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60 laps of the same track - the best F1 games of all time

F1 (Lankhor, Genesis/Mega Drive, 1993)
Speed is the name of the game here. When you start on novice, it's stupidly quick. But then as you get better you try harder difficulties, each with a boost in game speed. And just when you get to expert and think it can't get any faster, there's the 'Turbo' version which uses the two-player engine (smaller sprites than the normal version shown below) in a single-player, full-screen game. And it's a contender for fastest game ever made.

The game itself was fully licensed, but is best remembered for its wheel-hopping. If you hit the wheel of a slow-moving car, you'd fly into the air and soar past, before continuing unharmed. A bit silly, but ace all the same. The same animation is used when you hit a small barrier - as in the video when the car leaves the road at 1:30. The game was a graphical marvel too, with 3D trackside objects and tunnels, plus full background rotation as you leaned into turns... all without any extra processing power from a SVP chip or a Mega CD. Again, great on a Nomad if you can afford one.



Formula One '97 (Bizarre Creations, PSone, 1997)
If ever a game was ahead of its time, it's F1 '97. 1995's 'Formula One' may have broken new ground, but it was glitchy, rough and nowhere near as refined as its sequel. Bizarre Creations' last Formula One game for the console pushed PSone further than any before it. There was a 3D cockpit view, limited damage modelling, huge video screens that played back the race to you as you zoomed past them - there was even a button to pull a tear-off strip from your driver's visor when it got too dirty.

The commentary from Martin Brundle and Murray Walker may have started repeating all-too quickly, but it didn't matter - it had Murray Walker in it and that was enough to make it the stuff of legend. And we have to say, trading our entire Saturn collection (which we've since bought back in regret) was made entirely worthwhile at the time just to play this game.

 

And today? Well, if you sit far enough back from the screen, it still looks passable. Ish. It's aged badly, sure, but the overall impression offered by the graphics is much more convincing than a lot of HD games today. Like an impressionist painting, our minds fill in the missing detail, making this one of the most convincing F1 videogames ever. And as if proof of the game's quality were needed, its successor F1 '98 was abysmal. Bizarre Creations FTW.

Grand Prix 4 (Microprose, PC, 2002)
The granddaddy of PC Formula One sims' third sequel is still a hot favourite among PC gamers. At heart, it's as good a simulation as you could hope for, but it's being kept alive by mod-created patches. So the game can be used not only to play through each new season with livery and driver updates, but also to create new tracks and boost car models' polygon counts.

Perhaps most impressively, it can be used to recreate real races in superb 3D. Anyone familiar with the races recreated here by YouTube user TommyBellingham [sic] will likely be fooled into thinking it's the old TV footage just for a few seconds. Sure some of the car models are the wrong year, but we're still impressed with the faithfulness of the camera angles and car movement.



As for the game itself, well... the physics model is starting to show its age, but it still looks nice and sharp, especially with the latest patches. Of course, we'd love to see GP5, but seeing as Microprose doesn't even exist any more, that isn't looking too likely.

2 comments

  • gribb85 - February 14, 2010 9:10 a.m.

    RyanBurntFuel it really wasn't. If you had ever played Grand Prix 4 or even 2, you'd know how delusional your comments are. Just wanted to say how fantastic this article is and how much it has brought back memories of playing some fantastic games. Geoff Crammond wherever you are, I salute you!
  • RyanBurntFuel - February 12, 2010 10:11 a.m.

    What??? No mention of EA's pc game F1 Challenge '99-2002??? I am. . . I have no words. That was surely the greatest Formula 1 game ever made, in all aspects. I registered specifically to make noise about this :P

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