The latest Playstation 2 F1 game to hit the shelves boasts the full 2005 roster of teams, drivers and circuits. Is it worth parting with a significant chunk of your hard-earned for? We give it a thorough track-testing.
Playstation gamers are apparently well catered for in terms of the number of racing games available for the machine, but fewer and fewer of them seem to possess any real quality or serious challenge.
Codemasters have diluted their once-proud TOCA brand into a hopeless mishmash of arcade nonsense, and more racing games borrow too heavily from The Fast and the Furious or Gone in 60 Seconds substance-over-style approaches. The only significant exception is the mighty Gran Turismo franchise.
F1 fans can usually expect at least one game per year featuring the all the new season’s data and latest rules changes, from Red Bull to Istanbul.
Of course, so desperate are games’ publishers to cash in on the new season that the game for a given year will come out before the season is even finished and before an accurate picture of how competitive the drivers were over a full season can be ascertained.
This is the first problem that blights F1-2005. Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen may be rightly top of the timesheets in the game at present, but who’s to say that, in three races’ time, Bridgestone might not have supplied Ferrari with a killer tyre and it’s 2004 all over again?
Alonso and Raikkonen may be rightly top of the timesheets in the game at present, but who’s to say that, in three races’ time, Bridgestone might not have supplied Ferrari with a killer tyre and they are ahead?
The present volatility of Formula One doesn’t help. The awful and unloved aggregate qualifying system is used for the entire season, but in reality it was dropped many months ago and won’t be used again.
Nor does the game attempt to mimic Red Bull’s curious driver rotation system between Christian Klien (who is in the game) and Vitantonio Liuzzi (who isn’t). Being a PS2 game, the creators cannot simply produce patches for download on the Internet. This is one of two significant limitations of the PS2 as the format for top-level F1 games.
The second is the control system. Behind the wheel the cars are immensely forgiving to drive, mainly to accommodate the Playstation joypad controls. Even so, this is not worth playing with anything other than dedicated steering wheel and pedals set-up – you’ll knacker your hands in no time otherwise.
The physics of the game really fall short when you have two or more cars interacting with one another on the track.
There is no sensation of turbulent disturbance as you follow another car closely, you tend only to gain ground on a leading car immediately on corner exits but not all the way down a straight, and contact between cars produces random and completely unrealistic crashes. Your suspension of disbelief will not last long.
The representations of the circuits are not spectacular either. Gradients are, generally, almost completely flattened out, some circuits are far too short on detail and some are far wider than they should be. Monte-Carlo, always the acid test for an F1 game, is a case in point – it feels too much like an ordinary circuit that happens to have barriers and buildings instead of vast expanses of gravel around the track.
You get the usual multitude of participation options: testing, individual races, championships and career mode. In the latter, you can snag tests with one of three teams to begin with (Minardi, Jordan and Red Bull) and subsequently move on to better things if you perform well.
It doesn’t take more than a few laps for this game’s lack of depth to become painfully evident, though, and you may not even care to discover if your career path does lead to the top.
There are three difficulty settings: easy, with incredibly short races and no real opposition, medium, which is pitched just about right for an accomplished driver using a joypad, and hard, for which you absolutely must get yourself a steering wheel! Starting on medium is recommended, because within a race or two on easy mode anyone can master the controls enough to be miles ahead of the chasing pack. However long I play, though, I can’t get used to the way it zooms in the view as you decelerate, which is very distracting.
F1 2005 provides only a short-term fix for the F1 junkie. Even with bonus cars to unlock there is only really enough going on in this game to keep you interested for a couple of weeks. If the career mode were spread across a couple of years (as in the popular F1 Challenge) it might help, but the game’s fundamentals are all at sea: unrealistic circuits, dodgy physics and a wholly unrealistic sense of speed.
This review first appeared in F1Fanatic Issue 17, 3rd July 2005.