Only eight months since its F1 2000, EA Sports returns once again with its latest Formula 1 racing game, F1 Championship Season 2000. While this iteration uses the Visual Systems F1 2000 engine as its base, a multitude of refinements and additions helps elevate F1 Championship Season 2000 above mere sequel. The game includes all the real drivers, teams, and tracks of the 2000 FIA Formula One World Championship season as well as the usual smattering of time trial, GP weekend, championship, versus, and practice modes common to F1 video games. However, the addition of two new features is what really gets F1 Championship Season 2000 going in the right direction. The first, an interactive training mode, uses cones and an announcer to guide you through each of the game's 17 tracks, focusing on speed, braking, racing lines, and even proper pit strategy. The second new addition is one that is long overdue - a scenario mode. The game feature ten real-world scenarios from the 2000 racing season, so you won't just be stuck racing hundreds of laps over the course of the year; you'll also get to test your mettle in a variety of underdog racing situations.
F1 Championship Season 2000's gameplay fires on all cylinders. Control is tight, whether you use analog or digital D-pad steering, and unlike F1 2000 there's no hint of sluggish response - no more than would really occur from steering a 200mph tin can anyway. The game's artificial intelligence is similarly impressive. Competing drivers block your car or attempt to nudge your wheels for an advantage, but they also make enough minor mistakes to seem human. Although subtle, veteran drivers such as Hakkinen and Schumacher drive better than their rookie counterparts, and they always seem to be the ones occupying the upper ten race positions. Racing physics is where F1 Championship Season 2000 really shines though: Skids, spinouts, and drafting response are all realistically executed. As such, careful braking and speed control are of the utmost importance - just like in real Formula One racing. While the game lets you tweak downforce, height, diffuser, gear ratios, suspension options, and fuel load, it's also important to note that all of the game's realism options may be adjusted. If you're an arcade-racing fanatic, you can disable weather, fuel loss, damage, and body tweaking, or you can engage the automatic braking and speed control. However, if you're an F1 simulation nut, setting the game to hard difficulty and enabling every realism option should satiate your cravings.
While F1 Championship Season 2000 succeeds in gameplay, it absolutely destroys the competition when it comes to visuals. The game's 17 tracks have been re-created to real-world specifications, such that they contain all of the landmarks and pitfalls F1 racing fans have come to know and love. From the curves in Indianapolis to that brutal dip at Hockenheim, F1 Championship Season 2000's track designs are spot on. As you drive past at 150mph, trees, billboards, and spectator stands seem to glide by with the same fluidity you'd witness in a television broadcast. Car models are realistic and contain all of the appropriate decals, sponsor logos, and tire markings you'd expect to see on a fresh-off-the-lot Formula 1 vehicle. Of course, once you take that bad boy into a race, your lovely car will end up with grass-stained tires, shattered wings, and smudged paint. 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 or texture warping. By taking its previous F1 2000 engine, fixing a ton of bugs, building upon the in-game environment, and wrapping things up in a broadcast feel, EA Sports has made F1 Championship Season 2000 the PlayStation's most visually appealing Formula 1 racing title to date.
In the audio department, F1 Championship Season 2000 flawlessly succeeds at re-creating the F1 racing experience. Vehicle engines roar with that noticeable high-pitched whine of F1 cars; the pit crew goes nuts when you overtake another driver; and crash effects sound as crunchy as smashing fiberglass ought to. Minor details such as the combined engine roar of 22 on-track vehicles or tires fumbling over road markers also add to the game's realistic approach, while pit crew audio tips really pull you into the game. A greater variety of in-game commentary would be nice, but superb track sounds and a psychotic pit team coupled with television style pre/post-race commentary more than make up for this minor shortcoming.
Critics may see F1 Championship Season 2000 as an updated F1 2000, but the game simply contains too many improvements, refinements, and new features to warrant such an injustice. In F1 Championship Season 2000, EA has created the best-looking and best-sounding PlayStation Formula One title to date, and it has excellent gameplay and features to boot.