F1 Championship Season 2000 (PS2) Review
Presentation/Graphics : 85
Whether you play with the excellent cockpit view or one of the other views (bumper camera and a couple of third person views), you are treated to some nice looking cars. Unfortunately EA didn't (or couldn't?) carry all the advertising from the actual cars in the game. Gone are the tobacco ads, but every other logo is in their appropriate place. The logos are legible even from a distance, and as you close in on the competition, the detail is incredible. Likewise, the courses are magnificent. What struck me was the Monaco course. During one practice session I wiped out right in front of the Gucci store! Grandstands are in their appropriate locations at each track, and the forest at Hockenheim is dark and lush. The attention to detail in the racing experience really shows with crashes and damage. Wheels fly off and wings separate from cars. If you roll your car while driving with the roll bar camera, the game cycles between an image of what's ahead and a television image filled with TV snow.
There are a few minor problems with the game. When driving in the rain, there are times where you experience pop-up. Driving in dry conditions, I looked long and hard for pop-up but was unsuccessful. The draw-in distance is incredible. But with the taxing rain the pop-up rears its ugly head. Even then it's very minimal and you have to really look to find it. Also, at times the frame rate dropped a tad. I was surprised when the rate diminished on a practice run at Australia. Being alone on the course I was expecting ideal graphical conditions. But my biggest beef with the graphics has to be the screen display. You get the requisite lap times, lap number, position, and speed, but what about fuel status? You could say that you don't need to have any feedback on fuel consumption since pit strategy is decided at the beginning of a race. However, your strategy may change during a race, making the knowledge of fuel an important issue. The game offers no feedback, visually or through pit communications, of remaining fuel.
Presentation/Audio : 60
Interface/Options : 75
Also gone in the PS2 version of the game is the telemetry option where you can assess your performance on the track. Instead, the only way to tell how well changes to the car affect your performance is to watch the clock. The changes are rudimentary; F1 2000 offers three levels of car setup (basic, medium, or advanced). With each level of car customization, additional options are available. For example, the basic setup allows you to adjust the tires, amount of downforce, final gearbox gear ratio, and suspension. The highest level of customization includes ride height (front and back), downforce (front and back), and even brake bias. Simulation fans will no doubt be disappointed by the lack of true customization, but EA has accommodated the mass market with the simple setup options.
Additional game options include audio, video, and gameplay options. Oddly, the sound defaults to mono. Video options range from displaying the map to changing the aspect ratio of the image (mainly for widescreen televisions). The game options include assists, transmission (auto or semi-auto), difficulty, weather, damage (off, forgiving, or on), penalties, and more.
Gameplay : 60
The real kicker was that on my fastest lap at Monza I did not use the brakes once. The driving model is completely bizarre. Playing with a manual transmission, cars accelerate unrealistically. The first shift from first to second is realistic enough, but subsequent gear shifts occur in rapid succession. Then, as soon as you lift off the gas, the car decelerates quickly. While braking scrubs off more speed, I found that I could simply let off the gas to slow down enough to make some corners. Cornering is made easier with exaggerated mechanical grip at low to moderate speeds. With this in mind, I was actually running laps at Suzuka where I wouldn't brake at the tight Hairpin Curve. Likewise, at Monaco, I could take the Nouvelle Chicane at 60 mph or more. This compares with MGP2 for the Dreamcast, where you must take that chicane at a more realistic 20-30 mph.
Besides the grip, the problem lies with the curbs which are flat as boards. Never was my car's balance upset by running over a curb. Casual gamers will like that the driving model is so forgiving. The only times I ran into trouble was when I'd get a wheel off track and quickly hit the gas, sending me spinning. If you get far enough off track, the Hoovers turn on. Rather than glide across the grass, the car decelerates rapidly. Even in the kitty litter my car came to an abrupt halt rather than skate across like it was on ice. EA, ever seen an F1 race?
One thing that truly annoyed me was the lack of drafting. While drafting isn't a key element of F1 racing, it should still be modeled. As evidenced by the US Grand Prix at Indy this year, F1 drivers have difficulty with drafting. Still, they figured it out quick enough. Along the main straight at Indy, I expected to close in on an opponent through drafting. Both cars would head down the front stretch with the same speed. Of course, I just took advantage of the unrealistic grip to overtake him in the first corner. Throw in the fact that the game appears to reduce the wheel lock as speeds increase and you have a recipe for understeer. Never did I feel I'd spin out as long as my tires were square on the asphalt.
And once I overtook a car, I'd just curse the game more. AI cars would unexpectedly smash into me from behind. When side-by-side and when I had the position in a turn, the AI car would drive right into my line. I even saw cars ahead of me dart across the track for no reason. It became so frustrating that I eventually turned the damage model off. There were only so many pit stops I could handle fixing my chassis. The pit stops, by the way, are really basic. At times you can adjust the fuel strategy, but mostly you just watch the pit crew do its thing with no interaction from you whatsoever.
While the driving model and AI may not appeal to sim fans, there is certainly enough of a challenge to keep most satisfied. The extra grip befits the casual gamer's liking, and it is here that F1 2000 may find its niche. The quick race mode, where you collect points based on where you finish in a four-lap race is actually kind of fun. Its fast paced racing is the Ridge Racer equivalent to F1 racing. And some courses in the F1 season do offer some fun. Muck like CART Flag to Flag, the emphasis is on passing as opposed to realistic racing.
Replay Value : 50
Overall : 65