The sport of F1 racing became strictly regulated by its governing body, the FIA, after a series of deadly crashes in the late '80s and early '90s. The new regulations forced racecar engineers to make all F1 racecars 99 percent identical. As a result, the only way for F1 teams to win the Drivers and Constructors Championships was to take extra steps to ensure that their cars held that one-percent advantage over their competition. The standards for racing games on the PC have become similarly stringent over the same period of time, and in the case of Eidos' F1 World Grand Prix, it's apparent that no real effort was made to push the game past other F1 racing simulators.
Initially, F1 World Grand Prix seems like every other F1 racing game for the PC to date. You can play as either the primary or secondary driver from one of the eleven F1 teams and race across each of the 16 international tracks in the F1 circuit. You're given the option of a quick race, a career race, or multiplayer, which lets you race against either two other players on your own computer via splitscreen or against up to 11 others over the Internet or a network. The game includes seven driving aids - such as auto shifting and a driving line - that help make F1 World Grand Prix more accessible to players of various skill levels. In addition, you're given the option of either more realistic simulation or a simpler arcade setting before you start a race. The arcade setting increases your car's traction so that you can take corners at higher speeds, and also causes other drivers to adapt their behavior based on your performance, which can make the races seem more interesting.
However, after sitting behind the wheel with F1 World Grand Prix for a while, you'll notice some glaring problems. The first, and arguably the most disappointing, is that F1 World Grand Prix is based on the 1999 Formula One series rather than the 2000 season, which is already halfway over. Among other things, this means Jaguar fans will have to drive the old Stewart Ford car and not the newer Jag, which is aerodynamically superior to its predecessor. All the team rosters and the circuits are also based on the 1999 season, and the Indianapolis track - a new addition for 2000 - is notably missing as well. The second major issue with F1 World Grand Prix is the lack of a seventh gear in all the teams' cars. F1 cars have had seven gears for a number of years, and an oversight such as this one is inexcusable for a game that claims to have "faithful replicas" of the real-life racecars. F1 World Grand Prix's 16 tracks aren't the most realistic either; although there's no question that racing fans will instantly recognize most of the game's circuits, some tracks lack a fine level of accuracy. The elevation change found in the turns after the front straight in Suzuka is peculiarly flat, and the chicanes of Monza don't seem as tight as those in other games.
The game's graphics also detract from its realism. Your steering wheel, which in F1 cars normally displays a wide range of telemetry information, shows only a small and inaccurate RPM indicator. All other relevant race information, such as lap times and speed, is located in the top left corner of the screen, which means that you'll have to take your eyes off the track to check your standings. In addition, even when running in full color, the game suffers from a grainy and dithered look. You'll also notice minor graphics glitches throughout the game, like rubber skid marks on grass and dirt surfaces. Fortunately, the cars themselves are shiny and authentically detailed, and the game supports a number of different camera views, including an interesting first-person perspective that simulates how an F1 driver sees through his helmet.
While the game's sound is as to be expected from a racing game, the engine noises don't vary enough from car to car as they do in actual F1 races. All the other sound effects, including skidding, crashing, and the constant radio chatter of your crew chief are satisfactory and don't tend to get repetitive. Unfortunately, although the computer-controlled cars in F1 World Grand Prix are generally competent, your teammates seem completely autonomous; they might as well be racing for your competition because they can't be counted on to guard your tail or block for you, maneuvers that are common practice among teammates in the F1 sport.
Nonetheless, F1 World Grand Prix has its redeeming qualities. Its garage setup gives you plenty of options to tweak your car's brakes, tires, wheel camber, suspension, aerodynamics, ride height, gear ratios, and fuel capacity to account for the differences among the 16 circuits. You can also save two different car setups per track - one for the race and one for the qualifying session. The game also boasts a limited 3D physics model. Even though the cars seem never to flip, slamming into walls and skidding off the track will often result in at least two of your wheels lifting off the ground. The game's damage modeling system seems highly accurate: It uses progressive texturing to show the beating your car has sustained. In a severe accident, you can see wheels separating from the body and nasty cracks along the car's chassis.
F1 World Grand Prix is by no means a poorly made game - it's just a bad representation of real-life F1 racing, especially compared with EA's earlier F1 2000. Furthermore, because Hasbro's Grand Prix 3 looms on the horizon and stands to continue the tradition of excellence set forth by its predecessor, F1 World Grand Prix can't be recommended to fans of the sport.