So you’ve waited patiently for your PS3 to arrive, you have it sitting next to your 42 inch HD-TV. Everything’s plugged in and ready to go and you open up your new racing game Formula One: Championship Edition. Not knowing exactly what to expect, you place the game in the PS3 slot and are left their starring at SCE Studios Liverpool logo for what seems like an eternity. Once you get into the game, you will find yourself playing without doubt one of best F1 titles yet released on a console. But that’s not all, as the guys in Liverpool have also somehow managed to make this game appealing to those who do not find the sport Formula 1 racing exhilarating in any way, shape or form.
The main problem F1 games usually have is that they are simply too complicated and aren’t in the pick up and play category. Luckily with this title they have implemented a ton of driving aids, so that even your two-year-old brother can make it around Monte Carlo in a respectable time. You can have automatic spin control, so if you go off the track, the computer will take control of your car and point you towards the tarmac. You can also choose to turn the driving line on or off, which is a coloured line showing you the best and quickest route (although that can be questionable at times) to take on the various tracks in the game. You can also choose to have breaking assistance and steering assistance. Basically with all the aids on you can quite literally keep your finger on the accelerator throughout the entire race (don’t believe me, try it).?
After reading that paragraph above the more experienced F1 gamers are probably already writing the game off, but please don’t. Yes, the driving aids make the game ridiculously easy to play, but you can of course turn all the aids of so you get the more realistic racing experience. It doesn’t stop there, because many, including myself, do love tinkering with the car’s setup. If you set the car up just right you will be justly rewarded with a vehicle which glides across the tarmac, like a hockey player on ice, with the speed and agility of a cheetah. Let me tell you it feels damn good, not only because the cars setup has made it just perfect, but you get the great sense of achievement that you created this beast.
Anyway, onto the game modes. First off there’s Career mode where you take control of a custom driver as you attempt to dazzle the world with your racing skills. Sadly this is one mode that will NOT appeal to those of you who are newer to the racing game, as it is in fact rather difficult even on the Easy difficulty. Once you’ve made your driver you must then attempt to join a team, and you only have three teams on offer at first those being Toro Rosso (Red Bull racing), MF1 Racing and Super Aguri (Honda B Team). The three different teams have three different ways of testing your skills, for example MF1 require you to beat a set lap time, but you have to beat it three times in a row. Super Aguri only require a single time trial lap and Toro Rosso need you to beat an accumulative time over three laps.
So you pass the trial, but it doesn’t stop there, because if your trial wasn’t up to scratch you could find yourself relegated to a test driver. If you sign as a test driver you will be doing nothing more than testing out a cars aerodynamics and the only time you’ll see the race track is via a video replay as you watch your dreams of being the World’s Number one driver slowly slip away. If you are a more patient gamer then you do get that feeling of self-satisfaction when you finally make the drivers seat, but personally I would just redo the trial and make sure to sign as a seated driver.
Once all the testing and trials are over you can finally get on with racing against the world’s best. Racing day is split up into quite a few different events; the evolution section will be where you set the car up to run perfectly on the current track. Training is next, and this is where you will begin to learn the ins and outs of the track your about to race. Next up is the qualifying which has been made to replicate the sports current system. This involves three sessions, the first session everyone must post a time and positions 16-22 are eliminated, in Q2 times 10-16 are knocked out and then in Q3 the session turns into a knockout between the final ten drivers for pole position.
Phew. Well we are finally getting onto the actual race and it will take you the better part of thirty minutes to get to this point, but once those lights turn green you will simply forget about all that and get lost in the driving experience. As soon as that race begins you will hear 22 V8’s revving up to 20,000 rpm and its then when you’ll get a little tingle down your spine and will realise just how good this game is. The cars themselves rocket off the starting grid with such speed, and despite their being no rumble feedback (curse you Sony), it still feels unbelievable. They are just as responsive as real F1 cars (well at least from my experience) and you’ll find yourself hugging those corners and trying to keep your entry and exit speeds up above 150 mph on every single turn. You will find that the trick to winning isn’t so much keeping your foot on the accelerator for the longest possible time; instead your success will be determined by your racing line. If you can read a track and its turns you will find yourself doing exceedingly well in this game, if not then you might want to turn a couple of those driving aids on.
If starting from scratch isn’t your thing you can jump straight into the driving seat with World Championship mode. You won’t be able to make your own unique player but instead take control of your favourite drivers. This is a good and a bad thing. The good being that all you Schumacher glory boys can still use the German ace. But as you’ve no doubt realised already the game has stuck with last year’s teams and drivers which means Alonso is not with McLaren and Raikonnen has not yet gone to Ferrari. It also means that the new Spykers are not present and also the various new paint schemes are also yet to be put into effect (as you can no doubt figure out just by looking on the game’s front cover). Sure, its only the car’s cosmetics and a few names that are in the wrong place, but even such a small thing makes the game feel a little less authentic which is a shame.
The game does have an online mode where you can take to the racetrack with up to eleven other racers, but it just feels so bland online. I cannot truly explain it but the constant lag, the jumpy cars, the lack of any voice communications and the fact that there’s no real rewards for your races just makes for a very boring online experience. You can setup online tournaments but it simply isn’t enough to save the game online.
Graphically the game is astounding in every respect. The cars look ridiculously real, the curves, the colours it just looks perfect. The wheels whether they are motionless or spinning at 200 mph are one of the graphical aspects, which add to the sensation of incredible speed. The tracks have been painstakingly recreated and you will see the awesome Woodcote corner in Silverstone, the famous ‘Tunnel’ at Monte Carlo and not forgetting the aptly named Green Hell. In total you will get to drive on all seventeen F1 tracks and three others, just for good measure, all of them looking astonishing. The game even has some pretty intense crashes and you can break almost any part of your car, depending on what you hit. The graphical experience this game provides can be described best by a friend, who after playing career mode, simply said that the game looks better than the real thing. Ok, so a mate’s opinion isn’t exactly the best thing to base buying this game on, but in all honesty he’s not far from the truth.
Overall this game is surprisingly good. You miss out on the new teams, new paint schemes and new drivers (which is even more disappointing considering how good Hamilton, England’s latest ray of hope, is at racing in these awesome vehicles). But you get that awesome sense of speed, which is very hard to capture. You get visuals to die for and a very immersive career mode. The online aspect of the game is without a doubt the biggest letdown, but hopefully a sequel will fix that problem. Even people who simply can’t race will still be able to use the driving aids to get going straight away, and provide some sort of challenge to those who are a tad more experienced. It is of course the F1 fans who will get the most out of this game though, with the ability to tweak every aspect of you car, and some classic F1 cars available to unlock Grand Prix fans will simply be in their element. ??
One thing I must say despite all this praise is that even F1 fans will get bored of this game. This is the type of game that you’ll keep in your collection and never trade in and you want to know why? Once the F1 pre-season hype gets going again you’ll want to yet again take to the wheel and race against the world’s best drivers. The game might sit by your other titles collecting dust for five months while it’s the F1 off-season, but it really is worth it waiting those five months before the racing bug kicks in again. If you did stupidly trade the game in you’ll be down to your local game store to pick it up yet again and, for that reason, this game is a must for any racing fan.
Originally Written By: Lee Matthews