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F1 2000

Hi-octane racer reviewed

Playstation Developer:EA SportsPublisher:EA Sports

Introduction

One of my ambitions in life is to get inside a Formula 1 car and take it for a spin around Silverstone.

The fulfilment of this dream hasn't happened as of yet. So what does a speed freak like myself do instead?

Well I can always try and notch 130mph out of my Honda Accord on the M25. This would risk both my license and the distinct possibility of causing a big pile-up.

Instead, I have to content myself with computer simulations. Problem with F1 games in the past is that they've never quite captured the speed and adrenaline rush that GP racing should induce.

Does F1 2000 get the heart pumping? Read on.

Present and Correct

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a GP simulation featuring made up names and car manufacturers. Thankfully F1 2000 isn't cursed with such an irritant.

All the driver and manufacturer names from this year's championship are included. Whether you want to be at the helm of Ferrari's much improved car, or try and improve Jacques Villeneuve's luck in the BAR; the decision is yours.

The first thing that will strike you is the sheer attention to detail that has been crammed into the game. As you'd expect, all the 17 circuits are included, with every twist and turn accounted for.

Before each race, cars can be adjusted to your own custom specification. Race strategies can also be planned out. Are you a one-stop kinda racer, or you going to risk a three-stop strategy? You have complete control.

Go Go Go!

From the main menu you have a few choices. You can leap straight into a 'Quick Race', with your choice of track and driver. You can even customise the starting grid, rather than beginning the race at the back! I recommend you have a quick spin around a couple of the tracks to get used to the speed and controls of the game. A steering wheel setup would probably be best too, but it is perfectly playable on a pad.

The 'Time Trial' option allows you set up a timed lap based competition. Choose your own three-letter player name, the lap begins with your car at full pelt approaching the finishing line. The object is to complete the lap in as quick a time as possible. When the lap is complete, your time is registered for the next person to come along to try and better.

Next up is the 'Weekend' mode. This allows you to simulate a full Grand Prix weekend, on any track of your choosing. The mode features practice, qualifying and race sessions, but without the stress of a full season tournament.

Finally, you have 'Championship' mode. This is the full monty so to speak. This mode is really only for the die-hard fans of Grand Prix. By default a lot of the damage and penalty options are off. This is fine, but you won't get the most out of the game. I recommend you set all damage to on, allow the warning flags, set the game to hard or expert if you really are a glutton for punishment, and prepare yourself for a rather splendid experience.

Handling and AI

Too many GP games look good, but the cars glide around corners rather than pitch. F1 2000's cars handle superbly, taking corners realistically, with accurate portrayal of suspension. As mentioned previously, the game is probably best played with a steering wheel setup, as sometimes the braking and acceleration can be a tad on the sluggish side on the pad. On the whole though, the cars brake hard when you want them too, and accelerate out of bends perfectly.

As in the real sport, it's very easy to spin off with the slightest of misjudged corners or braking. Once off track, care has to be taken not to simply wheelspin your way into further trouble. There's a superb feeling to be close to winning a race, knowing that your next move could well be fatal. With the 'fault' option set to on, it can also be worrying that your engine could blow at any given time. Certainly makes your palms sweat anyway, especially if you've opted for a full race set over 50 plus laps!

What about the opposition though? Well, on normal skill mode, you will find you're lapping them twice in a race. Unless you're into easy victories, you'll soon be switching to the harder difficulty. This is where you realise how good the game is. The contention for corners is brilliantly depicted. When you nip in front at a corner, don't be surprised to see the computer-controlled cars almost angrily try to cut you up on the other side.

Aggression is one aspect of the game, but another is etiquette. An example of this is when you are coming to lap the tail-enders; they will wait for a suitable opportunity and move over so you can pass with ease. Be warned though, just like the real thing you'll get the odd stubborn driver who simply won't get out of the way. With the second and third placed cars breathing down your neck, this can make for some rather exciting moments.

Graphics and Sound

Graphically F1 2000 is splendid. All the cars have the relevant advertising logos on them, and look superb when sat on the starting grid. There are even heat waves coming from the back of the engines! Similarly all the tracks are faithfully rendered, with advertising boards whizzing past and the stands full to the brim with adoring fans.

All of this goes on at a rate of knots, and you'll be surprised at how fast the game actually plays. Of course the benchmark for a GP graphics engine is to have a full race on the Monaco circuit. With all it's buildings, hills, and of course the famous ship quay, not to mention the cars themselves; it's a lot for the engine to handle. But cope with it, it does!

Sound wise the game is a bit of a let down. The sound of the car engine is accurate enough, but when you're in the pits, there's no huge sound of cars souring past. For me a GP game has to be noisy. It's a noisy sport. However, when you are out on the track with all the other cars, the cacophony of noise is very well done. Passing through the tunnel on Monaco is also well represented with the engine noise echoing as it should.

There's a nice selection of music tracks that play throughout the menu options. As you'd expect though, there isn't any in-game music. What is also sadly lacking is any form of commentary. Apart from Jim Rosenthal introducing each Championship or Weekend race, there's no other commentary whatsoever. The only voice you'll hear throughout the race is your team in the pits, who'll inform you of such things like how far behind you are from the car in front, or to request you come into the pits.

Where's Murray Walker? Where's Martin Brundle? Not in F1 2000 unfortunately.

Conclusion

F1 2000 certainly gives you a realistic and challenging game of Formula One racing. With all the realism settings switched on, and a full or half set of laps per race, it's enough to please this ardent GP fan.

The game plays smoothly and at an astonishing speed, with rarely any dip in frame-rate to note. Even on the processor crushing Monaco circuit, the game's engine handles things amicably. Cars handle with satisfying realism, pitching around corners, rather than gliding. Sometimes braking and acceleration can be a little sluggish. This can be a tough break at the beginning of a race where you need decent acceleration to take advantage of a pole position.

There are two big areas that let the game down though. As mentioned, the lack of commentary is disappointing. The simple calls from your team in the pits, and the sound of the engine, really aren't enough. I want to hear Murray losing control of his emotions as you spin off the track, and hear Brundle bore you to tears with statistics about a particular corner on the track.

The second and rather huge failing of the game is the split-screen two player mode. In short, it's unplayable. Even on the less graphics intensive circuits like Interlagos, the game plods along at a frustrating crawl. You are left with the 'Time Trial' option, where you simply try to beat each other's times. This soon gets boring though. You really need to be able to thrash it out against each other.

With all the attention to detail, I find it hard to believe that these things have been skipped over. That said, it's a superb single player experience, which will have you commandeering the television for weeks.

What The Scores Mean

- Out Now

       

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