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Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
 
2/27/2007 12:44:00 PM

Review: Formula One Championship Series (PS3)

By Paul Ulane

Serious auto racing games have always faced an uphill battle: how do you make driving in circles exciting to a group of gamers accustomed to cartoonish violence and non-stop action? Heck, when it comes to racing, most gamers would rather put the pedal to the metal with fictional lug nuts from the Mushroom Kingdom than strap into the driver's seat as a skilled Formula One professional.

But the designers of Formula One: Championship Series have no interest in pleasing the fair-weather racing fan. Their solution for the newest Formula One sim: go after the purists. No game has dedicated this much effort towards duplicating the feel and experience of F1 racing. The realistic approach will hook serious racing fans, while the sparkling look and high def visuals will attract curious gamers.

Formula One: Championship Edition
Formula One: Championship Edition :: SONY
So how does it all come together? With all of the pre-race exercises, getting started in the five-season Career Mode in this game might be harder than starting an actual career in F1 racing. Tune-ups, practice runs, time trials -- like we said, they guaranteed realism and delivered.

Luckily, there's Quick Race mode. It's here where you can hone your craft as one of the circuit's official drivers before creating your own character. A long list of driving aides -- from stability control for help with spinouts to visual aides that map the correct path to take into turns -- will help to get the wheels rolling. As you continue to pick up on the game's subtleties, you can shed the aides one at a time. Being able to adjust the difficulty of so many variables adds an element of replayability not normally associated with racing games.

While Career mode shows just how hard it is to rise in the rankings, there are better modes with more of what we all want: actual racing. Grand Prix Weekend mode offers the best of both Career and Quick Race modes. Start in practice by setting your car according to that weekend's particular track -- weather, track conditions, and maximum speed all factor into the car's settings -- then fight for pole position for the big race. Now it's on to the main event.

Formula One: Championship Edition
Formula One: Championship Edition :: SONY
Once you're racing, the game's highlights begin to pile up. The glaring sun on your windshield in front of an empty stadium during a morning time trial, the rain drops shifting direction on your windshield according to your speed during a mid-race downpour -- the HD flourishes practically transport you on to the track. A lot like EA's Fight Night, once you gain command over the controls, you'll want to try out the first-person experience from inside the car for even more eye-popping visuals. And that's just the looks.

The eight-lap races will have you on the edge of your couch for the duration. The artificial intelligence competition isn't afraid to bump you out of a turn or cut you off on a straight away. You're also on the clock in the pit, needing to press buttons in a certain order to activate each crew member. Plus, thanks to a licensing agreement, everything is legit in Championship Series, from the cars, to the drivers, to the tracks. Sorry, Mario Bros., you'll have to qualify just like the Schumacher brothers.

When it comes down to it, F1: Championship Series shoots for the hardcore F1 fans, but has something for gamers, too. Get over the initial test runs in Career mode, and you'll soon find that while NASCAR makes SportsCenter, F1 is where the real drivers roll.

Ratings System (1 to 10)
Game Play: 7
There's a fine line between being brutally realistic and losing your gamer's attention. F1 straddles that line. If you want to race as someone else in one of the more forgiving game modes, you're all set. If you want to rise through the ranks, you better get comfortable.
Graphics: 9
There are hardly any flaws in the look of this game and that's saying something considering you spend the entire time hurtling through turns at breakneck speeds. The view from the driver's seat is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
Replayability: 8
Between the numerous game modes and visual aides, there are plenty of ways to shift into overdrive. This game holds up better than most repetitive racers.
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