When Sony took the F1 license exclusively not much was said especially when you compare it to when EA announced NFL exclusivity. Is it because F1 is just so far behind NFL in status, or was it a case of F1 games just being the same old every year anyway? A bit of the former a bit of the latter but ever since Sony took it exclusive, Studio Liverpool have been trying their guts out to make a superb F1 game and they may have finally succeeded. In the year that F1 is coming back to the fore of competitiveness in the real world, the game just may have cracked the big time as you can tell this is a labor of love for Studio Liverpool and not a job.
Of course the first and foremost task of any racing game is to simulate whatever field it is representing. In the case of an F1 game the main thing to simulate is the World Championship, but other options include career mode, single race and TV mode. The single race weekend is fairly self explanatory with practice, qualifying and racing all being part of it on one of the twenty tracks featured this year. TV mode is kind of cool where you can setup a race to watch as you would on TV to predict upcoming races with the real world grid etc but most of the gameplay comes from the improved, but still disappointing career mode.
In the career mode you are tasked with taking on a weak team, impressing the rich teams and ultimately becoming world champion across a few seasons. To get to the peak of the game you have to win sixty races which is just behind Michael Schumachers record so Liverpool really don't want you finishing this game easily. After starting off with either Minardi, Jordan or Red Bull Racing (depending on how well you can race in a trial), you race through a championship and if you impress, you will receive offers throughout the season to move on. Of course depending on where you are determines how competitive you are so getting to a rich team quick is the aim.
We have a few problems with career mode and that is it doesn't go far enough in terms of managing a driver. Sure you have contracts and a manager but other than that it's just tacked on to a world championship. It would have been nice to see more options such as changing managers or fighting for positions with team mates like in a football management game but alas we may have to wait for PS3 for that. There is no commentary in career mode and for some reason you have no communications between you and the pits either. Career mode is fun, but needs improving for the next game.
Other than that the game is pretty well done. There are somethings that will make the F1 fans go nuts such as having to warm up tyres, slipstreaming and the overriding sound of traction control in corners. It really is the most authentic replication of the cars yet. Each car sounds somewhat different and it appears these have been taken directly from the engines themselves showing that Sony has a high level of access considering its exclusive deal. All twenty tracks are very well done and you even get to race the new Turkish track before its debut in August. The sense of speed is also very well done especially on the bumper view where the car really jerks and slides in corners, to make out as if you are fighting it at high speed as in the real world.
Visually the game is quite well done. One thing which sticks out is the pre-race animations with grid girls or dragons lining the circuit. This is done for each individual race and is based on what occurred during the 2004 season. The drivers are all individually animated as well and seeing them in car and spraying champaigne over each other is quite cool, albeit something you will begin to skip after a short time. The most standout thing however is the weather effect. Rain can absolutely tumble down with cars spraying each other and the frame rate is not affected one iota. It really is the best way to play the game; a full wet race with cars slipping and sliding everywhere. Sound effects are well done as mentioned before with commentary provided in race by James Allen and Martin Brundle.
F1 2005 really is the game that Liverpool have been wanting to make for a while but had to build up to it. Whether this is their PS2 swansong is unknown and only SCEJ knows this but if it is, they've gone out with a blast as this is by far the most authentic F1 game yet.