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F1 Pole Position 64

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Racing games have been the most abundant genre for the N64 so far. There's everything from JetSki racing to kart racing to cruising the USA. But racing games that emphasize realism have been conspicuously missing. That hole is now filled with the release of Ubi Soft's F1 Pole Position 64. F1 Pole Position 64 is an improved version of Human Grand Prix: The New Generation, a Japanese Formula One racing simulation. Improvements include reduction of pop-up, improved crowd and fence textures, a better victory sequence, a smaller shift sparking effect, enhanced collision and skidding sound effects, improved "wireless" pit communication, and less background noise. The other major improvement is that the game is licensed by FOCA, unlike its Japanese counterpart. That means you get 22 real drivers (Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, etc.), 16 real tracks, all the real sponsors, and so on. F1 Pole Position 64 marks the first full-fledged racing simulation for the Nintendo 64. As one might expect, the game plays and controls just like a real F1 simulation. Each car has different abilities, each machine can be tweaked and modified, each team has certain pit talents, etc. There are several play modes as well: World Grand Prix, Battle and Time Trials. Additionally, there are options for Roster, Record and Configuration. The Configuration mode lets you toggle Computer Level (difficulty), Machine Touch (sensitivity of control), Machine Damage (if your car will take damage or use gas or not), Computer Accident (will some of the computer cars have to retire?) and Radio Communication. The control scheme in F1 Pole Position 64 is simple. The A button is the gas, the B button is the brake, and Z & R are used for shifting (if you want to shift). The Control Stick is the main method of control, but the Control Pad can be used, too. The C group is also used: Right C switches between seven different views, Top C toggles the on-screen menus, and Bottom C lets you look behind your car. So how does the game control? Well, depending on your tastes, this very well may be the make or break part of the game. If you like to power-slide around every corner, then you'll hate this game. Since this is a real racing simulation, you actually have to downshift and brake around bends. However, it can be quite rewarding, challenging and fun to learn the control. Depending on the settings you picked in the configuration screen, F1 Pole Position 64 can be non-realistic or very realistic. Always on the screen are different indicators that show if there are any problems with your car. These indicators -- WIN (Wing), TIR (Tire), SUS (Suspension), BRA (Brake), GEA (Gear) -- go from blue to yellow to red to flashing red. After a few more hits or bumps when one of the indicators is flashing red, you will be forced to retire from the race. Of course, this is only the case when you have Machine Damage turned on. There are a few other notable things about the racing action. First, some of the computer cars actually retire from the middle of a race; they just sit at the spot on the track where they broke down. Second, the weather can change several times during the course of a race. Third, the control changes when the road becomes slick. Finally, there is NO option to change the number of laps in the World Grand Prix mode. In the Battle mode, you can choose from one to ten laps. But in the World Grand Prix mode you are forced to race ten laps on every track. This can be a problem because some of us only want to race three or five laps, while others would want to race many more laps. F1 Pole Position 64's audio/visual department, unfortunately, is the worst on the Nintendo 64. The graphics are made of simple polygons, there is still way too much pop-up, and the overall presentation is just too drab and monotonous. In the game's defense, the simple nature of the graphics means that the game moves at a pretty fast rate and that there can be numerous, intelligent computer opponents on the screen at once. Sound-wise, F1 Pole Position 64 is also worse than average. The music in the menus is terrible (there's no music while racing), the pit announcer's voice is muffled and distorted, and the other sound effects are average at best. As a whole, F1 Pole Position 64 will probably only appeal to F1 fans. Video game aficionados who like flighty physics and power-slides need not apply. Those who actually like the sport, on the other hand, will want to give it a shot but should realize there are better simulations elsewhere. The lack of a two-player mode does hurt a little bit, but it's not as important to the game as, say, Top Gear Rally or MRC. Overall, the biggest problem with F1 Pole Position 64 is that it just does not seem like a 64-bit game, let alone a 32-bit one.

Graphics: 2.5 out of 5 Sound: 2.0 out of 5 Control: 3.3 out of 5 Gameplay: 3.4 out of 5 Lastability: 3.7 out of 5 Overall: 3.1 out of 5

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