Traveller's Tales' other PSP racer besides WRC. Did we lap it up? Was it the pits? Will this strapline make it through unedited?
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Traveller's Tales' other PSP racer be-- wait, we've done that. In qualitative terms, Formula One, as a racing sub-genre, seems to operate in tandem with the real thing. Just as ITV's Follow-The-Schumacher arguably needs a kick up the backside, so does the videogame equivalent. Whether Formula One PSP manages to provide it is something we're not too sure of, but we certainly had quite a lot of fun toying with it for the half an hour or so it was within our grasp last week.
The UK-based developer decided, presumably in line with the need for accessibility and all that stuff, to go for a more arcade-oriented approach than the usual F1 output, and that much was evident more or less immediately. As soon as we hit the first corner, in fact, it became apparent just how TT had achieved this: squirrelly turning behaviour that demands virtually no braking beforehand, forgiving handling that leads to virtually no unwanted spinnage, and a more or less total lack of damage modelling. Not unreasonably, the dev-types on hand pointed out that trying to simulate the crumpling destruction of a field of 20 cars on corner number one was never going to work particularly well on the PSP, however powerful it turns out to be.
But that doesn't mean that realism has gone totally out of the window. At the very least the game still has its statistical authenticity to trumpet. The seasonal data will be up to the minute, as previous boasts about downloadable content are still very much true, or so we're told. That means F1 fans will conceivably be able to download qualifying grids in time for the main event on race weekends (which ought to give you something to do during those infernal ad breaks besides ignoring cars adverts and going to the toilet) and see their games updated with real data. And although this will involve some PC-to-Memory-Stick fiddle-age, it sounds worthwhile to us. 70-lap races aren't going to happen (the peak will be more like ten), but otherwise it's sticking to the racing line.
That said, we're not overly taken with the race mechanics themselves at the moment, and obviously that's where it's all going to be decided. There's no direct (certainly no authorised) competition for Formula One currently announced on the PSP, but there are a whole garage of other racing projects to consider, so it's important that the developer manages to make something that at the very least gives them a run for their money. And in cars topping 200kph that ought to be doable.
For the moment though, the turning is a bit jarring - kind of NHL 95's on-a-sixpence directional changes to Grand Prix 2's NHL 2005 - and the way it plays is that everyone hurtles toward a corner and then zips in a particular direction struggling to maintain the right line. The trackside graphics are pretty bland, too, even if the tracks are all the right ones. The level-of-detail effect used on cars is also a bit disconcerting; as you draw towards a corner, all the other cars suddenly rocket from unmarked Virtua Racing rejects to Schumie's shiny shoes with all the liveries intact, and then back again as you yourself rocket past them into the sandtrap and turn back again.
In fairness though, it's nowhere near finished. Even compared to the other PSP launch window titles we've seen from Europe, this is some way off - TT was talking about a July launch - and we dare say there's plenty of tweakage still to come. The good news is that, assuming they can settle on something a little less anarchical in terms of handling, the rest of the game is heading in the right direction. With, naturally, eight-player "fully collidable" wireless multiplayer. F yeah.