Review: F1: Career Challenge

One thing that the GameCube has plenty of is racing titles although not all have been particularly playable or enjoyable despite their initial promise. Titles such as Driven, Pro Rally, The Italian Job and Burnout have covered almost all the genre from pure simulation to all out ridiculous arcade car crash modes with little doubt that more of the same will hit the platform Q4. Career Challenge is definitely on the realist side of the fence and with EA churning out F1 inspired titles for some time now this latest offering seems to have arrived only months after the 2002 version. The most important question for all those gamers who actually shelled out for the last version must be 'is it worth upgrading?' Read on and see what we thought...

Graphics:

Visually Career Challenge is really quite special with an incredible level of detail and a frame rate that never compromises the gameplay. Those who've played the 2002 version will notice little improvement although this is not a department that could be criticized much anyway and it's the smaller details such as lens flare and helmet reflections that really separate this from the rest of the pack. Also still evident are the effects of the traitorous weather conditions and the mere sight of the rain pounding down on the racetrack should have you taking the bends with extreme caution before you realize just how slippery the road surface has become.

Motion capture has been used extensively throughout Career Challenge and although it is hardly needed with the various F1 cars it does allow the Pit Crews to look more realistic when they're changing tires, cleaning your windscreen or celebrating a win. Finally the overall presentation or the interface demonstrates that unlike a lot of the F1 titles out there EA have obviously spent some time on making what occasionally appears more complicated that a physics degree really rather simple. In fact the interface with the game and variety of on-screen options is so intuitive that you'll hardly ever need to glance at the manual.

Sound:

There's been little improvement from the last version of F1 although as the saying goes 'if it ain't broke - don't fix it'. The engine noises are still well up to scratch with the sound effects altering as you travel over different terrain. The commentator is still both chatty and informative as you race around the track although like last time he does tend to sound a little bored occasionally. The music too does a fine job of enhancing the overall package but as it only plays during the menus it never gets the opportunity to irritate you when you're actually playing the game.

Gameplay:

At its most basic level Career Challenge offers two different ways to tackle the racing action: Quick Race and Career. Clearly the latter is the reason you're contemplating purchasing this game so we'll deal with that first although before you do anything you'll have to choose your car and country. It is all incredibly immersive and before you're allowed to race you'll need to acquire a license. This challenges you to demonstrate very basic skills such as hitting a pre-defined area within a time limit to driving a lap around a test track with the added problem of rather heavy rainfall. Once you've gained this important document you'll be rewarded with offers from a variety of teams and your season begins. It's here that you have to constantly prove yourself so practicing the course or gaining a more favorable pole position is always advisable. You'll also quickly discover that your pit crew are your biggest critics and a win or loss will be celebrated in the manner you'd expect.

The courses themselves are based on the world's best international circuits and are generally very tough to say the least then throw some unpredictable weather conditions into the mix and you have a challenge that will test the most ardent of gamers. If things get a little too tough you may wish to enter the pits in order to alter your car's suitability for the race at hand. This is not as automatic as you'd think (although you can make it so via the options) and shaving those extra seconds off your pit time requires lightning fast button presses from you to enter and exit the pits at the optimum speeds. This is not confined to the pits though and more forward thinking teams will spend a little time on readying their car before a given race. This allows you to tweak various aspects of your car's performance such as the steering, down force and gearbox.

What Career Mode does manage to achieve is a realistic impression of what it's like to climb the ranks as an professional driver and while you do start at the bottom you'll become genuinely worried when your career starts to falter if you have a run of bad races for whatever reason. If all this is a bit too much for you can always indulge yourself in the Quick Race Mode. Self explanatory really but this allows you to select any car and track and go for it. Clearly this is the option most gamers will head for it you only have a limited amount of time but invite a few friends around and you can also road test the Multiplayer. This supports 2 to 4 players and can either be played out as a head-to-head or a full grid with other AI opponents. It goes without saying that this is great fun although it's a good idea to allow people to practice before you start and arcade enthusiasts who've just played the likes of The Italian Job or Burnout will likely get nowhere fast.

Playability:

Great if you're into the more simulated style of gaming but little here for the more arcade racers amongst you. The AI is also reasonably intelligent and gamers who are used to simply 'bumping' other drivers from the track may find Career Challenge a little more realistic as cars tend to block your route so hitting them is more likely to send you spinning out of control.

Controls:

A: Accelerate.
B: Brake.
X: Toggle Camera.
Y: Rear View.
L: Gear Up.
R: Gear Down.
Z: Replay.
C: Steer.
D-Pad: Steer.
Control Stick: Steer.

Lifespan:

You'll be pleased to learn that anyone investing in this latest version will get a fair bit of gaming for your money with a good number of modes (including the previous four seasons), which will satisfy the driving veterans amongst you all. Mysteriously though there's no 2003 option, which will no doubt frustrate enthusiasts who like their racing bang up to date.

Final Say:

F1 Career Challenge will undoubtedly please gamers who enjoy this type of genre by offering immersive and enjoyable gameplay. The overall though the package is somewhat at odds with itself and where in some departments it brings a lot extra to the series, other areas feel rushed and generally poorly implemented. It's still probably the best of its genre on the GameCube at present though and it's hard to see anything on the horizon that likely to change that fact. Finally though the answer to the question we started off with 'is it worth upgrading?' and while I can't completely recommend shelling out if you own any of the previous versions anyone who's new to this type of game will find more than enough gaming hours to warrant the asking price.

N-Europe Final Verdict

A real improvement on F1 2002 and undoubtedly the most enjoyable F1 title on the Cube.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals4
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan2
Final Score

7

Pros

Excellent Controls
Lots of Unlockables
Multiplayer

Cons

Not for Arcade Freaks
Initially Quite Tough


© Copyright N-Europe.com 2022 - Independent Nintendo Coverage Back to the Top