Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Formula 1 on the small screen, A rough guide to F1 gaming // A comprehensive review of playing motorsport games

Published by Lewis

Taking racing entertainment to the next level, promotional shots of the upcoming F1 game (final liveries will vary).
Taking racing entertainment to the next level, promotional shots of the upcoming F1 game (final liveries will vary).Credit: Codemasters Software

Racing has always been a massive gaming genre and F1 has not escaped from the virtual world of computers and consoles. F1 has been recreated on the screen for over thirty years, some destined for greatness, some destined for the nephew's stocking next Christmas. This post will hopefully separate the rotten from the good.

The Formula One series

Probably the first thing the casual gamer might play is the official F1 series, exclusive for PlayStation. The series started in 1995 and ended in 2006, with full commentary from Murray Walker, Martin Brundle and James Allen (some comments verge on hilarious). The games contain all teams, drivers and circuits (in some of the early games, however, Jacques Villenueve was referred to as Williams #1, as he didn't give permission to use his name in the games).

Now the logic here is, "The games are official, with proper designers, so it will be the best simulation available." This isn't always the case.

Granted, F1 06 was a very good game, everything was realistic, the damage was good, the tyre wear and fuel consumption was realistic, but it took a lot of tinkering to get there.

F1 1995 was surprisingly good, even if the artificial intelligence wasn't particularly special. Most diehard F1 gamers would tell you F1 1997 was the best F1 game ever made, and to some extent they are right, as the graphics and physics from the day were ultra-realistic. For me, the problem with this series is that one year they would improve damage models, then next year they would improve tyre wear and completely ignore damage, making the game 'incomplete'. The job wasn't completely done, even though it had massive flashes of potential.

The EA F1 series

When F1 games gained popularity, EA was in there like a shot, making F1 1999. It had all the official bits again, but was shunned by fans because of the official series, which I think was a shame. I found F1 1999-2002 to be a good simulation (even if the handling was twitchy), and was an enjoyable experience. However the deal collapsed in 2003, and the official series became the sole supplier of F1 to the gaming industry.

The Grand Prix series by Geoff Crammond

Of course, F1 was not limited to the console. Computer programmers, for ten years before the official series, had been churning out games, good and bad. However, the PC-sim community would be blown away when F1GP came in 1992. The graphics and visuals were cutting edge, and the physics really provided fans with a feel of an F1 car. F1 GP2 came and yet again astounded people, GP3 came in 1998 and finally GP4 in 2002.

I really do recommend this. Gamers who want a real feel of how to race in the sport would love this game. The only drawback is that you need a computer that can handle the strain of what the game needs, a good computer with good graphics. It's also better to play with a wheel and pedals. Playing with a keyboard will never bring the true charm of the game out to you.

Another thing that really brought the game into its own league was the ability to modify it. There are still modding communities to this day that are designing addons for different seasons.

rFactor

The final game that really has made leaps and bounds in F1 gaming. Out in 2005, published by ISI, this game also has a remarkably simple engine, easy to modify, and also has a massive community behind it. Everything can be modded, and it isn't just F1. Touring cars, prototypes, karts, name a race and they'll have it.

Again, it will only come out to you fully if you get pedals and a wheel. Also, if you wish to race online, a good connection is required (dial-up won't cut the mustard, I'm afraid).

To conclude, there are many F1 games out there, some fantastically good, some diabolically bad. However, if you keep searching, you'll find a hidden gem in the jumble sale. You just need to know where to look.