The 2000 Formula One season is long behind us, but EA Sports hopes to keep the fire burning with its Game Boy Color release of F1 Championship Season 2000. Sporting the official license of the F1A, the game features all 23 drivers, 12 teams, and 17 tracks that made the 2000 season the most exciting to date. It's not a perfect ride by any stretch, but if you're into F1 or want to see your Game Boy display cutting-edge 3D graphics, you've come to the right place.
The best aspect of F1 Championship Season 2000 is the race itself. After choosing a driver and deciding on one of the game's three gameplay modes (championship, GP weekend, and quick-race), it's on to the track. Twenty-three F1 luminaries, including Mika Hakkinen, Michael Schumaker, and Jean Alesi, are at your disposal to guide you through a game that successfully blends video game fantasy with simulation-style driving mechanics. Provided you don't disable the damage, tire-wear, and fuel-loss choices in the game's options menu, F1 Championship Season 2000 actually forces you to steer and brake for each situation, instead of simply "lead-footing" it all the way to the finish. To improve the car's handling, variables such as rear downforce, front downforce, gear ratios, steering lock, rear suspension, front suspension, brake balance, and ride height are all available for adjustment. Car handling is a bit stiff at times, which is as it should be in an F1 game. Furthermore, thanks to the game's 3D graphics engine, up to 11 opponent vehicles at any given time can attempt to impede your progress.
Even though it plays decently enough, it is F1 Championship Season 2000's graphics that garner the most notice. The game uses a 3D engine similar to that of a previous EA/THQ release, NASCAR 2000, but this time with better results. Animated menus and FMV cutscenes make a decent introduction to the game's production values, even if they don't really portray any specific happenings from the F1 season. When you're actually racing, pavement and trackside structures scale into view thanks to a tile-based scaling system reminiscent of Atari's Hard Drivin'. Since the game's vehicles are capable of a full 360-degree range of motion, the level of realism in skids, spinouts, and crashes is particularly awe inspiring. Realistic weather effects even convey a decent juxtaposition between wet and dry racing conditions. However, once the honeymoon ends, a problematic side effect to the game's cutting-edge graphics engine comes into play. The draw-in and flicker that accompany its 3D visuals, especially when multiple vehicles are onscreen, oftentimes make it impossible to react to sharp turns or pileups until it's too late. If you're skilled at memorizing course layouts, though, it's a problem you can overcome.
While it has decent gameplay and interesting visuals, F1 Championship Season 2000's audio is barely worth mentioning. A screaming engine, one skid, and two crash sounds are all you get. Despite this and a few other previously mentioned shortcomings, F1 Championship Season 2000 is about what you'd expect: An arcade-style racing game with a simulation twist that's amply capable of satisfying the F1 fan's pocket-gaming needs.