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Publisher: Feral Interactive    Genre: Sports
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 333 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Hard Disk: 500 MB


F1 Championship Season 2000
January 27, 2003 | Andy Largent
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Welcome back, Mac racing fans! With the incorporation of Immersion's force feedback technology into OS X, the platform is primed for a comeback of racing simulations. The first of these to hit the market late last year was Feral Interactive's F1 Championship Season 2000. While getting a game originally released two years ago may smack of another belated Mac port, don't be fooled into thinking this is a title with passť looks or technology of yesteryear. F1 Championship is a state-of-the-art game which will push your system to its limits and provide an accurate simulation of real-life racing.

EA Sports has made a good name for themselves with the series, and F1 Championship is considered among premier simulations for Formula One racing fans. Authenticity is the name of the game, with every major racer, car, and track mapped down to the weather details for the season. The 2000 moniker does give an indication as to the complexity of porting the title, and Feral admits they would have liked to have it out much earlier. I'm willing to bet though; having force feedback in OS X will give it an even bigger boost than if it had been out a year ago.

Getting Started
F1 Championship aims to realistically render a Formula 1 driving experience on your computer. Those who always lose racing games in the arcade don't need to worry. It's entirely possible that the first time you sit down to play a 'Quick Race' in F1 Championship, you'll end up doing quite well. But how could this be realistic (unless your name is Michael Schumacher)?

Thanks to nearly a dozen difficulty settings, even beginners on a keyboard will find it possible to immediately have success (and fun) with the game. Start turning off these difficulty settings and you'll find a whole world of driving techniques you might never have known existed. You'll also find yourself in the ditch on the road most of the time, but thankfully the game has you covered there as well.

F1 Championship has a large driving school section intended to get you off the "training wheels" of the difficulty settings as quickly as possible. Anyone who has played the Playstation's Gran Turismo series of racers will be familiar with this type of training, and the reference infers only good things here. The school features a rundown of starting, turning, braking, and all of the intricacies in-between. Even better, it does this with tracks you will be racing over later in the game, so you can apply the knowledge quickly. The only gripe I would have with the training is that during the demonstrations on how you are supposed to drive, the game doesn't give you readouts of the driver's speed or current gear.

Gameplay
Even those who consider themselves expert racers might consider taking a turn or two in the training school to get a handle on the game's controls and calibrations. Outside of the school, there are five game modes to explore: quick race, test day, Grand Prix, championship and multiplayer. Each of the modes offers a sequentially more difficult challenge to the budding racer, as well as adding formalities like qualifiers and warm ups.

Formula One is an amazingly intricate sport, which depends entirely on your intimate knowledge of the track, as well as your ability to successfully pull off a number of tricky turns and maneuvers. Those who are used to arcade racers where you can hold the throttle to the floor and steer your way around your opponents to victory need not apply. Cars in F1 Championship can and will become damaged in spin-outs, and the pit crew is your friend in these times of need. You quickly learn the seemingly simple lesson that if you hear your tires squealing, you're not going to be able to steer. Traction is a good thing.

The artificial intelligence in F1 Championship Season 2000 is brutal, and it is said to be a marked improvement over previous games in the series. It can be frustrating watch a computer player that won't let you get around him or even nudge your tires to throw you off balance, but do remember that all of these settings can be tweaked to your liking.

The multiplayer mode is rather undercooked. The manual mentions LAN (Local-Area Network) support only, though if you have fast enough connections, up to eight players are supposed to be able to participate. I couldn't test this out myself, because no game-finding service is available, and you must enter the IP of the host directly.

I can wholeheartedly recommend you go out and purchase a racing wheel of some sort. I tested the game with a Saitek R440 force feedback wheel with pedals and found it to be immeasurably more controllable than just a keyboard. Of course, just like there are some who prefer a trackball for Falcon 4 or a joystick in Quake 3, use whatever suits you best.

The force feedback is something to behold. It provides you with even better input on how the road feels, how your car is doing and how much damage that bump with an opponent cost you in terms of maneuverability. Even if your wheel doesn't support force feedback, having the realism of a wheel in front of you will immerse you in the game much more than a keyboard (if the dorkiness factor of clamping it to your desk doesn't get to you). I did find that sometimes the rumbling and pulling wasn't resetting itself between training rounds, but I have yet to determine if this is a quirk in the wheel or the game. It didn't seem to happen in actual races at all. [Update] Feral has confirmed this recalibration issue should be fixed in a future patch.



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