Review: Revved up for the next-generation.
Formula One Championship Edition was one of the first PlayStation 3 games demoed at E3 and was most memorable for its unique PSP wing mirror feature. The ability to use Sony's handheld as a way to reflect who's on your tail has since been dropped. However, the final game is still worth playing for its great sense of speed, whether you're an F1 diehard or just dabbling in the Grand Prix of automobile racing games.
The Formula One franchise has been able to make full use of its exclusive F1 license since 2003 when Sony took control of the rights. Unfortunately, no F1 games were released stateside between then and now except for 2005's F1 Grand Prix on PSP. Formula One CE finally brings that six-year stint to an end on consoles and, in the process, boasts the most realistic F1 graphics to date on the next-generation PS3. It features 11 teams, 22 drivers and 18 circuits from Indianapolis to Bahrain and accurately brings you each turn of their respective speedways. The unique skylines and environments are nice to observe before and after the races, but most of the visual attention is on the sponsored cars and their unprecedented acceleration.
Going 200 mph or more means that the game incorporates some serious blur effects and camera shaking. The crowds and corporate signs that envelop the track become most distorted at such full speeds. It's best not to look at the speedily spinning tires, the awesome car reflections or the exposed open cockpit equipment as these fine details can lock your eyes into a mesmerizing trance when they should be on the track. Not paying attention to a road full of competing Formula One cars could prove disastrous since crashes can result in this game. Vehicle damage isn't as detailed as you might expect and bumping up against another car at top speed sometimes fails to have an effect. Still, being able to see a car tire lopped off of its axle, severely dented bodywork and smoking wrecks is still noteworthy in a licensed game like this.
Formula One CE sounds just as fast as it looks with engines humming from the start lights to the checkered flag, and tires screeching around every corner. There's no background music for realism's sake, though some players may wish the driver smuggled an iPod and headphones into the cockpit. Crowds can be heard during the championship races along with sparse announcer comments and pit team directions. Pit stops consist of face-button-pressing gameplay for refueling, new tires and other car tinkering tasks. The faster you press the pattern of face and shoulder buttons, the more quickly the pit crew finishes and sends you off down the rest of pit lane. I'm just glad the developer didn't go with SixAxis motion control moves for acting out each of the pit jobs. I could just see some one from the studio saying ?We could have them mime a jack, an air wrench and a gas pump with the controller!?
The pit crew automatically makes adjustments in pit lane, but players can control a number of game configurations in the various options menus. Spin recovery, steering and braking assistance and automatic or manual settings are some of the driving aids that can be turned on or off. Likewise, the degree of stability can be adjusted along with the three visual aid settings of virtual racing line, brake-turn-accelerate markers and none. The ability to configure these preferences gives hardcore F1 fans a chance to turn them off for the most realistic simulation experience, while allowing gamers with little Gran Prix experience to leave options like automatic gearbox and BTA makers intact for more forgiving gameplay.
Career mode is comprised of applying for a team, signing as the team driver, testing out car configurations, qualifying for pole position and then racing in a championship. The process of moving up in the F1 racing world along with the pros that travel the world can be extremely challenging for rookie drivers. Single race, time attack and single weekend modes may be more suitable for newer F1 players compared to the more enduring championship and career modes. There's an 11-player multiplayer mode, too. It keeps track of the stats for human players and fills in the open spots with computer-controlled F1 cars for a smooth online racing experience.