Gamers who've squeezed every nuance of gameplay from F1 2000 have legitimate questions as to whether F1 2001 contains enough new material to warrant a full price purchase. Obviously, new fans will want the latest title, but how about those looking for something new? The short answer is that if you enjoyed F1 2000, you'll certainly like F1 2001 -- just don't expect huge changes in an already solid game. Gamers not impressed with the previous release, though, won't find enough here to change their minds.
Comparisons to other titles aside, the racing in F1 2001 is superb. Although the technical side of the game can be an issue, the racing simulation is raw and gritty once you're on the track. Cars handle extremely realistically, perhaps even more so than F1 2000, and the constant battle is between not only you and other drivers, but you and your machine as well. You have to find your line, weave through traffic, know when to slow down, and when to go full throttle.
Tune-up options give you the chance to control nearly every aspect of your racer: tire compounds, rebound, ride height, spring rate, camber, gearing, and more. For the hands-on simulation lover, it doesn't get much better. For gamers not interested in the minute details, it is possible to do well without hitting the garage every couple of miles, but tinkering is half the fun.
The weather effects are vastly improved in this iteration, with dynamic changes sprinkled liberally on many of the tracks. Rain comes and goes, much as it does in real life, requiring a change in driving style as well as pit modifications to deal with each situation. While the change from a static screen to a 3D animated pit crew doesn't enhance or affect gameplay, it does increase realism with a pleasing aesthetic upgrade. Another improvement is the figuring of gas weight into each car's handling dynamics, and the combined effect of all the enhancements makes the experience very potent.
The new training mode is a huge help for gamers not familiar with F1-style racing. It improves on the previous year's edition by offering detailed diagrams and instructions and letting you see the recommended line on turns to better understand what you're doing right or wrong on the track. Thankfully, unlike the PlayStation 2 version, completing the training course isn't mandatory to get to the real action.
The graphics show a notable improvement with enhanced detail in the models and improved effects on the track. Particularly nice are the particle effects, as cars kick up dirt, dust, and gravel. Weather conditions are impressive, especially in periods of low visibility as you do your best to stay on course. Naturally, increased graphics capability ramps up system requirements -- to maintain a solid frame rate you'll need at least a 1GHz processor when all effects are turned on.
F1 2001 is a small step ahead of F1 2000, but a step nonetheless. Die-hard fans will be hard pressed to find a better F1 game on the market, while newcomers can experience the thrill of going 200 MPH on closed circuit tracks with engines screaming and tires squealing -- just remember to strap in and buckle up.
Graphics: Superb visuals require a strong system to get the full effects with all options toggled on. Details of cars, tracks, weather, and environments are impressive.
Sound: The sounds of the cars, from the loud whine of full-throttled engines to the low growl while idling, are captured nearly perfectly. The ambient sounds and squeals of F1 racing are dead on.
Enjoyment: Enhancements are significant enough to increase enjoyment from the previous release, especially weather effects and gas-weight distribution. Animated pit crews add to an already realistic F1 simulation.
Replay Value: By its very nature, replay value is ensured as you try to improve your performance from season to season; the ability to use any team or driver from the 2001 season offers unlimited replay.
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