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F-1 World Grand Prix

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Let's face it, the N64 hasn't exactly been the home of many detailed, realistic, or in-depth simulations. Video System and Paradigm are trying to change that with their second joint release, F-1 World Grand Prix. Sporting more realism and more authenticity, F-1 World Grand Prix faithfully recreates an accurate simulation experience unlike AeroFighters Assault, which leaned more on the action side. F-1 World Grand Prix is so impressive and realistic, in fact, that Nintendo picked up the rights to distribute it and even volunteered to handle the customer service and advertise the game on TV. Before getting into the review, a disclaimer should be mentioned. F-1 World Grand Prix is a genuine racing simulation. That means there are no weapons, there are no shortcuts, there are no jumps, there are no power-slides, and there are no magical speed bursts -- it's how you would actually have to drive a formula one car in real life. Therefore, if you're into arcade-like racing games (Mario Kart 64, Extreme-G, San Francisco Rush, etc.), then F-1 World Grand Prix is probably not your cup of tea. If you know my gaming tastes, then you know that I'm a fan of those arcade-like racing games. So that means I really don't like this game. However, even I couldn't help but be impressed by the sheer amount of detail and realism in the game. Considering the game is licensed by the Formula One Administration, all 17 tracks, 11 teams, and 22 drivers are represented. OK, so Villeneuve isn't here (he's listed as "Driver Williams" and you can even edit his name), but all the other guys like Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, and Gerhard Berger are here. Furthermore, not only are the drivers accurately portrayed (down to their aggression) but the teams are also accurately represented. While the drivers are rated in speed, corner, aggressive, and rain, the teams are rated in front and rear DF (downward force), engine, reliability, and pit work. When you turn on F-1 World Grand Prix, you're treated to a fairly impressive real-time sequence that's reminiscent of full-motion introductions on the PlayStation. After that, you have a choice between the following: Start, Gallery, and Credits. The last two are just self-explanatory novelties. So once you select "Start" from the menu, you get to select your Game Mode. There's the Exhibition mode, which is a one-player race against computer opponents on any track; the Grand Prix mode, which is an accurate recreation of the 1997 F1 Grand Prix season; the Challenge mode, which is a very cool idea that has you put in different scenarios from the 1997 season; the Time Trial mode, which is your standard practice/time trial mode; and the 2-Player mode, which will let you race one-on-one against a friend (no computer competition). One of F-1 World Grand Prix's many strong points is the vast amount of options to toggle. The game can be customized to your liking so it's more accessible to beginners while giving die-hard Formula One fans complete control. Still, even though the developers tried to make it easy for beginners to play, it still doesn't quite make the game enjoyable enough for us arcade racing fans. After choosing a mode, there are many options you can choose from. Under the "Drivers" menu, you can toggle Skill Level (Rookie, Professional, Champion), Controller Type (Normal or Wheel), Transmission (Automatic or Manual), Accel Assist (On or Off), and Brake Assist (On or Off). Under the "Options" menu, you can change 97 Events (On or Off), Grid Position (only in Exhibition; can change from 1 to 22), Damage (On or Off), Pit In (On or Off), Flags (On or Off), Weather (Sunny, Partly Cloudy, Cloudy, Light Rain, Rainy, or Random), and Laps (4, 8, 16, Half, or Full). Finally, there are some "System Options" you can play around with. You can change the Speed Type (MPH or KPH), Racing Line (On or Off), Map Display (only in Grand Prix; can change between Zoom Map, Full Map, and Off), Telop (On or Off), Look Ahead (Near, Far, or Off), and Split Screen Type (only in 2-Player; can change between Vertical and Horizontal). You can also listen to music and sound effects and toggle four different sound volumes individually. Think you're done toggling options yet? Not quite. Just before the race starts, you come to the "Paddock" screen. This is where you modify settings for your car, depending on the track, weather, and number of laps. There's a bar graph that shows how your speed, acceleration, cornering, and braking are affected. Since I was never a big fan of modifying cars, I'm not going into detail about what changing each setting does, but I will list what can be changed: Fuel, Tyre, F-Wing, R-Wing, Gear, Suspension, and Steering. Then using this Paddock Computer, you can display the Telemetry to analyze your run, look at preliminary race results, and load and save your settings. Control in the game is fairly easy and responsive. First of all, F-1 World Grand Prix has limited support for steering wheels. But if you use the controller like most of the people out there, you'll find the control is still good. The A button is gas, the B button is brake, the R button shifts up, the Z or L button shifts down, Top C changes between five different views, and the other C buttons are your mirrors. You also have you choice between the Control Stick and Control Pad, although the Control Stick is much better and is a great improvement over the tapping of the pad that was needed in 32-bit racing games. There are also special accelerator and brake controls. For example, if you single tap the A button, that will give you smooth acceleration. If you double tap the A button, you will get full acceleration. If you steadily tap the A button, you'll maintain your current engine RPM. Also, if you single tap the B button, you'll fully apply the brakes. A double tap to the B button is for anti-lock braking. Racing action in F-1 World Grand Prix is great. In the Exhibition and Grand Prix modes, there are a total of 22 cars on the track at once. The Exhibition mode lets you race on any of the 17 real-life tracks against those 21 other computer cars. Since you can set your Grid Position, you don't have to run a qualifier. Grand Prix mode, on the other hand, does have you running qualifiers. In fact, it's set up much like a real Grand Prix race! There's Friday Practice, Saturday Practice, Qualifying, Warm-Up, and finally the Grand Prix. On any Skill Level other than Champion, the intermediate sessions can be skipped, but that means you'll be starting in the last position. The object of the Challenge mode is to complete each scenario. Under each scenario -- Offense, Defense, and Trouble -- are five different levels. Here are a few examples of what a scenario entails. "Trouble #A, Schumacher": The Belgian Race began with rain. However, the sun dried the track very quickly, leaving many drivers with wet tires on a dry track. Your goal is to use your intermediate tires as best you can to gain a favorable position while the track dries. "Defense #A, Coulthard": In the last few laps of the Australian Grand Prix, David Coulthard is the leader. Your job is to maintain his lead and hold off Frentzen and Schumacher to get a much-needed victory for the McLaren team. The Time Trial mode in F-1 World Grand Prix is pretty cool. As usual, you're by yourself on the track, going for record times and getting practice. The one cool addition is through the use of ghosts. Ghost drivers aren't anything new on the N64; they were practically invented on the system. But in F-1 World Grand Prix, you can switch on an "Instructor" ghost to show you the best paths. A major improvement F-1 World Grand Prix has over F1 Pole Position 64, the sole F1 game previously available for the N64, is a two-player mode. While the latter game had no such mode whatsoever, F-1 World Grand Prix has smooth, fast gameplay for one-on-one competition. You can also turn a handicap on or off for this mode. Graphically, F-1 World Grand Prix is awe-inspiring. It's hard to believe this game looks so good while F1 Pole Position 64 looked so bad. Basically, it's the type of game you can use to show off your N64. Everything is clear, crisp, and detailed. All of the tracks are faithfully modeled, including Monaco, right down to the trees, buildings, and logos. The formula one cars look great, and there can be many cars on the screen. There is minimal pop-up and fogging. The replays can look damn-near broadcast quality. The weather effects are amazing. Also, the cockpit view may be one of the best ever. The only downside to the graphics is that the frame rate is noticeably jerky at times. And I do wish it moved slightly faster. These two things don't hurt the game that much, though. The sound department is good, too. Paradigm is getting better and better when it comes to music. The full-blown stereo music for the real-time intro and the course introductions (which are awesome) fits perfectly. The rockin' music used in the various menus is decent and is certainly better than the stuff found in Pilotwings 64 and AeroFighters Assault. The sound effects are realistic, too. The pit crew voice sounds good and really does help. While there is no music during a race, I do wish some of the sound effects were louder and I wish there was more variety in them. F-1 World Grand Prix is a high-quality production with mind-numbing attention to detail. Die-hard F1 fans should not even hesitate and should get the game immediately. Arcade racing fans will want to give it a rental, but even with the beginner options, such as assisted accelerating and braking, they will probably find that it's not for them. Nevertheless, one can't deny how realistic and faithful of a simulation it is. Since I'm not a fan of realistic racing games, you can basically add .4 or .5 to the overall score if this is your type of game. Well done, Video System and Paradigm!

Graphics: 4.6 out of 5 Sound: 3.8 out of 5 Control: 4.2 out of 5 Gameplay: 4.3 out of 5 Lastability: 4.5 out of 5 Overall: 3.9 out of 5

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