Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Popular In Every Country Except The U.S., It's Formula One Racing Time!

Quick question - how do you pump up sales for an over-priced video game machine that's still buggy and has questionable developer support? Simple. Release a game that won't sell in the United States. The country that just happens to be your biggest market. Smooth move, Sony.

Released yesterday, Formula One Championship Edition for the PS3 is the first F1 game released for a U.S. Playstation console in about 5 years. The reason for that? Practically no one in this country cares about Formula One racing, so the games don't sell. But considering how thin the PS3 library is at this point, Sony is taking a chance and has brought the World Championship of racing back to our shores. Why do I get the feeling that I'll be writing that exact same paragraph again in 5 or 6 years time, replacing the "3" in PS3 with a "4". Time will tell...

First, some good news - this is actually a decent game (despite the lackluster Gamespot review - check it here). Visually, this is a very polished game, which will excite all you HD fanboys out there. The rain effects are especially good. And the racing physics is also up to par. If you're a noob, keep the driver aids on, and you'll make it around the track. But if you're a seasoned pro, turn them off for some real racing. But be warned - this is a racing sim, and not an arcade style racer. If you're all about the big drifts and jumps, stick with Ridge Racer 7 or Full Auto 2. But for the Gran Turismo fans out there, this one should also be enjoyable.

Now some bad news. Believe it or not, the career mode is actually a little too realistic. Not only do you have to try out for the team (which isn't a bad thing), once you make it, you're officially just a test driver! You still have to battle to get your shot in the real races. Now I'm sure all 6 die-hard F1 fans out there are loving that point, but a couple thousand other gamers aren't sharing in the love. Fortunately, the other modes of the game are quite good, so there's no need to suffer through the career to get to the racing.

Speaking of alternate modes, online play is included (it wasn't in the Japanese release of this game, which came out months ago). Online play supports up to 11 players, which is half of an F1 grid. That should allow a good mix of competition.

A couple other things worth mentioning for the true F1 fans. This game follows the 2006 season, so it should be the last game to feature Michael Schumacher. The 2006 season also means that Spa was not on the calendar, so you'll have to do without one of the best F1 circuits out there. There are also some extras in this game, in the form of some classic F1 race cars. Unfortunately, you can't use them in any of the races, but they're available for testing runs once you unlock them.

So is this a buy? If you're an F1 fan, definitely - you'll love the game. For casual racing fans, MotorStorm, which will be released later in March, will probably be more fun. But considering that decent PS3 games are few and far between at this point, adding this one to your library might not be such a bad idea. And hey, it'll make you more popular with the European babes - they're nuts for F1.

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