Well, honestly, Formula One Racing is not my sport at all. I don’t watch it on television, and the only time I pay attention to F1 racing at all is when the local sportscasts replay the latest batch of spinouts and fiery crashes. So when I tell you that F1 2001 from EA is a pretty good gaming experience, I mean it. Wholeheartedly.
Let’s start with the gameplay itself. There are a huge range of options available, from the usual quick start option to a full-fledged career mode where you try to come up victorious through the entire series. Multiplayer game modes involve up to 4 players with multitap. Split screen allow you to race against an opponent, challenge lap times against each other, tag-team modes, and others. A far cry past the usual multiplayer modes included in racing games.
F1 2001 borrows a page from Gran Turismo’s license challenges – where the player has to prove his skill in different race-related challenges, cornering, braking, timing, pitting and others. These are designed to introduce the player into F1 racing, but it’s not as well designed as Gran Turismo’s. Where GT explicitly details what is expected from each challenge, F1 2001 is rather vague, which doesn’t help matters when you’re trying to figure out exactly what the game is demanding from you.
F1 2001 has some great weather effects – rain splatters against the screen, obscuring your vision and causing rooster tails to fly into your face. The track graphics are nice, but not outstanding, especially compared to the cars themselves. Compared to 989’s Formula One offering, the in-game graphics are somewhat better, but both games suck the dust of Gran Turismo 3. Animated pit crews add to the realism, although they seem a little slow compared to the real thing. EA claims that the pit crews can make mistakes as the pressure builds in the pit lanes based on driver performance, but I didn’t see this.
The control is very good. I have a Logitech steering wheel that I bought with GT3, and it works great with F1 2001. The steering, gas and braking controls are quite touchy, but I guess that’s to be expected with F1 cars – you have to accelerate and brake methodically or else spend a lot of time doing donuts in the dirt. Assists and AI adjustments help make the game more enjoyable for those less hardcore, and you can tweak it until it feels like an arcade racing romp. When you crash into other drivers, the physics of the car will change accordingly. Tire wear, the amount of fuel, track conditions – all of these play into the way you have to approach your race.
Overall, F1 2001 from EA Sports is well-done. As a non-fan of F1 racing, I was still impressed and enjoyed it quite a bit. The varying graphic quality grates somewhat, but it controls well and the game experience is enjoyable. Ultimately, that’s what matters and F1 2001 stands out as a great example of what F1 racing can be.