Formula One 2003 due out in July

Fully licensed, too.

This year we've seen all sorts of crazy things happen in Formula 1. Cars have overtaken each other. People have watched the races. Heck, the commentary team has even offered a few amateurish excerpts from the Murray Walker book of "literally flying down the track". And now we've seen it all: EA pipped to the post by Sony's desire to get their mitts on the official Formula 1 licence - for the next four years. Suddenly those "F1 Career Challenge 99-02" titles are a bit easier to understand.

Meanwhile Sony is capitalising on its new exclusivity deal, and has SCE Studio Liverpool adding the final touches to Formula One 2003 - a PS2 exclusive, naturally, set for a July release - including up-to-date season statistics, likenesses of all twenty official drivers and each of the ten teams' current liveries, and "exhaustively-researched" car performance and specification details.

Superficially at least everything is falling into place, with the new race weekend regulations, accurately modelled circuits (right down to the bollards and braking boards), a superior damage model, "new AI routines" that "incorporate driver personalities", and regional commentary from various fellows including the UK's Martin Brundle and Germany's Heiko Wasser. We're also told that the game will support various steering wheels, as any good racer should, including the Logitech GT Force and Driving Force wheels and the Speedster 2.

However, it'll be F1 2003's gameplay when compared to the likes of Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix series and EA's console titles that makes or breaks the value of the four-year licence. Last year's outing wasn't the best ever, and a positive comeback alongside an official licence this year could be important as the motorsport itself regains popularity. Roll on July.

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