Formula One: Championship Edition Preview
There's nothing like barreling down a stretch of asphalt at 200 miles per hour and being completely exposed to the world around you. You can only experience something like that on a motorcycle or a Formula One race-car. Though, personally I'd want to do it in an F1 vehicle, seeing as how the chances of survival after wiping out at 200MPH on a bike would be slim-to-none. On the other hand, survival in an F1 car would be, at least, very-slim. Clearly, 99.9% of us will never have an opportunity to safely drive 200MPH (I've personally experienced 175MPH on a deserted highway in a 500-horsepower supercar...that was fun), and so we turn to videogames, instead. In this particular case, we'd look at Sony's Formula One Championship Edition.
Developed overseas by the folks at Liverpool Studios (that'd be in the United Kingdom), F1 not only looks like a phenomenal next-generation game, but it plays like one too. If you want to really experience a next-generation racing game, look no further than F1. Yes, it's that spectacular. The immersion the game features connects you with the vehicle and makes you feel like the driver. By cleverly simulating impacts, vibrations, and road feedback all on the screen, you'll quickly feel engulfed in the experience as you make sure to do your very best to maintain traction and not lose control.
It's amazing just how chaotic the game can get. For instance, the screen will shake violently if you've veered off-course and your entire car is bumping up and down. Or just try and illegally cut through a turn by jumping the course and you'll experience that visual distortion, as well. The amount of cool little visual tricks that the game uses, like blur, really perfect the sense of speed more so than any other racing game I can think of. Driving top-speed in the game is absolutely terrifying and incredibly exciting, which is precisely how Formula One games should feel. In fact, even 100MPH feels quick and that's a testament to just how nice the game's sense of speed is.
The overall look of the game is quite stunning, from what we've seen. You'll immediately notice heat waves as you come off the starting line, and you'll also notice just how detailed the tires are. Without fail, every time someone sees Formula One, their first thought seems to be "wow...those wheels look real". It's true, they are fantastically detailed. Having a console that is capable of pushing this many polygons translates to vehicles having perfectly round wheels, and Formula One does that job right. Likewise, Formula One also sports some fantastic reflections and splendid vehicular detail. But it's the rain effects that I absolutely love. When racing against the heavy rain pouring down, rain drops will collect on your screen. But don't think for a second they'll be just little droplets that'll fade away, oh no...The rain accumulating will be about as real as it gets. Try to remember what your windshield looked like the last time you drove in pouring rain, and you'll have an idea of what it'll look like in the game.
Formula One not only engrosses you with its visuals, but also its feel. The game's tire-model (the connection between the gamer and the vehicle) is sensational. The F1 racer feels completely planted on the asphalt, and you're in control. This connection acts as yet another fine facet that F1 displays, and it demonstrates just how superb the physics engine is. Of course, just like any other simulation game, you have the option of driving with aids (braking, steering, visual, traction, etc.) - but believe me, you won't want to.
Half of the fun behind Formula One is making those mistakes and learning the game's curve, and in turn you're awarded with an experience that really shows what it is to be a next-generation racing game. Because Formula One: CE does that one critical gameplay aspect so well, it is well worthy of your attention as a gamer. The other critical mechanic that Formula One lands is the artificial intelligence. The A.I. will brake, swerve around you, overtake you when they can, and just flat-out give you the challenge you desire. Liverpool Studios did a stupendous job crafting A.I. racers that are far beyond what I was expecting.
The final game will feature everything you want out of a full-fledged Formula One game. The drivers, the teams, the cars, the tracks, you name it. Of course vehicular damage will be present, as will 12-player online gameplay (the other 12 cars are driven by A.I.). Any racing enthusiast, especially an F1 enthusiast, owes it to him/herself to check out Formula One Championship Edition. Look for it to hit at the very end of February.
2/13/2007 Arnold Katayev