This version of F1 is not just the best F1 to date, but it is also the finest computerized representation of Formula 1 racing from any source.
If it seems like it has been just a few months since EA Sports last released a Formula 1 racing game, that's because it has. Just half a year after F1 2001's release comes F1 2002, the fourth edition in the series since its inception a scant 26 months ago and the third game in the series to come out since the last edition of PC racing's other top-tier open-wheeled simulation series, Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix. The good news is that this version of F1 is not just the best F1 to date, but it is also the finest computerized representation of Formula 1 racing from any source. Not quite a monumental leap forward, the game nevertheless builds on the strong framework of last year's model and introduces just enough graphical and practical tweaks to really make a difference. With Crammond's Grand Prix 4 purportedly just around the corner, EA had to come up with a strong showing this time around. And with F1 2002, it has done just that.
Once again developed by Britain's Image Space Incorporated, the same blokes responsible for all prior F1 installments and 1999's wonderful Sports Car GT, F1 2002 is the first Formula 1 game to depict the 2002 season. As such, it features all the current driver allegiances, team stables, and sponsorships (without tobacco and liquor, of course). It also lets you race on each of this year's 17 circuits, including the freshly revamped Hockenheim layout. The latter is a particular treat, being much curvier, substantially bouncier, and far more interesting than it was previously.
In fact, F1 2002 does a superb job of translating pavement roughness on all its tracks. And that's just one of the many ways Image Space has instilled a new sense of speed into a series that has seemed deceptively slow in the past. Now, when you flash down the front straight at Hockenheim or through the high-banked final curve and onward to the finish line at Indianapolis, the racing surface ripples by you in high-speed waves. Completely textured and packed with pronounced undulations, the tracks of F1 2002 are the most realistic and gritty thoroughfares you'll find in any racing sim. The same is true of the trackside grass and sand and surrounding greenery, which varies substantially from section to section and moment to moment, as it does in real life. That the game also features excellent motion-blur effects only accentuates the feeling that you are indeed traveling inordinately fast.
Yet in both a graphical and a practical sense, one of the most intriguing new aspects of the latest installment in the series is the randomness and unpredictability of the game's dynamic weather patterns. Now when you begin an event with the "Changeable Weather" option selected, you'll never really know what to expect. You may begin under gloriously clear skies, only to encounter looming clouds a few laps later, a torrential downpour not long after, and a return to sunshine still later. You may begin on a wet track, only to have it slowly dry and then once again fall victim to pounding rain. Alternately, the black clouds above may dissipate without ever delivering their payload. In any case, your tires and handling always accurately reflect the effects of the current environmental conditions, so you should always be prepared to head for the pits and swap that rubber.
Unfortunately, Image Space's implementation of dynamic weather leaves something to be desired. Unlike Grand Prix 3, which somehow nailed the concept perfectly in 2000, F1 2002 fails in two important aspects. Most critically, the frame rate takes a huge hit when the skies begin to darken, particularly if you've chosen an abbreviated race distance, as the weather will change in a similarly abbreviated fashion. Furthermore, even the most substantial rainstorm won't cause puddles to form on the racing surface. One would hope to see these issues addressed in an upcoming patch.
Otherwise, F1 2002 puts on a stunning graphics exhibition, particularly if your computer far exceeds the recommended system requirements and is capable of handling its higher resolutions and optional 2x, 3x, and 4x antialiasing. If you're running anything less than the recommended setup, you won't be able to go beyond midlevel resolutions and midlevel detail without incurring prohibitive frame rate troubles or complete lockups. Apart from the magnificent visuals described above, F1 2002 also introduces us to such perks as authentic cockpits and voluptuous grid girls. Vehicular damage seems only slightly more varied than in the past, with tires and wings flying willy-nilly but no grand destruction, no fire, and no massive plumes of blackened smoke.
F1 2002's ontrack audio is another story. Although the game capably translates all the sounds you need to hear to be a better driver and goes out of its way to intricately duplicate minor events such as gear shifts, it doesn't sound as dramatic as Papyrus' best. In particular, engine notes are digital and incremental rather than gutsy and flowing. Even tire squeals seem hidden in the mix.
- Player Reviews: 5
- 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)
- Number of Players: