Over the past couple of years Sony has managed to establish itself as the premier Formula One racing franchise on the consoles which is, of course, helped by the fact they are the only developer which has the license to produce games based on the FIA championship. However, putting the exclusivity aside, Sony has put a huge effort into making a quality game and has succeeded for the most part. The 2006 edition is probably not the biggest update you're likely to see, but considering it will be the last time the game appears on the PS2 as the flagship console, it's not much of a surprise that this is the case.
For those of you who don't know much about the sport, F1 is the pinnacle of motor sport. Hundreds of millions of dollars every year are spent on making these small cars go faster and help put a bigger whole in the ozone layer. Twelve teams make up the grid and the series really is a circus that travels all around the globe which leaves people in awe.
The game modes on offer are pretty much what you would expect with single race exhibitions, season and career on offer. Obviously the single race allows you to complete an individual race weekend while the other two are a lot more fleshed out with a few major differences which make them game modes in their own right. The season mode forces you to choose an existing driver from the real world line up rather than make your own. Also, the teams perform in a realistic fashion so you aren't going to see the Super Aguri team winning any races and once the season ends, the mode finishes.
The career mode however is where this game really impresses and is probably the most accurate representation of a F1 driver's life. You begin as a rookie having to impress the small teams to win a contract and then once on the track, must perform well to get the interest of medium and large teams so you can ultimately have a chance of winning the F1 championship.
The trials and tribulations of the real world drivers will occur as well with mechanical failures a much larger problem for you when driving for a small team rather than a larger team. The other thing is that it is you. The game asks you to make a fictional driver to join the World Championship and show the big boys what you've got.
The game is also a lot more than racing around circuits with fuel strategies enforced and interactive pit stops sorting the men from the mice.
The developers have also tried to give you the other side of being an F1 driver as well as some innovative online features. For instance you now setup the car, in a very user friendly fashion via F1 evolution, a mode where the team will send you out for two sessions and build your race strategy based on how you drove and taking the connectivity to the next level you can race PSP vs PS2 online in championships to determine the ultimate driver and platform to play the game on.
As you would expect with an officially licensed game all the teams, drivers and circuits are present with incredibly accurate detail and replication to the nth degree. As you scream down the main straight of Melbourne, the CBD viewable from Albert Park will display on the screen, or as you race through Monte Carlo, the expensive villas and yachts will flash by. The championship structure is also reflecting that of the 2006 season with Australia third on the championship and a few other tracks dropped as per the FIA regulations.
Visually the game is a little disappointing but with the PS2 coming to the end of its life, it's of no surprise. If you saw F1 05, you've pretty much seen F1 06 with a few bells and whistles added such as the motion blur while passing other cars and updated teams and tracks. Commentary is once again provided by James Allen and Martin Brundle but is now present during the actual race rather then just replays.
F1 06 is not a huge update but as a game on its own it's quite impressive and does play on the PS2 quite well. Sony has put a huge effort into this year's game and previous years and it's beginning to pay off. With the contract up for renewal after next season, we expect F1 07 to not only be the first game on PS3, but the best and biggest F1 game yet. F1 06 just gives us a taste test of what to expect.