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F1 2001
Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Games
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Multitap)
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:
Formula 1 games usually go by the wayside in America, but EA Sports hopes that their name power can turn the fans away from Nascar and into their pits. With deep Gran Turismo gameplay and top notch graphics, F1 2001 might be able to do it.

In the graphics field, EA Sports follows the tradition of their Madden, NCAA and NHL series' by offering the absolute best. F1 2001's graphics shine in all departments. First, the cars look fantastic. All of them are officially licensed and are perfectly emulated to mimic their real life counterparts. Every paint job is precise down to the pinstripe, and every sticker is there. All of the details of the cars are in place, but most noteworthy are the wheels which have working brake discs and complex suspension systems. Also all of the metal parts shine and reflect anything that happens to be overhead, be it trees, clouds, birds or flags. Other than the cars, the courses and pit crews also show off the PS2's power. All of the courses are modeled like the cars - after the real life things, and they look great. I've been to Indianapolis, and when I saw it in the game, other than the fact that it was moving at 180 mph, it looked just like I remember it. Unlike Formula One 2001 from 989 Studios, F1 2001 features a full working pit crew. I'm not sure, but I think that the pit crew models are the same ones that are used in Madden, which is to say that they look great, and they are animated fluidly. Also adding to the realism of the game are all of the little special effects that really make F1 2001 stand out. It's especially impressive to see the smoke roll off the tires of 22 cars at the starting line as they try to get the holeshot. You'll also notice other little details like grass and dirt in the tread of the tires, and motion blur when you hit a bumble strip.

One of the trademarks of Formula 1 racing is the high pitch whining of the car's engine, and that's just what you'll find in F1 2001. All of the sounds are there, and they are great. Car shifting, skids, crowd noise and even the pit crew's tools and everything else you would expect are fantastic. While you won't find music during the races, (and you shouldn't) what you will find is terrific headset chatter. Having your pit crew talk to you works a lot better than having a race commentator, because they can give you real time updates of what's happening. It's common to hear who is in the lead, where there have been crashes, and what the weather will be like in the next few laps.

It is important to realize that F1 2001 is not an arcade racer, but a deep simulation experience. The big difference is the way that the cars handle. Instead of being able to pound the accelerator and crank the wheel to make a turn, you have to be able to balance between speed and steering to make a turn without sliding off the road. While it may not be everyone's forte, this allows a deep experience that can take a while to master.

The different modes of play in F1 2001 do a good job of offering varied gameplay. The Quick Race option is what most players will start out with to get a feel for the game. After choosing a car and racer, you select your course and begin racing. All of the tracks in Quick Race mode consist of a grid of 22 racers and are four laps, and you don't have to worry about fuel consumption, flags, damage, tire wear. The Quick Race mode is a fun way to begin, but it can feel dummied down because 'advanced options' are off. For the full experience, you have to enter the Gran Prix mode, but before that is opened up, you have to complete the Challenge Mode. The Challenge Mode consists of a series of tasks that test your skills to drive under certain conditions and disabilities. At first it can seem daunting to complete them all, but they end up being fun. The challenges force you to drive under adverse conditions like rain, and make you learn how to drive with a crippled car. After the challenges are complete, you can begin the Gran Prix. The Gran Prix mode is the meat of the game, in which you take one racer through all of the courses. Gran Prix is a lot deeper than the other modes because the previously mentioned 'advanced options' can be turned on or off. But you can also start your own custom Gran Prix also, with your own courses and weather conditions for even more options.

If you have experience with racing simulators, F1 2001 will be more fun than it is difficult, but for those of you that are used to arcade racers, you could have problems. The hardest part of F1 2001 is the Challenge mode simply because there are so many tasks and a lot of them can be very hard. I found the best way to do it was to sit down with my roommate and take turns trying to complete them until we got them all. The races can be hard, but if you have a little experience, you most likely will be able to place first after a couple races.

Game Mechanics:
F1 2001 doesn't make the player wait forever watching load screens. The load times are fast, and the menus all load at once which means that you will be able to get out there and start racing. Once you insert a memory card, the game will create a save file and automatically load it at the start. Also it saves your custom season and loads it automatically so you can start playing it as though it was included in the game. The controls are solid with steering options for both the left analog stick and the D-pad. The acceleration can either be controlled by the right analog stick, or the x button with pressure sensitivity. I found that if I wanted the most precise speed and turning, it was best to use the sticks. Steering wheel support is also built in.

What Guys thinks: People that have already played Gran Turismo may think that F1 2001 would be a waste of their money, but it is on all accounts a solid investment considering how deep the game is. On the message boards, there has been a lot of discussion as to which was the better Formula 1 game - F1 2001 or Formula One 2001 from 989 Studios, and I must say that F1 2001 is just able to edge it out. First off, F1 2001 has a much better crash engine that even allows you to drive with a wheel missing. Another big factor is that F1 2001 is graphically superior to it's 989 counterpart. Granted that Formula One lets you go deeper into the customization of the parts of the car, I still have to go with F1 2001, but you won't likely be disappointed by either game.

-Joe Guys, GameVortex Communications
AKA Joe Labani

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