drivers filling in for the missing human players. One cool thing that you can do is to create a game and play against solely AI drivers if you want to race alone but still have your stats tracked online. The game unfortunately will not upload your single-player lap times to the online boards, but this works if you really want to rank yourself. Once you've started a room, the players can carry on from race to race so that you're able to hold a small tournament if you'd like. You can't actually take part in any sort of ongoing league, but at least this helps ease the pain.
Formula One Championship Edition features support for a number of Logitech racing wheels, like the Driving Force Pro and its premiere G25 racing wheel. The game works very nicely with these wheels, letting you dial-in your lines more accurately than with an analog stick, though Force Feedback support isn't present, unfortunately.
From a technical perspective, Formula One Championship Edition is a damn fine-looking title. The lighting is fantastic, both on the cars and trackside. The sun glares through trees and off the track at times to hinder your view, but that's just the way it should be. The cars shine and gleam like they've just gotten fresh coats of paint, and the roadway features enough detail that you'd swear you can make out individual pebbles on the track. There are a few minor things that could be cleaned up in the future, like relatively low-poly hands and a sometimes flat feel to some objects. These are minor gripes however that don't hinder an overall beautiful game very much at all.
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