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F1 Championship Season 2000
Score: 98%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: Visual Sciences
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports (Racing)/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:
Thereís no doubt in my mind that EA Sports now has the best F1 Racer on PlayStation in F1 Championship Season 2000. Itís definitely the best looking, from how the cars are modeled, how the lighting is used, and how the tracks and weather effects are handled. Along with good static design, the interactivity during the game really shines. Announcers break in on the race to report standings, status flags, and alerts coming up, and your man in the pit never leaves you. Youíll hear, over the whine of high-performance engines, an up-to-date report on how far you are behind the next guy, whoís on your tail, and how many seconds it will take them to catch up. You may know that ESPN is allied with Konami, but the experience of playing F1 Championship may convince you that EA Sports has Ďout-ESPNedí Konami.

Gameplay:
Modes, modes, and more modes make for happy little racers. EA didnít let us down, and Championship Season 2000 will keep F1 fans content for longer than ever. Itís not that every mode is so different, but the depth youíd want and expect from F1 is deeper than you might think. Letís face it, F1 racing is already terribly complex, and some people wonít like having to worry about tire wear, fuel strategy, or aerodynamics. The people who get off on this will be in pit-heaven. The main modes are Championship, GP Weekend, Scenario, Training, and Time Trial. Itís nice to see a Training Mode, since driving these cars is very different from any other action on wheels. Training takes you through the speed, cornering, and strategy you need to master before coming in at the front of the pack. Scenario Mode is very unique. Instead of setting up your car or choosing a track, youíre thrust into a scene from the 2000 season with a specific objective needed to win. Make no mistake, this is an advanced mode, since the ability to make changes is turned off. However, itís almost mission-based action is a nice change from straight racing.

The racing options: Change everything about your car, choose your team and driver, and then pick between one of 17 F1 tracks. Test-drive, qualify, and then race, with options to see telemetry and driving analysis for you and the other cars. Donít like auto transmission? Choose manual. Having a hard time learning the controls? Change them. Want to try your hand against particular opponents? Set up the race grid yourself and then run it. Most everything you could want to change is present in F1 Championship, and between the long drag-out style of a Championship race and the shorter GP Weekend, youíll be hooked by the way Season 2000 changes to fit the way you play. And just to encourage you to rent this one over the weekend, itís easy to choose a Quick Start race, set the CPU Assist as high as it will go, and see what a Ferrari feels like at more than 200 mph.


Difficulty:
I find F1 to be the most difficult racing simulation in almost any setting. The cars are fine-tuned, cost millions, and reach speed of 200 mph or more. They respond like jets, so itís no coincidence that F1 Championship comes with a setting to customize aerodynamics. The CPU Assist is a nice feature, and only the most hardcore F1 fans will want to turn this completely off. I like the way assistance can be scaled up or down, giving you various degrees of braking, turning, and navigation control. The complexity of F1 Championship 2000 may leave some casual racers in the dust, but this is the game to have if you like F1.

Game Mechanics:
Just so this section doesnít become a laundry list, imagine building an F1 car. It has fins on the front and back, a light fairing around the driver (more of a fuselage, really), and the craziest engine you could imagine. Slick tires, tight brakes and steering, gear ratios to take you from 0-200 in seconds... F1 Championship not only lets you change how these features are configured on your car, but it also lets you run test laps with different options to see which setup fits you, the track, and the conditions. I like that EA differentiated between the Mechanical and Aerodynamic Car Setup; this is something that PC F1 racing has had for a while. All driving controls can be changed, but the default is steering in left analog stick, with acceleration and braking on the right stick. Most people will be happy with this, and analog acceleration is a must with these cars, because overdoing it with the gas can instantly put you into a spin.

During the race, youíll see flags thrown for accidents, disqualifications, and other events. Periodic notification of position and lap time can almost be distracting, but you can turn the commentary down or off. Damage and fuel can be toggled, and you monitor the condition of your car by way of a small meter that you can put away if desired.

I wouldnít even call F1 Championship Season 2000 an acquired taste; you probably either love F1 Racing or hate it. But, if there were ever a game deep enough to convert non-believers, EA Sports gets my vote for this one. If the PlayStation 2 version of this (due out this year) can add better graphics and more realistic physics, youíre sure to see a perfect score from this high-revving reviewer.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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