The 2000 Formula 1 racing season may have ended in October, but the excitement lives on with EA Sports' latest, F1 Championship Season 2000. Sporting the official license of the F1A, the game features all of the real drivers, teams, and tracks that made the 2000 season the most exciting to date. Although the game is missing a few features found in the earlier PS release, F1 Championship Season 2000 for the PlayStation 2 is still a solid effort.
From the get go, it's clear that this release of F1 Championship Season 2000 focuses on competition instead of variety. There are five game modes: race now, multiplayer, single GP, custom championship, and full championship. Notably absent are the training and scenario options that furnished the PS version of the game with nearly infinite replay value. On the upside, though, the game's multiplayer mode supports up to four players with the use of Sony's Multitap accessory. In all modes, there are 22 drivers to choose from, including such fan favorites as David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen of team McLaren Mercedes, as well as this year's champion, Michael Schumacher of team Ferrari. The game also boasts 17 real-world F1A circuits, including Albert Park in Australia, Hockenheim in Germany, and Indianapolis in the US. To properly tackle each unique environment, there are also a variety of racing options to adjust, from the mundane, such as weather and car damage, to the practical, such as tire type, down force, gear ratios, and fuel load.
After choosing your poison, you'll quickly discover that actually playing F1 Championship Season 2000 is akin to achieving nirvana. The control is tight, and whether you use analog or digital D-pad steering, there's never any sluggishness or lack of response. In a sport where careful breaking and speed monitoring are crucial, F1 Championship Season 2000 plays with the sensitivity of an arcade racer and the realism of a simulation. The physics behind F1 Championship Season 2000 really shine though - skids, spinouts, and drafting are all realistically executed, while crashes and equipment failures lend just the right amount of uncertainty to the races. The game's artificial intelligence is similarly impressive. Competing drivers will block your car or attempt to nudge your wheels for an advantage, while veteran drivers such as Hakkinen and Schumacher always seem to know just how far to push the inside line. Nitpickers may argue that the crashes are a bit too devastating or that the collisions tend to favor the CPU, but otherwise, F1 Championship Season 2000 plays exceptionally well.
In contrast to the majority of current PlayStation 2 games, F1 Championship Season 2000 actually backs up its stellar gameplay with equally impressive visuals. The game's 17 tracks have been designed according to real-world specifications, and they contain all of the landmarks and pitfalls F1 racing fans have come to know and love. From the curves in Indianapolis to the standing water at Albert Park, the game's track designs are dead-on. There is a noticeable lack of texture detail in some areas, such as spectator grandstands, but the game's speedy 60fps frame rate does much to mitigate the issue. As you drive past at 150mph, trees, billboards, and bleachers glide by with the same realism and fluidity you'd witness in a televised race - replete with the same on-screen status updates that you'd expect to find in a Sunday broadcast. Thanks to support from the Benetton and Orange Arrows teams, the car models are painstakingly detailed, right down to the decals, sponsor logos, and tire markings you'd expect to see on any track-worthy Formula 1 vehicle. Of course, once you take that bad boy into a race, your lovely car may end up with grass-stained tires, shattered wings, smudged paint, crooked tires, or any number of assorted injuries. EA has even included such visual amenities as heat distortion, realistic weather, persistent skid marks, and five different camera angles - all with zero hint of slowdown, texture warping, or resolution degradation.
In the audio department, F1 Championship Season 2000 nearly re-creates the true vibe of the F1 racing experience. Vehicle engines roar with that noticeable high-pitched whine of F1 cars, the pit radio goes nuts when you overtake another driver, and crashes sound as crunchy as folding fiberglass would in the real world. Minor details such as the combined engine roar of 22 on-track vehicles or tires thumping over road markers also add to the game's realistic approach, while the constant chatter of the pit crew really pulls you into the game. Unfortunately, there is one area where F1 Championship Season 2000 is desperately lacking - in-game commentary. While the veteran pre- and postrace analyses of Jim Rosenthal add to the game's overall presentation, the omission of commentary during the race is an oversight that has a negative impact on the game's lasting appeal. Despite this one shortcoming, however, F1 Championship Season 2000 has enough vehicular effects and background ambience to get you through the races with your consciousness intact.
F1 Championship Season 2000 may not be the deepest game in terms of overall features, but it still has enough inherent playability to warrant the attention of both veteran and casual game players alike.