Review: Formula 1 2002
Posted 05 Nov 2002 at 10:44 by Javid
F1 games have always been a world apart from any other type of racer. They require precision turning, gear mastery and over- taking skills like none other. Where would we be without these bizarre shaped vehicles, over powered engines and nightmarish hairpins? It would be a fresh change if they weren't to crop up as often as they do, so it's with little surprise we see a new F1 game for this season, and it's also with little surprise that EA Sports have taken the liberty to do it. Can they pull off a good F1 game this time?
In this particular division... no. The graphics are very bland and the scenery is rather static. There's nothing there that will really have you impressed…its ok at best. Reason for you to believe it's yet another PS2 port, you'll be right to think that, only its worse…it's a lazy port. You would expect the cars to be crisply detailed with effects textured to the finest level at which it would shine and boast glorious reflections in a good F1 game. Think again, they look anything but this. Neither mind eh, the courses will look detailed with plenty of eye candy to gaze at whilst you race and lots of crowd interaction right? Er…no. No helicopters flying over head, no air balloons, nothing; just you and the track. It's not all bad though, the rain drizzle spinning off your tires is impressive, as is the glisten and reflective nature of the water being raced over. The swarm of dust as you spin off track also deserves a mention. Some of the camera views are god awful though and simply prohibit good play due to terrible vision. Shame as racing through the drivers eyes can sometimes be fun- never mind eh.
Like the sound of F1 engines? Well, that's all your going to get I'm afraid, it all adds to the feel but it can get rather annoying after pro-longed play. It is very authentic though and sounds as it should depending on your chosen camera position. It's no disappointment. The commentary however is very much so a disappointment. No official commentary that you would expect from the guy off the tele, no instead you get shameful, un-helpful commentary that cant barely live up to the real deal. What happened there EA?
In kind of a twist of fate with EA games, the gameplay is better than the graphics for once with F1 2002. Its fast and adrenaline pumped by the realistic sounds. Turning corners is very precise and you'll find that it has been tweaked so that even the slightest extra drop of speed will lose you those valuable seconds in qualifying. The speed assist is rather annoying though as it prevents you doing as you wish, restricting your freedom on when you sense the moment to turn. It basically slows down for you, good for easing you into the game at first but certainly only for beginners; it can be switched off though so there are no worries there.
Possibly the games highlight is the fact that you have to earn your right to race in grand prix's and to un-lock the extra special modes such as team mate challenge and Domination. The way this works is through the challenge mode; here you'll find 25 increasingly difficult challenges ranging from starting and stopping to extremely difficult chicanes in wet conditions. All are time orientated and taking shortcuts is not an option as leaving the tarmac causes instant failure. Depending on the time you complete the challenge in, you will get a percentage which will add to your total percentage completion which will un-lock those extra goodies for you. Getting Gold in the challenges, i.e. 100% is excruciatingly difficult in a lot of cases, unfortunately there's little drive to make you want to do so. Getting 80 odd percent in each challenge is enough to unlock everything and the sheer pain dealt to you trying to get gold really isn't worth it. It means the game is very un-rewarding for those of us that want to push our limits and tear the game apart…it means maybe only F1 fanatics will bother.
This is also true with the 'track experience' mode which takes the same rules as the challenges asking you to complete a lap of all the courses without leaving the track and still asking a ridiculously fast time. Whilst they may make your temper reach boiling point with the intense difficulty and frustrating nature of the courses, you'll feel very proud if you manage to get gold's, even if the game doesn't reward you for it.
Racing in the rain is always something that pleases me with F1 games, and luckily it's a good experience here with F1 2002. Feel your car spin as you try and accelerate too early out of a bend and feel in the in-efficiency of your brakes as entering a terrifying hairpin. It is a little unforgiving though, and the handling away from bends isn't really altered much. Good non-the-less.
So, we move onto the big tamale, the Grand Prix's. There something very satisfying about winning a Grand Prix, especially if it's through the devilishly hard Monte Carlo course. It's all there, the practice session, qualifying, warm up and then the race. All the famous racers are available, from Schumacher to Coulthard as well as all of the courses that you're sure to recognize like Monte Carlo and Melbourne. Of course, you don't have to pull yourself through those boring rounds of qualifying; you can jump straight into the race, though you will be at the back of the grid. All the more fun I say! One little feature I find especially fun is if you speed into the back of an opposing car for a few seconds, they spin into an uncontrollable frenzy, their wheels go flying and they crash off course; priceless! Shame the same effects aren't implemented with your car. You can get away with murder really. 200mph straight into a wall and no wheels fly off, eh?! That's not right surely, and even when damage is cause, it's barely 2 seconds before your dropped back on the course, fine and dandy as if nothing happened. The commentary doesn't help matters either "your front wheel has been knocked off"…yes I can see that. Idiot!
One last thing to mention about the gameplay is erm…the moments of non play; the loooooading times. Loading times on the GameCube? I hear you cry, unfortunately yes. Very long ones too, for pretty much everything, loading a track, exiting a track. It's painstakingly annoying and something we as Cube owners do not deserve to have to endure. Its almost as if they were ported along with the graphics. Tsk.
Rather simple to get the hang of and anyone can pick up and play with the speed assist. Mastering the game will take time though, and getting though laps in 'track experience' without leaving the track is harder than it sounds requiring hours of practice, experience and knowledge of the course itself. For the mad F1 nutters out there, there is also the simulation option of driving. This is hard to say the least and will require countless hours of play and dedication to even get the slightest hang of. It makes turning more 'realistic', in other words, impossible! I suppose this reveals F1 2002's appeal, in order to keep this game nestled in your Cube longer than 2 hours, you have to have at least some passion for F1 games anyway else its too hard to get into.
Plenty to do, some intriguing modes such as Domintion to unlock are added incentive to play. This particular mode requires 80% completion in challenge mode, quite a task to do yet not that difficult to achieve. It does exactly what it says on the tin, you have to dominate an entire season, winning every race. Now that's a challenge. Others though such as the tag team race are really quite dismal. All this offers is that at the end of a lap it drives for you for a few seconds so you can pass over the controller to someone else; riveting…not. Multi-player is also quite a disgrace with terrible slow down, especially on Monte Carlo! Even with the poor graphics we get loading times and slow down, is there no justice?!
Crave F1, and you'll fit in nicely. 'Like it' and this will keep you pleased for a reasonable time, think F1 is 'ok', then you're best advised to steer clear. It's graphically demeaning but beneath that there is a formidable F1 game on offer. It's not great, it's certainly nothing ground braking, but it's something, and its all there is on the Cube to fill your F1 needs.
N-Europe Final Verdict
F1 racing at its... well not at its best but at a reasonable level at least; challenging yet frustrating.
Plenty to do
Bland track environments