- Platform: PlayStation2
- ESRB Rating: Everyone
- Media: Video Game
While this game could certainly be improved in the graphics and sound departments, the gameplay is where this excells. In fact, I expect to log 100's of hours playing this thing- the gameplay is that good. Most people will be turned off by the learning curve, but that is actually where the fun begins. You can really feel yourself pushing the car to its limits, and the setups can really have an effect on how the car handles. If you screw up (and it'll happen quite a lot), it's super easy to just restart. I've heard plenty of complaints about playing the game with the Dual-shock controller, but I have had absolutely no problems with this. I'm sure it's awesome with the force-feedback wheel.
Why is this the best serious racing game on the PS2? GT3 would probably win this hands down if it had better opponent AI, but while it's easily the best driving game, Formula One 2001 offers a far more enjoyable racing experience.
While this game has its flaws, the essentials are there for a wonderful gameplay experience. I can't wait to play the sequel!
First, you need to learn how to slow down - you can hit the brakes hard when you're going faster and you have to trail off the brakes as you slow down to avoid locking up the tires. Braking, as in real racing, is crutial here. I can't tell you how many times I've was racing against Michael Schumacher (in this video game) and got by him only to have him out brake me at a corner. But remember, brakes aren't just for slowing down, you can improve your ability to turn into a corner by transfering weight to your front tires - which can be done by lightly using the brakes.
To really get the most out of this game, you will want a force feedback wheel (so you can really feel when your tires are on the edge and starting to loose traction), and a book on racing to teach you how to choose a line (although there is a tire wear line on the roads that you can follow in this game, which gives you a reference), trail break into corners, how to use braking and throttle application to maximize tire grip and improve slip angle, transfer weight to improve cornering, how to make the most of corners which have slope changes, or camber, all of which you'll encounter in this game from the beautifully modeled tracks. I recommend the book I used at Skip Barber schools: "Going Faster: Mastering the Art of Race Driving" (asin 0837602270).
Remember, when you've accomplished 90% of the fastest lap time, you are half way there. The problem is that most games model car control fairly well up until the point of chaos - but that fine line between control and chaos isn't modeled well, and that is the place where a good driver is going to spend all his time! F355 Challenge is still my personal favorite for pure car control modeling, but Formula One is not far off (better then GT3), and has *much* better AI and provides a great racing simulation experience.
There is no instruction mode in Formula One (so it is more important that you have a book on racing to give you ideas on what to try to shave off some time), but there are 4 levels of play -- Amature, Novice, Semi-Pro, and Pro. At the different levels, the AI drivers have different skill levels. They degrade realistically too. Everyone knows how to hold the throttle down in a straight line, so you won't find them letting up there, but they will be slower in the corners, perhaps not braking as late or using other braking tricks to get through faster. In Pro mode it also turns on car damage if you hit something, flags (remember - no passing under yellow), fuel usage, and tire wear add that extra touch of realism (although you can turn those on or off individually in all levels). But in Pro mode, if you don't have nerves of steel to wait until the last possible moment to break for a corner, and know how to overlap braking cornering and throttle through the corner, M.Schumacher is going to kick your butt in the corners.
There are also lots of car settings you can adjust, but they normally are pre-set for each particular track, so you only have to change them if it suits your driving style (or the conditions warrent).