Formula One 2003
The new Formula 1 season is already underway and fans all over the world are cheering on their favourite team. But a lot of fans, like me, love to take place behind the wheel themselves to compete on the same tracks, with the same cars and the same rules. However, for the next couple of years, these fans will be needing a Playstation 2 in order to play F1 games that are up to date, since Sony has bought the FIA license exclusively. And they immediately come up with a game based on this year’s season, so fasten your seatbelt, here comes Formula One 2003.
Although Formula One 2002 (not to be confused with EA’s F1 2002), just like its predecessors never managed to become a classic, great attention was payed to the development of the game this year. Not only did they implement the new F1 rules (altered points system and qualifications), the graphics engine has been tremendously improved. You can now enjoy nice shining cars, very detailed textures, etc. Unfortunately the framerate tends to drop from time to time, especially in rainy weather with lots of cars in sight. But since this game features the most beautiful rain I’ve ever seen in a game, the tiny framerate flaws can easily be forgiven. For instance, when you drive right behind another car, you can’t see sh*t with all the water splattering. Oh, and this is great too: if you end up driving on grass, notice how your tires get a slight green shade, which disappears when you make a turn.
You can choose out of a varied list of game modes, which can be classified in 2 sections: arcade and simulation. When you start an Arcade Race, you’ll drive 3 simple laps on a chosen course. No adjustements, qualifications, crashes, … just driving, steering and a little breaking. If one race doesn’t satisfy your needs, you can participate in all of them by playing an Arcade Championship.
When seeking more realism, however, simulation might suit one best. You can start off with a Costum Race, where you determine the starting grid, amount of laps, etc. Another good way to commence the game is choosing Time Attack. Unlike many other race titles, where Time Attack is just an easy mode for 5 minutes of extra play time, here you get 10 laps to beat one specific time on each circuit, a bit like in Project Gotham Racing. Very enjoyable and when successful, you’ll also receive a new cup for your immense trophy section. But now comes the really good stuff, the modes Race Weekend and World Championship. In fact these are quite the same, however in Race Weekend you only drive on 1 chosen circuit. You’ll witness all real-life sessions, including some training or warm-up sessions, 2 qualification rides and of course the race itself. It’s a lot, but you will soon learn that knowledge of the track is simply indispensable.
In the options screen, one is free to make some adjustements to the simulation modes, like turning on traction control, damage, fuel usage, engine failure, … You can also alter the range of lap count, going from 1/3, 2/3 to 3/3 of a real-life race. So you will always have to drive at least 20 laps each race, but personally I think this game is perfectly suited for such long races. It gets more exciting when in the 12th lap a sudden downpour of rain slows you down, endangering your first place. But don’t worry, if you turn all these options off, even unexperienced gamers can surely win a simulation race. But of course, the true fun only comes when you switch some of these on to your disadvantage.
Oh, I almost forgot, you can also get some chips, a Ferrari flag and just sit back like a real Formula 1 fan and give the Spectator mode a try. You just set up the starting grid and enjoy a race from varying camera angles … however, I still prefer the warm plastic of a controller in my bare hands, or why not 2 ? That way you can battle a friend in multiplayer modes: just the 2 of you or alongside 18 other AI controlled speed demons.
Unfortunately not everything about Formula One 2003 is that great. Ever since superbe games such as DTM Race Driver and Colin McRae 3, we have been spoiled with spectacular crashes and damage models that would even stun an experienced crash test dummy. Don’t expect such eye-candy here, first of all the crashes are totally unrealistic and you can only enjoy damage models in simulation races (if you turned them on that is). And even then, a broken spoiler or wheel is the only noticeable damage.
Good thing they did a fine job programming the A.I. Opponents won’t let you pass that easily, but they can also experience engine failures and be forced to park their car off the road. Such events will be reported by a voice, which unfortunately isn’t always that comprehensible. But next to this bit of nitpicking, the sound effects are just excellent.
In conclusion: Both arcade and realism fans should definitely check out this game. Fast cars in one hell of a beautiful environment, due to the FIA licence inhabited by the real F1 celebrities, what else could a man wish for ? Exactly, a Playstation 2, otherwise you won’t be playing this baby.