The Formula

I honestly thought I'd already done a post on this subject, but a quick wander through our extensive archives here at the epicentre of all things vaguely Dreamcast (that's the DCJY, in case you wondered) reveals that I was mistaken. I say 'quick,' but I actually had to take a monorail ride into the very heart of the hollow mountain that houses the Junkyard's archive department, and even then one of the service droids that maintain the stacks had malfunctioned so I had to spend half an hour rebooting it. You just can't get high quality droids of ebay these days. Pfft. Anyway, at this juncture you may be wondering what I'm actually talking about. I'd almost forgotten myself until a bowling ball rolled off a shelf onto my head and the memories all came flooding back: Formula 1. Yep, F1. That 'sport' where fast go-karts smash around tracks at ridiculous speeds and the drivers of said go-karts live lavish, decadent lives and bathe in asses milk and snort caviar. Funnily enough though, that's probably the best way to also describe Mario Kart. Hmm. I went to an F1 race at Silverstone a few years ago and the first thing I noticed was how damn loud the cars actually are - unless you've been to a Grand Prix, you can't really appreciate just how loud the things are in reality. But I digress. F1 games on the Dreamcast - there have been several and they all reproduce the atmosphere and thrills of a big race with varying degrees of success. Which ones are worth playing and which ones should be left in the pits? Read on and all shall be revealed:

F1 World Grand Prix
F1WGP was one of my favourite games on the N64. It had amazing visuals for the time and truly showed the N64 doubters what the system was capable of. I personally had never seen graphics as realistic as those I saw in WGP and even though the game engine doesn't support reflections in the wet, and everything looks a little fuzzy through a standard SCART connection, it knocked the spots off anything on the PlayStation. The car handling was a little iffy, but otherwise it was a fine racing game. The Dreamcast release of F1WGP is a souped-up version of the same game with sharper graphics, better car handling and a fresh lick of paint with regards to presentation. It also had some flipping brilliant music - not something you'd think would be worth mentioning in an F1 game. As with all the games in this list (they are all over a decade old now, after all), the teams aren't reflective of current rosters so there is no Hamilton etc...but that's an obvious downside to the incessant and never-ending march of time. Sigh. On that note, I've noticed that I've got loads of grey hairs popping up...not a good sign. Although I suppose I'd rather be grey than fucking bald.





N64 version for comparison

F1 World Grand Prix 2
As the name suggests, the sequel to F1 World Grand Prix. This Dreamcast version again took the blueprint laid by the N64 sequel and built on it to a fantastic degree. Even better visuals and car handling (although still quite twitchy), and lots of little details such as camera flashes in the grandstands etc. Easily one of the best-looking Dreamcast games and the in-car camera views give an outstanding sense of speed. I have noticed that on some tracks, when you race in the rain the sky texture messes up and you get a hotch-potch of what looks like traffic light textures from the starting grid. I'm not sure if anyone else has seen this rare cock-up though. An odd feature of F1WGP and F1WGP2 is that they both feature extremely accurate car models - all the way down to the advertising on the liveries. So you get PlayStation advertising in a Dreamcast game. You certainly wouldn't see that today - imagine PS4 ads in an Xbox One game (or vice versa)...it just wouldn't happen. As an interesting side note, the N64 version of the game uses the Expansion Pak in a rather odd manner. It doesn't increase the screen resolution or do anything to aesthetically enhance the game...all it does is enable full race replays. Obviously, the Dreamcast version does that as standard, but I thought it'd be worth sharing that little titbit.





N64 version for comparison

Racing Simulation: Monaco Grand Prix 2
Unlike with the World Grand Prix games, Monaco on the Dreamcast is totally different to the versions on the other consoles. The N64 games was OK I guess, but it featured some sloppy visuals and amateurish menus. The Dreamcast version is completely different and has some really nice graphics. It was one of the first games I actually played on the Dreamcast back when it launched and I was stunned by the track textures and how playable the game was. Although the game is called 'Racing Simulation,' there's very little in the way of simulation here - the cars handle beautifully and basically stick to the track when you corner, which is something I really like. Another cool feature is the 'Retro' mode where you get to race old skool racing cars like the type Sir Stirling Moss would've been throwing around in his heyday. It's not much more than a gimmicky novelty, but it's a nice addition nonetheless.






F1 Racing Championship
Racing Championship was a late release on the Dreamcast but you wouldn't be able to tell that by looking at it. It basically looks like a high-res N64 game, and even though it is based on the Monaco engine it actually looks worse. The tracks have a complete lack of atmosphere and where the World Grand Prix games laid it on thick with trackside vehicles, tents, ambulances and roaring crowds...F1 Racing Championship has sterile, empty environments with silent grandstands and no trackside details. It's odd, because Monaco had at least some of that...but it's as if Ubisoft felt obliged to strip it all out. What's also odd is that Video System - the developers of all the Dreamcast and N64 F1WGP games is actually the publisher of F1 Racing Championship. Why they felt the need to publish this tripe when they already had the best F1 games available on their CV is anyone's guess.




Spirit of Speed 1937
This isn't strictly speaking an F1 game but I thought I should include it anyway as it attempts to recreate the top level of motor racing...from 1937. I can't really fault it for originality and aesthetic design. The menu music is very appropriate for the era and the styling of the menus is very art deco. The officially licensed vehicles and tracks are also a nice touch and lend an air of authenticity to the game. Unfortunately things go a bit south once you actually start a race. Again - top marks for trying something different and I must say that the engine effects and in-car view give a real feel for the power and sound of the engines of these archaic beasts...but the handling of the cars is atrocious. The slightest touch of the analogue stick sends your vehicle bouncing off the walls and skidding all over the place. Not fun at all. There are some interesting game modes such as a scenario mode where you have to complete objectives, but overall Spirit of Speed is a bit...shit. Sorry.





There are a few other F1-style games on the Dreamcast, such as Flag to Flag CART Racing but I personally haven't played that particular game due to it being an NTSC-only release. I understand it's quite a competent racer too, so its a shame SEGA didn't feel the need to release it in PAL territories. Ho hum. But the long and short of this post is that if you want a top-quality F1 game for your Dreamcast, you should invest in either of the F1 World Grand Prix games and avoid F1 Racing Championship.

With that, I'm off to colour my grey hairs individually with a black marker pen.

2 comments:

hman said...

Flag To Flag is a nice racer but since quite a few of the tracks are ovals, it lacks a bit of depth. F1WGP and F1WGP2 both have more challenging tracks.

Tomleecee said...

Yeah, like I said, I've never had the pleasure of playing it but I would like to.