||F1 World Grand Prix
Sega? Make a driving game? Never gonna happen! - Review By Subskin
The Dreamcast has more racing games than I have teeth. Looking through the game list, I count over 20 racers! (Yes, I'm being sarcastic - I do have more than 20 teeth.) Despite the high number, they are a surprisingly diverse group. The only similarity between Episode 1 Racer, Crazy Taxi, Tokyo Xtreme Racer, and Hydro Thunder is speed. Sega just tossed F1 World Grand Prix into this crowded bag. What makes it so special?
F1 World Grand Prix is a straight-up simulation. Everything in the game is designed to put you behind the wheel of a 700 horsepower Formula One car. This is a true racing title - compared to all the other racers, it's NBA2K and they're NBA Showtime.
Aaaaaaand they're off!
The interface is nice and intuitive. You have a number of choices, and a short explanation of the selected one appears on the bottom of the screen. Cycling through the various options, you find yourself capable of controlling nearly everything in the Formula One environment. Most of the options are clear and understandable, but a few could use greater explanation. For example, I had no clue what the 107% rule was until I messed around a little while. (If your qualifying time is more than 107% of the pole position time, you cannot race - explanation found here.)
After choosing from single race, championship, or two-player, you select a car and driver. F1 World Grand Prix is based entirely on the 1998 season, and you are limited to those teams, cars, and drivers; you cannot create your own. There's no need to, though, since you have complete control over your car's setup. The cars are setup very well initially, so you don't have to do any modifying if you don't want to. Before you do change the setup, you may want to pause and spend four years getting an engineering degree. F1 World lets you tweak everything on these cars - wing angles, brake sensitivity, gear ratios, even the amount of fuel. While subtle alterations are barely noticeable on the track, your modifications do have a dynamic impact on the car's feel and performance.
Since F1 World focuses on the 1998 racing season, championship mode includes the ability to enable "'98 events." This is a terrific feature that sets options - weather, laps, etcetera - to what really happened in 1998. I've got my fingers crossed that more sports developers will pick up on this; NFL2K with actual weather conditions and injuries from the previous season would be phenomenal.
The rain and fog effects are great.
Before each race you're treated to an in-game fly-by of the track. This is the only time you get to sit back and appreciate the sheer beauty of the tracks, unless you watch somebody else play. Each course is laid out true to form, and have little graphical extras like flag-waving fans in the bleachers. Even with sixteen circuits packed onto one disc, Video System managed to perfect each and every one.
Once you start racing, you'll quickly realize how awesome the graphics are. The Dreamcast's 128-bit power really shines throughout. Each team's car is rendered perfectly, with nice curves and fine textures. The smoke effect from squealing tires looks even better than the cold air breaths in Soul Calibur. When returning to the track, tires kick off rain and dirt appropriate to how fast the car is moving.
Video System has also solved a classic graphic problem that I didn't even know existed. In most racing games, the overhead cameras allow you to see over hills at what's coming up. The camera in F1 World floats at just the right angle to provide you a wide pan of the field without letting you avoid a car stalled on top of a rise. I never realized how badly this affected other racers, but I'm glad Video System fixed it.
The music in F1 World is a hyperactive techno that matches the speed of the game. It's so good that it actually could have been released completely separate from a video game. Unfortunately, the sound effects are about as bland as I could imagine. There's nothing really wrong with them, and everything does sound like you'd think it would. Still, I would've liked a Formula One car to shake my subwoofer a bit more.
You can modify your car in just about any way you'd want to.
F1's control is superb. Since you're not starting with some cheap p.o.s. and earning money for a better car, you have total control right from the start. Let me tell you, there's worse things in the world than driving a Ferrari. Within a turn or two you should be able to compensate for the break-neck speeds, especially since the gas and brakes feel so natural on the analog triggers.
Doesn't matter how slick those controls are, though, you're still going to get beat. A lot. The computer AI is smart. ("Sega Dreamcast. It's thinking. About beating you down in F1 World.") There are three levels of computer AI. I'll give you a little tip: you have to be as masochistic as the devil to start off on very hard. Fortunately, Visual System named the easiest setting "Normal," so you won't feel too bad selecting it.
Since your eyes may dry out staring at the TV, F1 World Grand Prix is kind enough to pit for you. Once you get into pit row, your car automatically drives into its place. There's no time to relax, though; you have to give full instructions to your pit crew. You select what work they will do, then acknowledge. As soon as you hit the A button, they start changing whatever tires and parts need work, fueling you up, and in general being your bitches. Obviously, every repair takes time, and the idea is to get back on the track ASAP.
After each practice session, qualifying round, or race you can view the telemetry data. This is by far the most exhaustive statistical information ever provided to video gamers. You can check your engine revs, gear, acceleration ratio, steering percentage, and more for every single position on the track. I cannot imagine how obsessive you'd have to be to check this stuff every time... but it's there if you're That Guy. (Personally, I'd rather be looking at Playboy, but that's just me.)
The biggest problem with F1 World Grand Prix is its limited appeal. This is a simulation. If you're looking for arcade-style fun, go elsewhere. Everything about this game is centered on delivering the most realistic Formula One experience, and if that's what you're looking for, it delivers.
Even two-player mode sticks to the simulation regime. I found this all but worthless, because you have to find somebody else who has played the game enough to be somewhat good at it. Again, this is due to the focus of the game. The game still plays very well in two-player, and the split screens allow both players to get a decent view of the field. However, this is a game that screams for netplay. With online play you could search Sega.net for an opponent of equal skill. As it is, you're going to have a hell of a time finding one in your neighborhood.
There are a few other miscelleneous problems. For one, car damage is rather unrealistic. I gunned a McLaren up to 180 mph and plowed into a wall head-on, but it barely scratched the front wing! I realize Video System was probably trying to avoid "Crazy Taxish" bouncing off of barriers, but I think they went too far. If you continue to ram the wall you'll eventually knock off the whole front end. Basically, though, damage is limited to screwing up the steering.
You have communication with your pit crew, and man are they annoying. The dialogue is very reminscent of Ridge Racer, with a sarcastic Europeon guy spouting crap about staying on the track. (I'll drive where I want to, thank you very much.) He's also really quiet - with the music on you can barely hear him. Bonus.
When you start up F1 World Grand Prix, you're greeted with a mediocre mpeg video. Basically, it's a pre-rendered video circling around computer generated Formula One cars on a blank background. It serves its purpose, but it doesn't exactly get your teeth grinding to drive. Another tiny graphic problem: the "racing line" that gives you an indication of the best position on the track suffers from pop-off. Right as it passes by you and should continue flying into the camera, it just sort of disappears. This is only slightly annoying, but hey, that's what "The Bad" section is for.
Also, F1 World sucks another 40 blocks from a VMU. Get a Nexus.
Lastly is a problem that I'm noticing in general, lately... Sega is becoming an ad whore. NHL2K featured ads for Dodge, Crazy Taxi had you driving to Pizza Hut, now F1 World is pimping Siemens Communications and more. Don't get me wrong; I don't really mind if Sega pockets a few bucks by selling logos in games. I just feel they may be overdoing it a bit.
The Final Word
This is serious racing in every sense of the word. You have to pay close attention, but F1 World Grand Prix rewards you with excellent gameplay. On a system flooded with arcade racers, F1 World stands out for its methodical attention to detail.
Developer: Video System
Highs: Highly detailed simulation of Formula One, crisp graphics.
Lows: Almost too detailed simulation of Formula One, boring crashes.
Other: 1-2 players, VMU compatible (40 blocks), Jump Pack compatible, Steering Wheel compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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