Formula 1 (video game)
PAL region cover art
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
Formula 1 is a 1996 racing video game, and the first installment in Sony's Formula One series. Unlike later games in the series, this game's cover has no specific driver on it (except for the North American version which features an image of Michael Schumacher driving for the Benetton team during the latter portion of the 1991 Formula One season).
Published by Psygnosis, Formula 1 is based on the 1995 Formula One season. The game was released in North America, Europe and Japan (for PlayStation only) in 1996. It is distinct from its sequels because it was made after the end of the season, meaning that it features driver substitutes. The game also allows two-players to compete against each other either head-to-head or with other computer cars via the PlayStation Link Cable. Both players may then compete over a 17-race Championship season, or in a single race of the players choice.
Formula 1 follows the 1995 Formula One season, with 17 tracks, 13 teams and 26 drivers. If a player is to complete a season after winning every race, and leading the Constructor's Championship, a special hidden circuit is unlocked. The track is a lower-level city circuit, which when viewed at the Race Preview page is in the shape of a Formula One car. As there is no way of saving game data, the track is lost when the console is turned off.
Later tracks have 24 competitors on them instead of 26 because Simtek pulled out of the actual championship after the Monaco Grand Prix. It is still possible to drive a Simtek on any course after Monaco, creating a field of 25 drivers. If two players are playing the game via the link cable setup (where players would connect two PlayStation consoles together with two copies of the game), it is possible to play as both Simtek cars, thus creating a field of 26 drivers on any course after Monaco.
The track models in Formula 1 were modelled from surveyors' track data. The designers started with wire-frame models of the track data, then exported these from their Silicon Graphics workstations to a custom Windows 95 track editor. The track editor was used to reformat the tracks so that they could be used in-game, before exporting them back to the SGI workstations where scenery and other details were added in. To create the in-car sound, a Digital Audio Tape was strapped to a driver.
Though Psygnosis was the game's publisher, development team Bizarre Creations opted to create their own 3D engine for the game rather than utilizing the one from the Psygnosis hits Wipeout and Destruction Derby. To reduce demand on the PlayStation's processor without significantly reducing the game's visuals, the developers programmed the game so that when a car reaches a certain distance away, it switches from its normal high detail model (composed of 440 to 450 polygons, depending on the car) to a low detail model composed of only 90 to 100 polygons.
The game's original release date was pushed back to allow the developers time to make last minute tweaks, fix bugs, and make the complex graphical changes needed to remove cigarette and alcohol advertising, which is illegal in video games in some parts of the United States.
This game saw the introduction of in game commentary, which was done in the English version of the game by Murray Walker, the German version by Jochen Mass, the French version by Philippe Alliot, the Spanish version by Carlos Riera and the Italian version by Luigi Chiappini.
The in-game music was composed by Mike Clarke, who worked in-house at Psygnosis at the time, and Stuart Ellis, a session-guitarist from Liverpool and owner of Curly Music, an independent music retailer.
Ellis was initially brought in for one week to record some guitar ideas and riffs with Clarke at the Liverpool studio. The end result was two DAT tapes full of guitar sections, riffs, motifs, bits of solos and so on.
Clarke then spent three months composing the tracks. Sections of the DAT material was sampled (into an Akai S3200) and pieced together into skeleton riffs with parts of solos chopped up and added on top. This was added to the rest of the new instrumentation (bass, drums, keyboards) to form complete demo tracks with rough, sampled guitar. Everything except the guitar was programmed by hand (using Bars & Pipes Pro 2.5b on an expanded Amiga A1200 computer), with great pains taken to make sure that it was almost impossible to tell. Special care was taken on the drums, where everything was designed so that it could be played identically on a real drum kit.
Once the 12 tracks were ready, Ellis was brought back in and spent a week with Clarke recording the final riffs over the arrangements and improvising new solos based on the demo tracks with direction from Clarke. As a testament to Ellis' skill, some of the solos were completed in just one take after Ellis only hearing the demo track once or twice. Recording was done using a Tascam DA-88.
A final week was spent on final mixing and mastering at Pearl Music Studios in Liverpool, with Steve Cowell as engineer.
On insistence from the marketing department, who wanted to convey the idea that the music was licensed (and thus seen as being more professional), the name "Overdrive" was chosen by Clarke as the name of the "band".
The soundtrack also features the songs "Juice" by Steve Vai (from his Alien Love Secrets album), as well as "Summer Song" and "Back to Shalla-Bal" by Joe Satriani (from The Extremist and Flying in a Blue Dream, respectively).
The game was a best-seller in the UK. The PlayStation version was reasonably well received, with critics generally commenting that the realistic handling and real-world Formula One elements make it an ideal game for the hardcore racing fan. Some reviewers added that the game was too complicated and difficult to appeal to those looking for arcade-style racing or multiplayer gaming, though most praised the selection of modes as opening up the game to both novices and experts. Critics were more divided about the graphics. Todd Mowatt wrote in Electronic Gaming Monthly that "the fluidity of the animations were not that realistic in terms of the way a real race car would handle", GamePro's Air Hendrix praised the detailed cars and sense of speed but complained of break-up problems, and Next Generation hailed the graphics as a major leap over the first wave of PlayStation games. GameSpot called the game "a high-octane masterpiece", while Next Generation summarized, "With its exquisite graphics, wide range of challenges, and startling amount of depth, Formula 1 is the game that changes everything." PSM gave the game 9/10, praising the AI, before concluding "Psygnosis' finest game to date, it relegates every other racing game to the back of the grid. This is the game that will sell the PlayStation to Grand Prix fans and unconverted gamers alike. An envelope-pushing killer-application. F1 is one of the essential purchases of 1996".
Reviewing the PC version in GameSpot, Tim Soete praised the graphics and audio commentary but found the lack of depth and realism in the driving made the game become dull after a short while.
Review aggregation website GameRankings provides an average rating for the PlayStation version of 87.75% based on 4 reviews. The PC version received an average rating of 56.40% based on 10 reviews.
- "Formula One". Next Generation. No. 17. Imagine Media. May 1996. pp. 50–52.
- "The Ultimate Formula". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. Emap International Limited (5): 140–3. April 1996.
- "The Waiting Is Almost Over". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. Emap International Limited (7): 102–5. June 1996.
- "In the Studio". Next Generation. No. 21. Imagine Media. September 1996. p. 17.
- "Nothing Can Stop Him Now". Next Generation. No. 17. Imagine Media. May 1996. p. 51.
- "Team EGM Box Scores: F1 Racing". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 89. Ziff Davis. December 1996. p. 330.
- "Formula 1 Review". GameSpot. December 1, 1996. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
- Soete, Tim (22 August 1997). "Formula 1 PC Review". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
- "FORMULA 1". IGN. Ziff Davis. 25 November 1996. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
- "Formula 1". Next Generation. No. 24. Imagine Media. December 1996. pp. 254, 256.
- Gallup UK PlayStation sales chart, December 1996, published in Official UK PlayStation Magazine issue 13
- "Formula 1". GamePro. No. 99. IDG. December 1996. p. 184.
- F1 review, Official UK PlayStation Magazine, Future Publishing, October 1996, issue 11, page 62