Formula One Championship Edition Updated Hands-On
We check out the career mode in our latest look at this PS3 racing game.
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It's been a long time since we saw a Formula One game on US shores. However, ever since Sony announced the PlayStation 3, it seems the company has used its upcoming PS3 F1 game, Formula One Championship Edition, as a showcase for just what the system will be capable of. The response must have been positive, because the racing game, developed by Sony's Liverpool Studios, will mark the return of F1 games to the US market. And that's a good thing, because the game is looking like a lot of fun. We got our hands on an updated build of the game at a recent Sony press event and checked out a few of its new features.
When it comes to its game-mode lineup, F1 CE will feature your list of standards, such as quickplay, race weekend, and season mode. The game will also feature all 11 real F1 teams, all 22 drivers from the 2006 season, and 18 tracks on which to race. However, the aspect we're most excited about is career mode, which puts you in the shoes of an up-and-coming F1 hopeful. Based on the brief time we spent with the mode, it looks to be an appealing alternative to simply race after race in season mode.
The hook in career mode is that you'll need to prove your worth on the track. You start out as a rookie driver, without a team to call home. You'll immediately be invited to take part in a test-drive session with some of the back-marker teams on the grid, such as Midland, Toro Rosso, or Super Aguri. Essentially time trial events, these test drives require you to finish a lap of a track within a certain time or beat a posted time across 10 laps. Perform well enough--and honestly, with even a little experience behind the virtual wheel, you won't have trouble topping these lap times--and you'll be offered a position on the team.
While we didn't get to take part in any team events, we do know that a seat on a team is never a guarantee, and you'll need to keep earning results on the track if you hope to keep your position. You interact with your team via an e-mail interface, where you can check in on your different goals, talk with your agent to view offers from other teams, and check out information on the season in progress. In all, it seems like there will be a lot to do in career mode, and we're eager to get deeper into it in the future.
The driving model in F1 CE is still as fast paced and challenging as we've seen from the game in the past. The developers behind the game have worked to make sure the physics and feel of the car appeal to simulation fans and newbies alike, with plenty of individual assists for things like steering, braking, and stability. The difficulty of your on-track opponents, too, will be easily adjustable. It seems like regardless of your familiarity with F1 games, you'll be able to find a manageable level of challenge in F1 CE.
From a control standpoint, we had a chance to try out the Sixaxis steering control option and--good news--it works pretty well. As in other PS3 racing games such as the upcoming MotorStorm, you steer the car by twisting the Sixaxis controller left or right. It's much easier to use the Sixaxis steering controls in conjunction with the right analog stick for gas and brake, as opposed to the X and square buttons. Also, we couldn't find a button setup for manual gearboxes that appealed to us, though perhaps with a bit more practice that could change. The game will also support several Logitech USB wheels (including the recently released G25), and while the game won't support force feedback for any of them, at the very least it's nice to have control options when playing the game.
We also learned a few other details about the game. It will support online play for up to 11 players, and the rest of the 22-car field will be filled out by the artificial intelligence in the game. There will also be a button-based minigame when the car is going through pit stops.
The developers are taking a chance by releasing Formula One Championship Edition in the United States. Considering that the game seems like an excellent example of the PlayStation 3's graphical prowess, and it's an exhilarating racing experience in its own right, we're hoping it's a gamble that pays off. Who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky and Sony will decide to release more F1 games here in the States in the future.