|a game by||Intelligent Games Ltd|
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Michael Schumacher. Mr S. Schumi. Longterm readers of this tawdry little organ may be aware of something we call... The Curse Of Zone (dramatic chord, lightning strikes, horse whinnies in the distance). It seems that more often than not, whenever we mention the name of a well-known personage, between the time the copy is edited and passed on for production and the actual printing of the magazine, said human suffers a major disaster.
In the past we've tried to use this power only for good - usually by mentioning Jim Davidson as often as possible, but somehow the fiend is immune.
However, I'm taking it upon myself to invoke whatever power the voodoo gods have vested in us to rid ourselves of that modern blight on Formula One racing -Michael Schumacher. OK, so the man may be able to drive through an earthquake and still break lap records, but he shouldn't have cheated good, honest British drivers out ot victory two seasons in a row. Hopefully, assuming our cabalistic powers are up to scratch, Schumacher will be exposed for cheating in Malaysia and dumped out of the Championship (Unfortunately not - Up-To-The-Minute Ed.).
Oh Mickey, You're So Fine...
The first thing I did on taking control of Ferrari in Ft Manager was to sack him and bring in good old Johnny Herbert (it would have been Jensen Button, but the game starts at the '99 season, which is bloody annoying. Stewart Racing still hasn't been taken over by Jaguar and Damon Hill is still mooching about at Arrows). Least I would have done, but sadly the game is not that open. Once you pick a team you're stuck with the drivers you're given for at least one season and can only negotiate with different choices for the following year. Still, I hoped that by shunning Schumacher and refusing to listen to his emails he might get the message and bugger off on his own. A word about those emails: a year or so ago, I berated MicroProse's F1 management effort for its cumbersome front end. EA seems to have been listening, as there's a much more organised system here. Emails can be sorted by category, making it easy to keep track of what needs to be done in each section.
Unfortunately, this whole area once again highlights the fundamental problem with F1 management games (all two of them) - there's not really all that much to manage. Things such as design, engineering and manufacturing all pretty much take care of themselves, with your involvement limited to just juggling the number of workers on each component. Mostly, your task is to sign deals with commercial sponsors, decide what part of the car gets which advertiser's stickers and which pencil case company gets your official merchandise contract.
...You're So Fine. You Blow My Mind
Where you do have to put in some effort is during race weekends. Mainly this results in adjusting the car's set up to suit each driver, although again this isn't really that much of a challenge, and instead is little more than an extended version of that old parlour classic Mastermind. Unfortunately, despite my steadfast attempts to make life as uncomfortable as possible for the German automaton, he still managed to cruise easily to victory in the first few races, despite my orders for him to ease off and pit every two laps.
And that's perhaps the biggest problem with the game. No matter what you do, you never really feel as though you're making much difference to anything. There is always a lot going on, but you never seem to feel attached to any of it. Everything is pretty much taken care of for you throughout. Plus it seems to get some basic things wrong - races continuing for several laps after the winner crosses the line for instance, a random TV view that consistently fails to catch any of the important moments in a race no matter how much you set it up. However, it is polished enough and, despite the faults, is more playable than the MicroProse effort. But you still can't help wishing EA had included more of a game somewhere along the way.
Oh yeah, Michael Schumacher, Michael Schumacher, Michael Schumacher...