Apparently, Formula One Championship Edition is the closest you'll get to the real thing without being speared through the guts by the nose of a 200mph Ferrari. Formula One, you see, has been dying at an inversely proportional rate to the success of one Michael Schumacher - the more he won, the more people switched over to the EastEnders omnibus.
So in order to make Championship Edition more exciting than watching the Antiques Roadshow on valium, you'll want to head straight over to the options section and switch off every last one of the driving aids. Right from the off, no messing about. Alright, maybe you could leave the virtual racing line on to get a feel for the circuits and their respective braking points, although the game looks sharp enough that you can easily see tyre marks tracing the racing line. Assisted steering, traction control, anti-spin, anti-lock braking - it all needs to go.
Once all that stuff has been ditched, you can embark on a tricky, gruelling, World Championship season with almost as much head-spinning attention to detail as the real thing. Every race weekend goes through a number of stages: Friday's free practice, Saturday's free practice, three 15-minute qualifying sessions on Saturday afternoon and finally the race itself. While the first couple of race sessions can be ignored (they are useful for memorising those all important braking points, though), the qualifiers are essential, otherwise you'll be stuck at the back of the grid and more than likely to lose bits of your car as you attempt to slice through the field.
Then comes the Grand Prix itself. There's plenty of big race atmosphere, just like off the telly - although the best thing about this Japanese import version is there's no James Allen screaming "Go! Go! Goooo!" at the top of his lungs. As cars wait to explode off the starting grid - sometimes literally - a heat haze makes the screen go funny and a cacophony of whining engines reaches fever pitch. And when the lights go out, the race for the first corner is hair raising.
But a couple of laps on, on the Hard setting at least, the initial buzz dies down and races turn into lengthy battles of concentration - while trying not to fiddle with the impressive camera options (all the dramatic TV angles are included) and hurtling off the track. Get stuck in midfield, and you'll find that the leading pack steadily and relentlessly pulls away, and the pit stop strategy you decided before the race becomes all important. Like actual F1 racing, it's, you know, a bit boring. It's fast, and sometimes you'll come across wrecked cars, but it can be a very lonely experience as a race wears on. Unfortunately, like the Japanese version of MotorStorm (reviewed on page 68), there are no multiplayer options, either.
Championship Edition is super-realistic. Perhaps too much for its own good. For F1 buffs that's ideal, but if you want an adrenaline-pumping ride on PS3, there's another game, with a big desert and mad vehicles, which does it far better.
Does exactly what it says on the box. Everything a true fan could want, plus amazing PS3 gloss.
- Lots of realistic depth
- Feels real. We imagine
- Lacks real thrills and spills
- Michael Schumacher's in it