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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Formula One: Championship Edition
(Sony for Playstation 3)

Formula One Championship Edition brings the excitement and drama of open-wheel racing to the Playstation 3 effectively. The title's realistic driving is quite challenging and allows you to control every aspect of your racer including engine, tires and gears. You can set different levels of realism in the game with driving assists, tire damage and other settings as well. Formula One offers a solid array of gameplay modes including quick races, complete races, season, and championship modes. Formula One's visuals offer photo-realistic vehicles, a smooth consistent frame-rate and detailed tracks. While it's not perfect, Formula One: CE's attention to detail makes it one of the most satisfying racers on the PS3 yet.

Featuring an array of licensed real-world drivers, teams and tracks, Formula One Championship Edition is an authentic experience that delivers the atmosphere, drama and focus you'd expect. It's a surprisingly deep racing game that will challenge players to drive flawlessly and leaves little room for error. As you look through the menus, you'll discover that F1 includes several modes of play for both solo and multiplayer modes. These allow you to play through a single race with a limited number of laps, play through a championship weekend, complete with practice, qualifying and racing modes, go through an entire season of F1 races and even play a deeper Career mode over multiple seasons. Before each race, you can also go into the settings and change many aspects of your vehicles including weight, grip, suspension, height and more for each tire. This definitely brings a lot of detail to the game and should please F1 fans. Additional options allow you to change the volume, turn the commentary on and off and more. From a racing standpoint, you can also set the number of laps, track conditions, time of day and which course you want to race. Additionally, you can choose which assists, helps and options to use including braking, turning, and shifting assists. You can also choose visual aids to help you find the best lines during the race. In default mode, these take the form of green and red lines on the track that show you the best lines to use during the race. These visual aids are helpful initially, but can quickly become distracting and make the experience feel less realistic. Players can also use steering assists and braking aids to help them get into the flow of the gameplay, which is more demanding than most gamers are used to. Since the F1 racers have a way of spinning out, you can also use an assist to help you get out of these faster and continue on the race. These act as 'training wheels' until you get into the flow and the game really opens up after you've gotten the hang of things.

Once you get experienced with F1's subtleties and begin racing on your own, you'll find the level of detail and immersion that the game offers is much deeper than you'd expect. Formula One Championship Edition is one of the more demanding racing games on the market. Instead of merely worrying about turning and speed you actually have to put some effort into it. Keeping an eye on your gauges, tire wear and fuel level makes for a more realistic experience than most other arcade racers on the market. While you can turn these features off, their absence makes the game feel less realistic and thus not as engrossing at it could be. F1 then becomes merely another rather mindless arcade racer, which kind of misses the point. You really need to concentrate on all aspects of your racer during the race. For example, if your go too long without stopping, your tires begin to wear down and lose their grip. You'd think that just stopping in the pits and changing tires would get you right back to where you were, but you also have to factor in that the new tires are still cold and need some time to warm up as well. It's these many little details that make Formula One feel so realistic. Its gameplay is more like Gran Turismo than Ridge Racer, in terms of requirements. This means it should appeal more to the sim audience. The most appealing thing about F1 CE is learning how to drive effectively - you have to exercise a little restraint and know when you can actually press the pedal down, making this a much more nuanced and challenging title. While the learning curve can be a little steep, especially if you're used to more cartoony racers, the effort is worth it once you delve deeper into its gameplay. F1 CE's simulation aspects are well-executed and this approach makes each element play a key role in your races, and the outcome is determined when you get into the pits and make decisions on what parts of your racer your crew will focus on while your stop. It's this strategy, along with the realistic and aggressive rival drivers, that makes the racing in F1 so engaging.

As you'd expect, the game's depth also extends to the controls, which offer several different configurations. You can choose to race in a fairly traditional manner using the PS3 controllers d-pad and buttons. This offers a decent responsiveness, though using the game's analog controllers to steer and accelerate offers more precise controls. In these modes, the vehicles are fairly responsive and perform well, though knowing when you need to brake is a key element, and you need to anticipate corners advance. One of the more interesting features of the game is the ability to use the Sixaxis tilt functionality to steer. It takes some getting used to, but becomes more intuitive as you go along - which makes things more challenging. Interestingly, those players who own Logitech's steering wheels such as the Driving Force Pro will also find them supported, though without the rumble feature supported. Formula One's vehicles feel quite authentic and realistic on the track and respond and perform as you'd expect them to. The cars are probably a bit tighter than most players are accustomed to, and this makes them a bit harder to handle for novices, but the game's many assists help you get the hang of things. One of the most difficult things you need to do is to train yourself to stay on the main track, since going even a little off into the grass or other pavement causes a significant drag on your speed. You won't be able to take too many shortcuts during the race, which makes the gameplay more technical than you'd expect. You're rewarded for precision, not aggression, when you race in this game. If you keep this in mind, you'll probably find yourself far less frustrated than if you approach the game as you would an arcade-style racer.

From a visual standpoint, Formula One delivers a polished, detailed appearance that makes it one of the best looking PS3 racers to date. The game lets you select from multiple viewpoints that range from inside the car to an outer view. When you are close in, the level of detail is remarkable. You can see detailed reflections in the paint gloss, driver's movements and spinning tires. Most of the perspectives offered are fairly good, and let you see where opponents are in relation to your vehicle. Formula One's tracks also show an excellent level of detail throughout with detailed renders of each track used. An impressive graphics engine allows the game to move at a smooth and consistent rate throughout. The game's sound effects do an excellent job of brining the thunderous, intense atmosphere of a Formula One race to life. The game's commentary is decent and is complimented by advice and more from your pit chief during the race. Overall, the game's smooth, polished presentation delivers on the PS3's promise and it definitely looks and feels like a next-generation product.

While the technical racing offered in Formula One: Championship Edition probably won't appeal to more casual players, those looking for the depth and complexity of a racing simulation should find plenty to like in this release. It definitely takes some practice to become proficient in the racing, but the many assists should help to get you in the swing of things. Once you get onto the track, F1 creates a controlled sense of exhilaration that accurately recreates the complex nature of open-wheel racing. Racing in this game requires a great deal of strategy and though which makes it all the more satisfying when you claim the checkered flag. It's definitely more difficult than you'd expect, but those up to the challenge will find Formula One: Championship Edition offers a solidly entertaining and highly polished racing experience. This is one of the best Playstation 3 titles to date and comes highly recommended for fans of the motorized sport.

- Michael Palisano


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