Formula One 06 PlayStation 2 & PSP
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Studio Liverpool
Release Date: Out Now
Formula One 06, an introduction.
For the last few years now official Formula One games have been exclusive to Sony's consoles. Whilst this has been great for PSP and PlayStation 2 owners (and not so good for PC and other platform owners) it does pose a few problems. The biggest problem is that there is no room for improvement on the graphical side of things given the age and limitations of the PlayStation 2 and the relatively small screen resolution of the PSP (although for a handheld it's quite a large resolution). The imminent release of the PlayStation 3 and its support for HD displays will soon render this problem obsolete. However, you have to wonder how the game can be improved in other ways given that Formula One 05 was actually a very good game and didn't leave a great deal of room for improvement. Let's take a look at what Formula One 06 has to offer on both the PlayStation 2 and the PSP.
What's the game about?
As you might suspect Formula One 06 is an update from Formula One 05. You're getting the latest rosters, cars and circuits to bring you into line with the current Formula One season. The new rules and regulations have been implemented. Both the PSP and PlayStation 2 games offer a Quick Race mode, a Time Trial mode, a Grand Prix Weekend mode, a World Championship mode and a Career Mode. The Career mode is once again the heart of the game and provides a lengthy challenge as you progress from being a rookie to World Champion. The PlayStation 2 version also offers a Split-Screen mode. A new Race Car Evolution feature has been added to help you tune your car to suit both the circuit you're going to race on and your driving style.
What's good about the game?
Whilst Formula One 06 is not perfect, it's hard to deny that both versions of Formula One 06 are very enjoyable. With the PSP version it's impressive to see that it's more or less the same game as the PlayStation 2 version. The only omission being that there is no Split-Screen mode on the PSP (and understandably so). One of the main differences in Formula One 06 is the new Race Car Evolution feature. Instead of simply moving sliders to configure your car you'll have one hour to carry out a series of tests, prior to a race meeting, that will improve your car's fuel & tires, downforce, suspension, camber, balance and toe in/out settings to suit your style of driving and the circuit. At the end of each test (which requires you to drive a clean lap of the circuit) you'll have the opportunity to go with the new configuration or revert back to your original setup. This is actually a very good feature and it's a more intuitive way of tuning the car to your liking without having to know all kinds of technical stuff. There is a wealth of driving aids that, when enabled, make the whole thing as easy as it can be. I expect most gamers will not use all of the driving aids (as it feels pretty much like the car's on autopilot) but at least it enables everyone to enjoy the game at their own level of ability.
What's not so good about the game?
I'm sure most will find the lack of multiplayer options to be the biggest source of disappointment with Formula One 06. There's no online racing for either console. In fact for the PSP there's no multiplayer game at all and the PlayStation 2 version simply has to make do with split-screen races. Whilst the load times are respectable on the PlayStation 2 version, they are very long on the PSP version which is unfortunate. During the races you'll find the AI drivers to be a little too easy to overtake, once you've caught up with them. In fact it's a little too easy to make up for a poor grid position. The annoying, temporary penalty slowdown still replaces the stop-go penalty. Whilst the analogue stick control felt fine on the PlayStation 2 version I preferred to use the directional buttons on the PSP as the analogue stick on the handheld just didn't feel as accurate as it should. Whilst Formula One 06 is primarily attempting to be a simulation it's a shame that the series still feels way behind the likes of Grand Prix 4 on the PC, in terms of realism and AI behaviour, which is now several years old. Maybe the superior power of the PlayStation 3 will allow us to have a true Formula One simulation rather than an experience that's kind of a halfway house between an arcade game and a simulation.
How does it look?
It's clear that the limitations have been reached on the PlayStation 2 but with that in mind it's fair to say that the game not only looks good but also performs rather nicely with no apparent dips in the frame rate, even when there are plenty of cars in view. The PSP version also looks good and the developers have done a great job as it's not that far away from the PlayStation 2 version in terms of graphical quality. As we remarked in our introduction, the technological barriers have well and truly been hit with the PlayStation 2 version so it would have been wrong to have expected the game to have improved upon last year's game. That said though the damage modelling seems better this year. It's still far from being realistic but it still represents an improvement. The presentation of the game as a whole is excellent and you can only wonder what will happen to the series when it moves to the HD environment that the PlayStation 3 will provide.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
As with last year's version the race commentary is unsubtitled, as are the comments from the pit team that you'll receive during a race (the PSP version has omissions too). All information in the Career Mode is shown in text and during races your HUD informs you of all you need to know. Like last year there's a text based Learning & Tips section (hiding away in the Extras section), which should answer any questions you have about the game. The PlayStation 2 version has the additional benefit of providing tactile feedback with the force feedback and as you're well aware this is something that's not possible for the PSP version (in fact the PlayStation 3 version will also not have it). In essence then either version of Formula One 06 won't cause deaf gamers any problems.
Like most sports based games that are released on an annual basis the differences between Formula One 06 and the previous game in the series, Formula One 05, are not great. To many it will seem like a product that's simply had a fresh coat of paint and in fairness that description would not be too wide of the mark. The Racing Car Evolution feature is a nice addition though and the game as a whole is an enjoyable (and quite addictive) experience. Whilst Formula One 06 is an enjoyable game for both the PSP and PlayStation 2, we have to say that we really hope the PlayStation 3 will allow the developers to take the series to the next level and give us a Formula One game to surpass what we've currently seen.
Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
(Click the letter or here for details)
Regardless of whether you go for the PSP or PlayStation 2 version of Formula One 06, you'll find an enjoyable Formula One racing game that's worth every penny. It's true that the game isn't that different from last year's Formula One 05 game and that the series has probably gone as far as it can on current hardware. However, it's fair say that the future PlayStation 3 Formula One games will have a great base to build on.