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Formula One 2001 (PS2) Review

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Produced by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (or more specifically Sony Computer Entertainment Studio Liverpool), Formula One 2001 is a solid F1 racing sim that, despite some relatively minor problems, PS2 F1 fans should take a solid look at.

Presentation/Graphics : 58
Oh the Jaggies! A lot was made of the PS2's anti-aliasing problems early in the console's life; however, with most titles released in the past six months jaggies haven't been much of a problem. Unfortunately, Formula One 2001 has jaggies up the wazoo. At times it really can look ugly and the rest of game's graphics aren't that impressive either. The car models aren't too bad but lack the crisp detail found in EA Sports' F1 2001. The trackside scenery is just as mediocre with very bland textures and poor lighting effects. Comparing a course such as Monaco in Formula One 2001 to the same track in Gran Turismo 3 it's as if the two games were on different systems with Formula One 2001 looking almost like a high-res PSOne game.

The game's camera angles are also disappointing, as there's no cockpit view; instead you get a full-screen first-person view, a chase camera angle and an over-the-helmet view. The over-the-helmet view is the one most gamers will use as it gives a decent view of the track, conveys a good sense of speed, and still lets you judge distances well, though I just wish SCEE included a proper cockpit/driver view as it would have felt more authentic.

It's not all doom and gloom though, and on the bright side the game runs at a blazingly fast framerate with a full field of 22 cars and I haven't experienced any slowdown even at the beginning of races when a lot of cars are on screen at one time. There's also very little pop-up, though this couldn't have been too hard for the programmers to achieve since the graphics are butt ugly.

Presentation/Audio : 60
Much like the game's graphics, Formula One 2001's audio is pretty much uninspiring too. The game features 'commentary' by Murray Walker and Martin Brundle but the developers really did a poor job; there are just too many noticeable pauses within sentences as the game loads specific driver names and as a result the commentary doesn't flow and feels very artificial. It's very disappointing to hear the voice talents of Murray Walker put to waste as he really is the voice of F1 and you'd think with the game being on DVD the developers would have done a much better job of streaming the commentary. The rest of the in-race dialog is also disappointing with very little radio chatter with the pit crew, while the menu music is your bog-standard dance/techno fare. The only positive aspect of the audio are the engine sounds which are noticeably different for each car, and the different engine/car sounds that accompany various sections of the menus.

Interface : 85
The major modes of play in Formula One 2001 are Quick Race, Test Drive, Single Race, World Championship, Time Attack and Spectator Mode. The Spectator Mode allows you to watch a single race which, to me anyway, seems pretty much useless. The rest of the aforementioned gameplay modes are pretty much self-explanatory. The World Championship mode is where gamers will head to for the bulk of their gaming time and as you'd expect, the game features a full FIA license for the drivers, teams/constructors and courses for the 2001 Formula One season.

The major race options are what you'd expect in a good F1 game with 4 levels of difficulty, options to turn on and off flags, tire wear, fuel usage, damage, weather, race length, etc. The car setup options are just as thorough with the ability to adjust tire compound, tire setup, gearing, brake balance, ride height, fuel load, steering angle, front and rear wing angle, front and rear bump damp, front and rear rebound damping, and many more settings for camber, anti-roll, and race strategy. Individual car settings can be saved to memory card though you can only have one set-up per track for a maximum of 17 setups.

Gameplay : 80
Since the only other F1 game available for the PS2 is EA Sports' F1 2001 there will doubtless be comparisons between the two games. While EA Sports' title hands down beats SCEE's title when it comes to graphics, sound and even options, Formula One 2001's superior control/handling and AI make it a more fun and realistic game to play than EA Sports' title.

The first thing you notice when you start racing are the very sensitive controls. With the default settings the steering can be a bit too sensitive, but if you adjust the car setups you can solve the problem. The throttle control is also pretty sensitive and if you're not careful you can easily lose traction and make your car spin out of control. Consequently you can't get away with using the face buttons for the throttle like you could in Gran Turismo 3. Fortunately, though, you can configure the right analog stick to do the job. The sensitive controls can take a while to get used to, but once you do get the control scheme down the vehicles really become a joy to drive with very responsive handling that requires tight throttle and braking control. Speaking of braking, unlike EA Sports' title, Formula One 2001 features realistic tire grip and braking ability and as result you have to concentrate on braking at the right time for each corner, taking the right line through each corner, and also not being too overzealous when applying the throttle upon exit. I really can't overstate how much fun the cars are to drive with the responsive controls.

Another aspect of the racing that I really like about Formula One 2001 is the solid AI. Unlike most other racing games on the PS2, you really feel like you're racing against competent, aware, opposition instead of mindless drones that follow a set path around the track. On the lower difficulty levels the CPU drivers can be a bit too aggressive and not very shy about making contact; however, once you ramp up the AI the opposing drivers make less contact but still have a go at you. I was very pleasantly surprised to see opposing drivers actually trying to outbrake me when going into a turn, and it's also good to see CPU drivers jostle for position amongst themselves and occasionally make mistakes leading to accidents. The aggressive AI makes races exciting and rewarding as you really feel like you're racing against someone instead of just racing against the track and passing the odd drone or two every once in a while like in other PS2 racing titles.

The game isn't perfect though, and there are a few gameplay issues that need to be addressed for the next version. Firstly, while there is car damage, collisions with cars aren't handled realistically and often you can rear-end other cars (or be rear-ended) with no damage to your car whatsoever. On lower difficulty levels where opposing drivers are very aggressive you often have silly Gran Turismo-esque bumper car situations at the beginning of races. Damage when you sideswipe another car is also pretty much random: sometimes you get damage, other times your car is fine. Though the moment you nick a wall or a barrier when traveling at a high speed you'll have a wheel ripped right off. A second problem comes with car failures as far as I can tell, there are none! The options menu has a feature to turn them on but even on a full-length race I've yet to see a single car retire from an engine failure. Finally, while I really liked the CPU drivers' AI, I just wish they were a little bit better on the hardest setting. Perhaps this is a consequence of my playing the game to death, but once you get the control scheme down and know the tracks inside and out (which won't take many F1 fans very long if they don't know them well already) winning races is just a matter of running consistent laps once you've got a good grid position, and the exciting battles with opposing drivers are few and far between. Having failures and better tire wear would have spiced things up, and I just wish the AI could put up a better fight (without, obviously, resorting to catch-up AI/cheating tactics).

Regardless of these problems though, Formula One 2001 is still a blast to play. The driving model is a ton of fun and even once you've won the World Championship it's still a lot of fun to come back and just tear around your course of choice.

Replay Value : 70
The lack of failures, more severe tire wear, and AI that isn't as cunning as I'd like hurt the replay value, though the driving model is so much fun I still find myself coming back to drive the occasional race. It's also a shame that the title doesn't have the plethora of game modes as EA Sports' F1 2001.

Overall : 80
While EA Sports' F1 title has better graphics, sound, and features, Formula One 2001's superior driving and racing model make it the PS2 F1 game of choice in my mind. The game is a great deal of fun, and when you're just learning the ropes and racing wheel to wheel against the CPU opposition you'll be hard pressed to put down your controller.

By: Lavan Chandran 3/7/02



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