Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
SCEE Formula One Championship Edition
- Gorgeous HD graphics; easy to play for first-timers; speed, speed, speed!
- Not a knock on the game, but F1 Racing has limited appeal in the US
Fun for everyone — including you, race-game hater.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
With blazing speeds approaching 215 miles per hour, fragile cars, and highly demanding, technical race courses, the international F1 circuit serves as an interesting counterpoint to the far more popular macho, roughneck world of NASCAR.
Amazingly, Formula One Championship Edition captures all of these themes. Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid to this game is that it feels markedly different than a NASCAR racing game.
A big part of the reason that the game feels different is the hair-raising, awe-inspiring sensation of speed. The first three or four times I played, my friend Matt was hanging out with me. At one point, I flawlessly executed the final 180-degree turn at the Bahrain track and, as I entered the straightway, hit a top speed of 210 miles per hour. The feeling of speed was so intense down this straight that we both went slack-jawed, wide-eyed nuts, uttering a chorus of profanities salty enough to make a nun faint.
But this is how F1 Championship Edition rolls. Clearly, the power of the PS3 has been successfully harnessed because the game's speedy gameplay does not come with any sacrifice to graphical quality. The cars, environments, and race tracks all look close to photorealistic.
Believe it or not, there's an element of game design here that is actually more important than the photorealistic graphics and manic sensation of speed. With F1 Championship Edition, Sony's UK-based Liverpool development studio has crafted an authentic-feeling experience that won't piss off inexperienced gamers who don't know F1 from B12.
The key is a series of gameplay aids that help you race without destroying yourself. As an example, as you zip around the course, a virtual green line is painted on the screen that demonstrates the ideal "line" that you should utilise when entering corners. Another example is the auto downshifting of gears as you enter tight turns. Even better, during race week, AI mechanics make all the necessary car adjustments based on your driving performance during practice laps.
Hardcore racers will be happy to know that you can turn off all these aids and manually adjust and control every racing element to your heart's content.
This is not to say that F1 Championship Edition is easy. In my first two races, I blazed top speeds that landed me in the pole position. But racing against a field of 22 drivers is a different experience entirely than racing against the clock. In both races, I choked and wrecked out in the first three laps. Frustrating, sure, but it's refreshing to have some goals to work towards in a video game.
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