F1 Racing Simulation
Working in cooperation with Renault F1, six-time world champion, this simulation was designed to be the most realistic ever created, and I would say it succeeded. This game incorporates everything you know about F1 racing -- and some things you may never have known unless you do this sort of thing for a living -- and does a spectacular job in making you feel like you are at, and on, the racetrack.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The realism in this game can make it very difficult to get the hang of because you are not able to really feel the car you're driving (with some exception to those of you with a force feedback controller). While this game is very realistic, those of us who aren't professional drivers can configure it to be playable. There are two game modes: Easy (which handles most of your speed control) and Realistic. Realistic is split into three sub-settings: Amateur, Pro, and Expert. When playing as an amateur, you really don't need to worry about configuring your car or damage (unless you specifically enable it). Without doing any modifications to the car in the Pro and Expert modes, I found that I couldn't even keep up with the other race cars. The modification process is very involved, as it allows you to calibrate any setting on your car such as steering angle, braking force, gear ratios, camber and ride height. The control itself is quite responsive and can be configured to be as touchy or as loose as you like. Although your car will respond nicely, it will also respond realistically, which is a pain in the you-know-what until you get the hang of this. Until you do, you will most likely end up off the track more than your pit crew.
There are several types of races, including Practice Sessions, Time Trials (complete with ghost cars to race against), Single Race, Grand Prix Weekend, and Championships. In addition to all the car modifications, you can set things such as number of opponents, starting position on grid, steering help, anti-skidding, anti-lock brakes, weather conditions, 28-tire limit per Grand Prix weekend, false starting penalty, pit speed restriction penalty, damage realism, et cetera, so on, and so forth. The options seem almost endless. While all these options definitely add a wonderful element of realism, the menu system to change these options can get rather frustrating: not all the buttons are clearly labeled, there is no online help system for most menus, and the manual is often not very helpful. It takes anywhere from about three to eight seconds to go from one menu screen to the next. As you can imagine, it can take a while to get your desired options and game running. It seemed as though the computer-controlled cars can bump or hit you or vice versa and you'll almost always end up in a spin or off the track while they continue on as if nothing happened. Also, it appears the installation program has problems installing to some directories. I tried in both 'C:\Program Files\F1RS'? and 'C:\Games\F1RS,'? neither of which were the default, and it failed to install properly. I was able to install successfully to the program's default directory.
This can be summarized with one word: 3Dfx (but I'll say more anyway). This game requires you to have a 3D accelerator card to run properly (don't even think about it if you don't have one; I tried it just to see what would happen and the results were not pretty). I tested it on an Orchid Righteous 3D on a Pentium 233 MMX and it just hummed -- no slowdowns or jerkiness at all. The graphics are clean, crisp, realistic, detailed, and overall very nice to look at. You can see and read all the decals for each race car, the track signs, and all the advertisement banners. Although you'll probably never notice during gameplay, the clouds above you look great as they drift across your screen. Depending on which viewpoint you use, you may end up catching a few more sights too.
Probably the only way to get any closer to hearing the roar of an engine is to hang out with a pit crew at the track. The sound effects are as realistic as the rest of the game. There is no music (apart from the opening movie sequence when you start the game). You'll also hear a commentator (maybe a pit crew member?) who can be helpful in telling you if a yellow flag might be called or what part of your car was destroyed in that last crash. All the sounds can be turned on or off via the menus.
Minimum: Pentium 120, 4 MB 3Dfx or Direct 3D compatible card, 16 MB RAM, DirectX 5.0 (included on CD), 16-bit sound card, 4X CD-ROM drive, mouse, keyboard, 97 MB hard disk space plus space for saved games and DirectX
Recommended: Pentium 166, 4 MB 3Dfx card, 20 MB RAM, DirectX 5.0 (included on CD), 16-bit sound card, 6X CD-ROM drive, steering wheel or joystick
Ninety-four pages of more than you probably ever wanted to know about F1 racing. Then again, if you purchased this game, you obviously wanted realism. The manual describes all the aspects of a grand prix, from what day and time the practice sessions are held to the victory lap of the champion as well as detailing each track and giving background on all the teams. Of course, it also tells you more practical things such as the controls, modifying the car, navigating the menus and troubleshooting. It also teaches you the physics of every aspect of modifying your car's configuration.
This simulator is a good all-around game for the beginner all the way to the most advanced driver. Although it isn't required that you have any sort of controller other than the mouse and keyboard, you will definitely want to have one. The more hardcore you are, the more I would recommend a good wheel and pedal setup and/or a force feedback device. Most likely this game would have scored a few more points if some of the problems I encountered were not present. It can take a while to get things configured and get the hang of the game, but once you do, expect some really great racing unparalleled by other Formula 1 games you may have played in the past.