Very few have managed to walk the fine line between appealing to the masses and appealing to those who require the utmost level of realism, but that's precisely what Electronic Arts' F1 2001 for the PlayStation 2 does.
Considering how relatively unpopular the sport is in the United States, it's amazing how many games based on Formula One racing are released on our shores every year. All told, there are almost as many F1 games released by companies like Eidos, Ubi Soft, Sony, and MicroProse as there are games based on the NASCAR license, which is easily this country's favorite form of auto racing. And yet, of those games, very few have managed to walk the fine line between appealing to the masses and appealing to those who require the utmost level of realism, but that's precisely what Electronic Arts' F1 2001 for the PlayStation 2 does.
As its title implies, F1 2001 is based on the current season of Formula One racing, which concluded only recently, and it lets you race on any of the 17 circuits as any of the 11 teams' 22 drivers, including veteran Michael Schumacher and rookie Juan Pablo Montoya. As you'd expect, the game has numerous racing options, including a quick race mode that lets you instantly drive around the circuit of your choosing and a more robust career option that takes you through all 17 of the series' races. None of this, however, is anything that other Formula One games haven't offered in the past. Where F1 2001 differentiates itself is with the bevy of single- and multiplayer options that let you make the game as approachable or as challenging as you like. In fact, there are five different multiplayer options alone in the game, one of which lets a whopping total of 22 players take turns competing against each other for the fastest lap on any given track. F1 2001 also has several split-screen modes that let you race against another friend, including a tag team mode and a surprisingly fun mode called last man standing, wherein the last-place car is eliminated after each lap in a race.
But the heart of F1 2001 lies in its Grand Prix mode, which is as robust and varied as its multiplayer counterpart. Grand Prix mode is actually made up of five distinct modes of gameplay, including a single weekend event, full and custom championship modes, and a domination event that requires you to complete an entire F1 season without coming in below first place in any race. What's interesting about the Grand Prix mode is that it's initially locked--F1 2001 doesn't let anyone enter these races, no matter how skilled, without first passing a series of challenges that are presented in a manner similar to Gran Turismo 3's license tests. Specifically, there are 25 challenges that the game grades you on, and they range from the basics of racing--braking, cornering, and so on--to more complex race craft like pitting, fuel management, and driving under wet conditions. The intention of these tests is a good one, but their execution is rather poor. First of all, while they are a good primer to Formula One racing for beginners, experienced players might be annoyed at being forced to go through these exercises before being able to qualify for the Grand Prix mode. Furthermore, the game doesn't give you any real indication of what you're supposed to do, aside from showing a trackside replay that's more confusing than helpful. Some drive lines, speed indicators, and/or a map of the test area would have gone a long way toward making these challenges more educational. Regardless, it shouldn't take anyone with a passing knowledge of driving mechanics more than an hour to complete these tests and proceed to the Grand Prix portion of F1 2001.
The cars themselves handle with a surprising amount of precision. At first, the controls feel twitchy and overly responsive, but that's simply the nature of F1 cars. Mashing the accelerator or brake around corners will get you nowhere fast, and it'll take you a few laps to get used to the sensitivity of the Dual Shock's analog face buttons. But once you get the hang of controlling these cars, staying competitive with the rest of the field shouldn't be a problem. Of course, options like driving assists, turn indicators, and adjustable AI can better help you find a level of realism you're comfortable with. F1 2001 also has two overarching handling modes--normal and simulation--for those who don't want to fiddle with the finer aspects of the game's adjustable driving model. What's more, the game supports USB peripherals, so players with a wheel and pedal combo will enjoy the added level of control. We played the game using Logitech's GT Force wheel and preferred its tight control and wide range of motion to the standard PlayStation 2 controller.
- Game Universe:
- F1 2000 (PC, PS),
- F1 Championship Season 2000 (PS2, PC, PS, GBC, MAC),
- F1 2001 (PS2, XBOX, PC),
- F1 2002 (GC, PC, PS2, XBOX, GBA),
- F1 Career Challenge (PS2, XBOX, GC),
- F1 2011 (X360, PS3, PC, 3DS, VITA),
- F1 Racing Championship 2 (PS2, GBC, PC),
- F1 Challenge '99-'02 (PC),
- Ferrari Formula One (C64, ST, PC)
- Offline Modes:
- Number of Players: