Official Formula One Racing
There are two types of F1 racing fans: those who travel the world following their favourite team and drivers, and those who stay up all hours of the day and night tracking the Championship as it snails its way around the globe. Either way, because of the remote nature of the sport, you have to be obsessed to be a true fan, which means it's become a bit of a merchandiser's pot of gold. So it's no surprise that for the official rights to the associated trademarks, team names and logos, companies have to cough up big bucks (we're talking telephone numbers here).
Gamers upset at the Mickey Mouse team, course and driver details supplied with Ubi Soft's Monaco Grand Prix can now rest easy because Eidos have stumped up the cash to provide us with the real deal in Official Formula One Racing.
A Game Of Two Halves
Initially, the options are slightly overwhelming, with menu after menu offering the chance to tinker with the near infinite aspects of the game - suffice to say petrolheads will think they've died and gone to racing heaven. Arcade fans who preferred the immediacy of F197 will be champing at the bit. The beauty of this game is that it allows you to decide which of the array of realism options to activate. Mixing and matching your simulation preferences with the arcade options means that everyone will feel at home right from the start.
Sim freaks will revel in the ability to alter the car dynamics (by changing brakes, tyres, wings, suspension, gearbox and fuel ratios) and will spend hours tweaking the subtleties of a car that, to everyone else, seems to have a mind of its own. Joystick jockeys, however, will steer clear of the garage and head straight for the arcade options.
F1 virgins can take advantage of the wonderful range of driving aids on offer, which are a facesaving alternative to screeching around the tracks with L-plates bolted to your car. This 'divine intervention' can automate the gears, offer steering and braking assistance, invulnerability, and the ability to reposition your car favourably after a crash.
Bypassing the realistic bits reduces the game to an arcade-style race for the chequered flag, where the cars stick to the track like glue and the racing line means nothing. It's not realistic of course, but it is great fun.
Anyway, regardless of your preferred gaming style, you can opt for a one-off race on any of the Championship's 16 circuits, or tackle a full season head on. In either case, you can alter the weather, difficulty, realism, opponent AI and number of cars to compete against. Those reckless enough to head straight for the starting grid without taking advantage of the practice, warm-up or qualify options will soon wish they'd watched the overview of the courses provided by the helicopter fly-by, which is as informative as it is visually spectacular.
The Race Is On!
Once in the driver's seat you'll no doubt settle for either the 'in cockpit', or 'behind car' views. Both give a marvellous sensation of speed, with the tarmac and track-side scenery rushing by.
Interestingly, Eidos suggest avoiding Microsoft's force feedback steering wheel because its turning circle isn't large enough, which means you inevitably end up oversteering and spinning out most of the time. On an F1-type device however, the cars respond to your every command - which is just as well, because racing against all but the dumbest opposition proves to be extremely taxing as they dominate the racing line and constantly jostle for position.
In Arcade mode, aggression reaps its own rewards and it's devilishly good fun causing damage to the other cars, or forcing them to retire because they've lost a tyre, or you've 'accidentally' buggered their suspension - it really is a case of having to give as good as you get.
Graphically, the game is superb, and the difference between the software and the 3D accelerated versions is negligible - the software version is a remarkable feat of programming. Low-spec PC owners can tweak the in-game resolution and scenery detail, meaning that even P90 owners will get ample mileage from it. Obviously, ninja-bast PC owners are in for a real treat, with the smoothness and speed holding up despite the tremendous draw distance and array of special effects on show.
Sadly, there are a few niggles that rub the sheen off an otherwise gleaming game. The spectators are particularly flat, and those in the foreground are a meaningless mass of pixels. Also, when 'rain' is switched on, it affects your car's performance -especially if you're sporting the wrong set of tyres - but you don't actually see it, which is bizarre.
Murray Walker's absent too and, daft and excitable as he is, you do miss him, and it leaves a bit of a gap in the atmosphere department. The silence is only ever punctuated by the beautifully throaty engine sounds (no doubt some tech-head spent a week shoving microphones up car exhausts), and the pit crews who occasionally bark out advice.
Ultimately though, this is a purchaser's nightmare. While we've seen F1 games that cater wholly for simulation nuts, and others that satiate arcade pundits alone, this is a brave attempt at covering all the bases. But it's expensive, and has to compete with the budget arcade racer F1 97 (which combines Murray with buckets of atmosphere) and the purist's Monaco Grand Prix (the best out-and-out F1 sim). If you own either title, you'll struggle to justify the outlay, but if not, Official Formula One Racing delivers the best of both worlds and comes heartily recommended.
Download Official Formula One Racing
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Official Formula One Racing Screenshots and Media
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