The first era of SCEE F1
Since 2000, SCEE have held the licensing rights to Formula 1, much to the disappointment of PC F1 fans who realised now they would have to patch hack and crack their PC F1 games to keep them up to date with the real season. Some considered this a good thing, well, many considered it a good thing, comparing Microproses GP3 to SCEE's F1 2000 was like comparing a big chocolate cake to a wasp sting in the eye. 2001 was not much better, the cars whined terribly, the graphics were horrible when compared to the EA sports version and GP4 on PC and the handling felt very..non existent. So, 2 year into the license and SCEE stuffed up twice.
The better era of SCEE F1
So, 2001 was bad, but then 2002 hit the shelves in..well, 2002 and much was improved. The cars sounded like F1 cars, the graphics were passable, the handling was good, if a little twitchy and it came with a free DVD. Though compared to 2002 by EA it was only on par. 2003 was much the same as 2002, only this time with the new qualifying rules which were well implemented, sounds and graphics also slightly overhauled and this was also the first season of F1 that wouldn't be released on PC as EA could not make F1 games beyond the 2002 season.
The golden era of SCEE F1
F1 04 was a huge turning point, a career mode, a proper career mode! Starting with tests for some small rubbishy team who cant win! Then having to work up the ranks! It wwas a great idea and it worked! But the downside was it was too easy, by the middle of season 3 many people would be winning the championship in a high end race car, bearing in mind its a 10 season career. The 2005 formula was much the same, the new rules were still implemented, the career mode was still there and was harder, and the graphics were still getting better. But after a while, still got too easy. Podiums in a Sauber?
And now to the present day, F1 2006 was released only yesterday and i couldn't wait to get my hands on it. To me this was the F1 game i wanted most, it had more changes than any of the other games, 3 new teams (Scuderia Toro Rosso, Super Aguri and Midland F1) all new qualifying rules and tyre changes were back in. So all in all a mouth watering prospect for any F1 fan. I dived in head first, selecting time trial, a Midland and Silverstone and set out to try the handling, sound and grahpics.
The handling felt odd a first, heavier and less twitchy than 2005, and thats a good thing by the way. The car has more feel, its more there when your driving, unlike the floatyish nonfeelingish feel of 2005. Then the sound, the Midlands V8 engine sounded perfect, having been to see F1 i knew what it should sound like in person, and it was very well done. The graphics however had not moved on much from 2005, but as i will tell you soon, there is more there to be looked at.
Studio Liverpool had been making a big fuss to F1 fans, particularly on forums, about certain features, 3D rumble strips, live action racing and race car evolution to name a few. starting with the former, 3D rumble strips are a welcome addition, ech circuits rumble strips accurately recreated for that authentic feel, hit a big one too hard or fast and the chances are you will spin out big time, and you wont get away with it, as the new damage system is much more realistic and a big shuunt results in a big crash and retirement. Then there is the live ation racing where the AI crs supposedly battle eachother for position, they battle eachother, make mistakes, crash, have failures and will battle you for position too, it is very good to watch and be part of, and yes, the AI is much harer, and the difficulty is here to stay!
Now onto the race car evolution, a great idea to help the people who are not very good at setting up an F1 car. what happens is the race engineer gives you a selection of setups on the Friday practice session, and you have to try out each one a choose onethat feels good or that is the fastest, it works well and will help people understand more about F1 setups, particularly as the engineer talks through whats been done to the car.
All in all it is very hard to fault this game, everything has been seemingly got right, difficulty, realism, and for non sim players its accesible with aids, sound (even the commentary with James and Martin is fan-bloody-tastic!) and despite the graphics not being GT4 quality, it still looks good and moves at a very high frame rate with 21 cars on the screen.
This is a must have for any F1 fan and even non F1 fans alike, for those who want it to be easy and accessible, it is, and for those who want a realistic simulation of F1 it is, don't let previous incarnations put you off, this is a must have F1 game.
9 / 10