Psygnosis outdoes itself with F1: Championship Edition

Publisher: Psygnosis
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Genre: Racing

The decision to avoid tagging Formula 1 Championship Edition with a year in the title has turned out to be a wise choice for Psygnosis. Its new title is a significant jump ahead of the previous version rather than just a minor update, and the new name helps get that message across.

For starters, the action and control is much more refined than before. In the arcade mode, players have unrealistic, but very fun control parameters. Here players can race more aggressively, bump opponents, and even swerve off the asphalt to gain an advantage. True, this is not the heart of Formula 1 racing, but it has been made so enjoyable that even the most fanatical simulation fans will find themselves trying out the arcade mode more often than not.

In the much more realistic Grand Prix mode, wild arcade-style driving is absolutely not acceptable. The control is still tight, but only as tight as a real Formula 1 racer should feel. Contact with opponents damage the player1s car and sends them careening off the track. Simply leaving the track causes a loss of control - the car completely spins out on dirt or grass. While it's initially tough to stay on the road, after a while, this control becomes second nature as players instinctively learn how to take corners and pass when the course presents an opportunity. This is definitely how 'real' racing should be.

The vehicles react in a more realistic manner than in the orignal F1. In that game, the cars mainly stayed on the ground and wrecks were rather bland. In this sequel, the cars go everywhere, bouncing up in the air from collisions and sliding all over the track. This extra dimension of motion makes every accident look more random and realistic than before.

The details are astoundingly thorough, with just about every conceivable option covered. Players can adjust their vehicles to whatever configuration suits them best, and the variety of tracks and racing styles result in plenty of depth. This detail carries over to the Formula 1 license with an incredible number of teams and individual drivers to choose from.

The action during the race is just as detailed, with very intelligent AI opponents that make players adjust their strategy for each individual race. A nearly perfect voice commentary adds to the gameplay, and an extremely helpful pit crew verbally reminds players when they need to stop for repairs. Sure, this could all have been done with a graphics interface, but it would not have been nearly as effective.

The problems with this game are few, but hopefully they will be rectified in the next version. First of all, the accidents are more believable than before, but not nearly as impressive as the real thing. A few of Psygnosis1 usual visual effects would have made a great difference in how the collisions look and feel. Secondly, the game still suffers from minor pop-in. While this doesn1t usually effect gameplay, it occasionally does cause problems for a player's field of view. The link mode, which added a great deal to the two-player mode in the original, is unfortunately absent. Other than these minor problems, Formula 1 Championship Edition is a fine racer with enough extras to offer just about any racing fan a good time.