By Andrew Cooper (aka Go Alesi)
12 July 2003
I intend to, in my first ever review (so go easy on me) (and 3,700 words!), without bias, look at F1 Challenge and also compare it to GP4 at the same time.
“Impossible” I hear some of you cry! No sarcastic remarks, no distorted opinions, just the facts and an honest opinion. Well, that's the intention, but all comments are welcome……
Four Seasons Rolled Into One
F1 Challenge is the first game to include 4 different seasons in one. Unfortunately, the PC version has no career mode like the console versions. This is a bit of a disappointment, but I wouldn't bet against it being possible to implement a career mode.
Many have said that putting 4 seasons together was just an attempt to make an old game look like new. Well, for those in the F1 200x community, the 4 seasons is a bit pointless. If we wanted, we could download most of the season specific stuff. But then, why do we need a 2003 game? We can already download most of what is needed for a 2003 season. EA know this, and appear to have gone to please the non-community section whilst saving the cost for another new licence and doing something new.
But it isn't just an attempt to make an old game look new. Under the bonnet there's plenty of changes.
Physics aren't my strongest point, and using a joystick means at a slight disadvantage, but we all know that F1 2002's physics were quite wrong. There was virtually no low speed grip and it was like driving a rally car. There was too much high speed grip too. This however, has been fixed in F1 Challenge.
The cars now handle how I would expect them too from watching race after race, and reading article after article on F1. At high speeds the grip has been reduced, but there's still lots of it. The car feels stable, just like the better F1 cars look in real life. But there's not the unrealistic grip there was. Oh no; if you go too fast into a fast corner such as 180R or Eau Rouge the car will either understeer badly and you'll loose loads of speed, or the back end will try to swap with the front!
This is because the cars can be quite loose at the back. If you brake sharp, the rear end will become twitchy. If you fling the car wildly into the corner, the rear end will slide out (not to the extent of F1 200x though). If you have the set-up wrong, the car won't stay stable for long either. You also now have to get the line exactly right through the fast corners else you'll become slow moving vehicle. It's all about being smooth. Several times for example, I've gone into Eau Rouge too tight, and I come out 20mph or so too slow.
You never feel glued down; there's always a tyre barrier waiting for you if you make just a tiny mistake and push the car a bit too hard, and the car can quickly get out from under you, but you can't really powerslide like before.
The massive understeer at low speeds has also been solved, and there's no sliding sideways through the corners Colin McRae style.. The car now turns in well, but you can tell where the limit is. Going too fast will result in you rapidly loosing front end grip and forcing you to quickly scrub off speed.
The difference between cars and seasons is also quite noticeable. There's a considerable improvement in handling between 2002 and 1999 for example.