F1 Racing Simulation
It's not just the game's graphics - although admittedly they're part of the whole experience - it's simply the sheer depth of realism. I've never played a racing sim in which the cars feel so true to life or behave so realistically. All of which means, naturally enough, that F1 Racing Simulation isn't the easiest of games to get to grips with. Not by any means: if you jump straight in with everything turned up to maximum reality, you'll be lucky to make it round the first bend intact. However, there's enough in the training modes to give you a good feel for both the cars and the tracks, and switching to easy mode is sufficient to provide you with a fun, albeit somewhat arcadey race. Thankfully, the learning curve has been well thought out: the more you practise a lap, the more you get an idea of how each circuit works. You also find yourself cursing when you come out of a bend too slow or miss your best time by several tenths of a second (no doubt real-life F1 drivers feel more strongly about these things than I do, but I like to think there's some sort of kinship going on).
Under the bonnet
One area of the game that I still find daunting, three weeks on, is the engineering section. I've never really understood cars - I'm afraid I'm firmly in the camp that believes engines work on a combination of petrol and fairy magic. As detailed and comprehensive as the manual is, I can't help feeling as though I need a degree from the Royal School of Engineering to understand what's going on. However, surfing around that particular section was enough to make me realise that if you do want to get your fingers dirty with virtual oil stains, it's all there. And even I, Paul 'What's a car?' Presley, found myself thinking, Hmm, maybe I should alter the brake pads a little. They seem a tad unresponsive by the time I got to the end of my review period. Which must be a good thing.
However, if what I've said so far has got you itching to get behind the wheel, a word of warning: F1 Racing Simulation is extremely processor-hungry. Ubi Soft maintain it'll work on a Pl 20, but I wouldn't really recommend running it on anything less than a Pl 66 with at least 32Mb of RAM. Oh, and the more powerful your 3D card, the better. Even with all this, the menus can still be painfully slow at times (even on a full install).
It's all about timing
Basically though, like Villeneuve in 96, Mansell in IndyCar or the tortoise versus the hare, Ubi Soft have practically sprung up from nowhere and taken the lead from the established names in the genre. Everyone's been waiting patiently for Geoff Crammond's F1GP3 to come sauntering past the chequered flag, but now... well let's just say that it's hard to imagine what Crammond can actually do that will make his game any better (or more realistic) than this. Better menus perhaps? Friendlier tutorials? It's about all I can think of. For now, a new benchmark has been set.
Look, no hands
One of the overriding memories that any long-term gamesplayer continues to cherish is the first time they played EA's Indianapolis 500 (back in the days when PCs with a mouse were considered state-of-the-art). Not because it was a fully authentic racing sim, nor because it moved like Jim Davidson off a shovel, but because when you crashed into another car, you really did crash into it. It's the reason why the majority of people, on first getting their hands on a driving game, will immediately turn their car around and drive round the track the wrong way. It's also why action replays were invented.
Thus, I'm pleased to report that F1 Racing Simulation takes car crashes to a level that only Carmageddon can better. Push the realism levels up to max and you'll witness some of the most bone-crunching, car-destroying smashes yet seen in a 'serious' game. Wheels go flying, wings fall off and litter the track -even the body of your car can be ripped into pieces. Smart.
Look, no ads
In the interests of research I felt there was only one way to really test the computer's intelligence - a full 60+ lap race with the realism levels set to maximum. Choosing a course at random, the race was held at Silverstone, with all the drivers primed and ready for the gruelling task ahead. Naturally, my presence on the track would be akin to throwing a wide-eyed kitten onto a dog track, so I fell on my fuel-injected sword so to speak and took over Ukyo Katayama's car, running it into a wall at the first bend (after all, authenticity is a key factor).
So how did they fare? Was it simply an elongated parade lap that lasted an hour and a half, or was it an action-packed thrill-a-minute battle of wills? In truth it went astonishingly well. For the main, the drivers behaved like their real-life counterparts -attempting to overtake, taking risks, holding back, fighting for positions and so on. Using the TVcam view and cycling through the action the race often felt a lot like the real thing.
There was one noticeable difference however - the whole back marker issue. When the race leaders started getting caught up in traffic they often had to fight needlessly to get past them. In real life the back markers are obliged to let them pass unobstructed, and can be penalised if they don't. Here it's every man for himself. Other than that it felt incredibly true to life. The Al apparently varies from driver to driver, allocating different levels of aggression and skill, and then combines them with factors such as track position, weather, car models and so on. The result is one of the most realistic feeling racing sims since the original F1GP.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode