Staying on the simulation side of the pits, Formula One: Championship Edition makes an exclusive lap over to the next gen of gaming. This is the real deal.
Formula One: CE stars off in its career mode by having you as an unemployed driver who needs to be hooked up with a crew. In the early goings of your career you will have three teams you can apply for a job with. This requries you to send an email, set up a trial race and hopefully meet their requirements. This basically means achieving their target time in a trial run, then from their you’re placed in first, second driver, or the ultra boring test driver spot on the racing team. I chose Toyota on my first run through based on their expectations out of me. Toyota wanted a qualifying rank of at least 20, and a finish run of 18 or lower. Since I'm not veteran to Formula One racing I knew this would be in my groove area. However, don’t worry about being stuck with one team because you can be dropped, and you can also try out for other teams during your season. I found it to be an interesting way to work out the season mode, and love it that the game keeps things real by rejecting applications when you’re under qualified.
On the track, Formula One: CE is a tough game. This is mainly because it is based on realistic mechanics. You really have to plot out each course, test your car, and modify it accordingly. It's important to find a balance between speed and pacing. Like real races, it’s not all about speed, its about performance, endurance and persistence. For me, I’m a real aggressive driver, so after busting up my first grand prix, I was really disappointed in my performance. To my dismay I found out F1 has no restart option. So I had to suck up the loss and try again the next time around. Humbled, F1 instantly made me a fan, happy to simply place amongst the top ten... and this is on easy. That should give you an example of how challenging Formula One: CE is. No sore losers should even attempt to try this game.
Handling your vehicle is a big deal as the cars are very temperamental. Add in the speed that you're racing and you have one of the most dangerous sports this side of Shotgun Golf (thanks Hunter). For the inexperienced or timid Formula One racer you and turn off, or adjust the settings like damage, and traction to help you race better. If you’re a wild man try turning off the visual driving aid, now that’s real racing. Formula One: CE can be hardcore, but it can also go easy on the gamer if they want to ease into the game slowly.
The one area that helps Formula One: CE authentic feel is the excellent artificial intelligence. The computer opponents that represent real life drivers drive like real humans and will even experience the odd crash and burn scenario. For the most part the A.I. will challenge the player like a real person would make the experience all the more visceral. It can be challenging to avoid locking wheels or playing bumper cars during a high speed race. Passing is also a nerve racking experience where you really have to tail the targeted car waiting for that split second when you can pull ahead with confidence. I’m an inside corner man myself, but my strategies often where foiled in game.
If you’re not into the long haul of the career mode you can complete in the Championship mode which lets you run through a single season as an existing driver. All the drivers, cars, and teams are official and mirror there real life counterparts. You can also just cruise into a Weekend Grand Prix for a shorter race that offers all the same competiveness sprit as the other modes. If you’re really grasping the racing in the single player mode I suggest you travel online for some online racing which supports up to 11 other players. Online the racing can be a mixed bucket of bolts, so if you’re getting a little annoyed by some punk driving backwards just look for a group of more mature racers. These fully lit up online matches with 12 humans and 12 computer AI racers can be some of the most fun you have with Formula One. Thankfully, Sony also has community features in Formula One: CE with statistics and rankings online.
For extras Formula One has some classic racers like the Renault RS01, or Lotus 49C that can be unlocked by winning races in the career mode. These are fun online to recreate classic races. It really puts the current generation into perspective showing the older styled roots of the sports origins. The PSP functionality of using the PSP on remote play as a wing-mirror viewpoint has been axed from the US Version. This shouldn’t disappoint too many gamers because propping the PSP up while you drive in Formula One would be a complex juggling act with an expensive piece of hardware as a ball.
The negative aspects of Formula One: CE mainly come down to if you like your driving on the simulation side of gaming, or not. Formula One has a steep learning curve, but tries to help the player out as much as possible with things like steering and breaking aids. If you’re brave enough to turn all the aids off and run a full race you will no doubt find yourself in an authentic Formula One race experience.
The graphical content for the most part in Formula One is gorgeous and has come a long way from the jaggies of the pre-released demo. The textures, car modes, scenery are all locked down in a solid 30fps rate. Formula One’s extra effects like the glare of fuel in the air as you ready your engine at the start off and the rain effects are a nice touch. The overall lighting is also well done along with the detailed car models. At times Formula One sneaks back some of those “jaggeis” which mostly pop up in the environments from a far. Continuing to nitpick, the characters also fall out of the top ten for the new generation, but its racing, who’s looking at the people anyways. If you’re just speaking about the cars, the tracks, and the weather, then Formula One: CE is spot on.
For the audio side the quality of voice overs are excellent with an informative narration of the current standings, in game updates, and crew chatter. The only downside to the commentary is that it’s too sparse and can get caught up and give you wrong information. This happens when the announcer starts to talk down the top eight places, but if you happen to move up, or down right before or during the loop it still announces you in your old position. I found the pit crew to more informative, although the can be a tad negative. In one case I blew out my tire and they said it was over, I went into the pits that thankfully where close and it was onto the races. I really didn’t need that guy busting my mojo. Besides the voice work, the car engines and tire to asphalt sounds are adequate, and because there is no soundtrack present get ready to be drawn into the droning hum from the cars engine.
Liverpool Studios has done a great job representing what a first party game should be on the Playstation 3. Keeping the line tightly sided to its simulation roots; Formula One doesn’t slip into a half-half version of itself. This is one pure racing experience that will test your skill while dragging you deep into the detail and testing world of Formula One racing. If you have a PS3, and enjoy racing games you need to check out Formula One: Championship Edition because who knows how long it will be before we have another racing treat like this.