Formula One Group, in all their wisdom, decided to flog the exclusive rights to the F1 franchise to Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. A five year deal was signed in 2003 at a value of around USD $70m (GBP £35m).
If the F1 Group have done well out the deal, F1 fans have not. Unless you’ve got a Sony Playstation 2 or 3, you won’t be able to play the official F1 game. And even if you can play it, the game is rubbish.
Happily an independent group of enthusiasts have taken matters into their own hands and produced a game that’s much, much better: “rFactor”.
Anyone’s whose picked up one of SCEE’s official F1 titles will be well aware of their shortcomings. The games are typically rushed out halfway through an F1 season to get the most out of being the only game to feature the latest team and driver details.
As a result, they haven’t got anything like a full season’s data to work on.
The official F1 game is an exercise in graphical accomplishment and nothing else. It’s unchallenging, simplistic and unrealistic.
“rFactor” couldn’t be more different. Produced by a dedicated group of race sim fans, it’s unofficial, exceptional value and enormous fun.
The advent of the internet has made it easier for small independent games makers to publish their titles. This is great news for fans of serious racing games, who are increasingly poorly served by mainstream titles.
The benchmark sim for Formula 1 for many years was Geoff Crammons’s exceptional ‘Grand Prix’ series. But SCEE’s exclusive deal with F1 Group put paid to that.
“rFactor” isn’t a dedicated F1 simulator – but it’s highly customisable and flexible core has been adapted by many dedicated fans to produce some excellent F1 material.
You can race the full 1979 season, for example, complete with exquisitely detailed tracks and cars, right down to the engine sounds.
A 2005 season is also available and so is a full-length N�rburgring Nordschleife. BMW, recognising the value of having their F1 brand represented in a proper racing simulator, had sponsor Intel work with the “rFactor” team to produce versions of their F1 cars that can be downloaded. Hopefully other teams will soon see the light.
And did I mention all these downloads are free? That’s right – having downloaded the game you can grab all the additional material you like. There’s Formula BMW, Renault Megane trophy racing, Australian V8s and tons more.
But it’s extremely playable and tons of fun online. The official game may have motion-captured drivers’ features, but “rFactor” has what really counts – a detailed, realistic game that’s rewarding to play.