It’s another F1 game, this time for the 2004 season, and you know what, it’s better than the rest. This is saying quite a bit, considering some of the detritus that has passed for a racing game in the past. I know it may rub a few fans up the wrong way to hear me say that, but hopefully I can rectify that wrong by pointing out that F1 2004 is the best F1 game I’ve ever played.
Getting right into the action F1 04 has an excellent driving experience. These cars actually drive well. Ok, the simulation aspects of the game outweigh the arcade side of things, so you need to be good at braking to get anywhere. In fact, you need to be good at everything, and you still might only get nowhere. Like other games of the genre, it’s fiendishly difficult. However, there seems to be some balance here, a glimmer of hope - so much so, that it sucks you in and makes you want to be able to complete a lap.
There are several game modes, arcade, simulation and career. Career warrants some investigation, as a lot of work has gone into it. You get a career interface that contains all sorts of F1 geekery. You receive emails detailing time trials that might help you win a team place. It is tricky, and you need a decent time to progress, from test driving to racing. If you fail to qualify as a team driver, you spend your time watching the dates flick by, which is a bit shite.
This game isn’t without fault - oh no. Firstly, load times. Yes, that familiar loading screen seems to pop up even when nothing is happening. If you don’t qualify for a race, you sit there, watching the dates go by, and watching various load screens come and go. (One other minor gripe, was that the start of the game saw a terribly unoriginal cheer and squeal of an F1 car going past - how old is that?)
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There is a huge range of options for all the real F1 fans, and being the official game, all the real tracks, teams and drivers are there in all their glory. But something has to be said about the commentary in race - a horrible American voice, that seems to say “Oh no!” all the time. You can turn it off, so I suggest you do. I can’t imagine who thought that this type of inane procrastination was in any way contributory to a good game. Overall, its one for the F1 fans, but it needs skill and patience to get anywhere.