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F1 2002

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Games
Media: GCD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:

It might surprise you to know that F1 2002 is not the drop-dead-gorgeous game you expected it to be. I mean, this is Gamecube, next-gen and all that. But, unfortunately, I found a lack of the polish I would have expected in areas like car models, interface and detail around the tracks. One thing that is clear is that the models are approaching a much more accurate representation of the real-life cars, and the weather effects are top notch. The stylish look of the game in menus and interface is nice, but the meat of any racing game is how it performs out on the track. The sound of a finely tuned F1 engine is like nothing else on the planet, and fans will get a lot of enjoyment out of this aspect of the game, along with the announcements you'll hear on game updates. The view options include several adjustments to the H.U.D. that affect a more televised style, and aspect ratio options for 9:16 sets. If the cars don't look exactly as you might like, at least there are 'grid girls' to wave the flag and set you on your way... And another beautiful thing to see is the replay and instant replay, which lets you view a 30-second stretch in the middle of the game to analyze what you did wrong.


Areas of improvement visually may not jump out at you, but the depth of gameplay is astounding. In essence, gamers looking for this kind of action must be buying games, since EA and others keep making them. But, efforts to create a more mass-market F1 game don't seem to have worked, and the thrust of successful franchise entries seems to be more and more and more detail and simulation action. In F1 2002 for Gamecube, we get so much more than a casual racing gamer would be interested in that I can't help but think it really isn't intended in any way for a casual market. Taken from the standpoint of mass-market, F1 2002 would fail miserably. But, looking at this from the eyes of someone who really believes in the super-refined racing style F1 demands and enjoys all the technical details of body construction, fuel consumption and pitting technique, F1 2002 is obviously a crowd pleaser.

The basic modes amount to Quick Race with a simplified set-up scheme, Single and Multiplayer Modes and Grand Prix. It's a shame that some of the more involved modes within Grand Prix aren't available for Multiplayer, but you and your friends should still have plenty to keep you occupied. The only essential things you'll need to launch a race are a car and a track in Quick Race. Delving into the Single Player section, you'll see Challenge Mode as an interactive training mode. Moving through Challenge means you'll come across most of the basic driving techniques and learn them on different tracks in different conditions. After this, you can choose Grand Prix, Grand Prix Weekend, several Championship Modes and Domination, the main difference being length of race and criteria for success. With Multiplayer, you'll have a chance to take advantage of the Gamecube's easy 4-Player-ready hardware and choose from 3 game styles. You know you're on a next-gen console here because of how smooth everything runs.

Details available for configuration go way beyond our scope here, but rest assured that every funky nuance of a car you might configure, every race strategy and fuel technique, even the option to manually control how your car is serviced in the pit (!) is here for you if you want it. Many players may find that the game on its own, without taking advantage of these options, comes across like any other F1 game, but F1 2002 truly shines in the attention to detail department.


While I am more than capable of dominating in Wipeout Fusion, F1 2002 puts me harshly in my place and never lets me forget it's the boss. Nobody would deny that pulling lap after lap under the demand of such precision handling and at such incredible speed is hard. And, if you throw in all the options like fuel consumption and tire wear and weather conditions, not to mention car setup, you have a game that offers so much to racers interested in simulation but not as much to those who want to experience the fun of F1. F1 2002 feels more like exercise than fun to me, and the same sense of accomplishment that comes when you can do 20 pushups without crying is about how you'll feel when you manage to make it into the top rank somewhere in F1 2002.

Game Mechanics:

The fact that graphics seem a bit pared down may have something to do with the expectation of multiplayer gaming and demands on the system, but I never saw major issues that would suggest problems in the underlying engine. Dealing with all the customization can really get you deep into a series of menus and submenus that never seem to end. But, F1 2002 is built with some smarts and most options can be understood through interaction and practice or reading a little in the manual. An auto-save feature helps to keep your mind on the race without having to worry about progress being saved.

Understeer, grip, torque, roll... If these sound like dental terminology, you're not alone. If you never knew anything about F1 racing, you could learn most everything you needed from F1 2002. And, I think that more and more these games are looking like sims for the racing industry in the sense that everything from physics and design to handling and the teamwork of pit stops is thrown into the mix. Deciding to do manual pit stops is a cool feature, but early on you'll appreciate having pit stops done automatically. Using the Gamecube controller felt good, although you'll probably appreciate one of those new-fangled sweat dryer devices or a cover and grip for the controller as you embark on those epic Grand Prix races. There is a lot of action but not much going on, if you know what I mean. Once you can understand the strategy for driving in a huge race, most of F1 2002 involves holding onto that wheel and steady-as-she-goes. There is very little interaction past a point, but fans will enjoy the dense customization possible for each car and the wide range of cars available. Standard tracks and all the racers you follow in the international scene are present in the game, making this again a good companion product for people who live, eat and breathe F1 racing.

If you aren't that person, this isn't your game. As a racer it is only good, but as an F1 game it sets a new high-water mark for the genre. Those who think they're up to the challenge are encouraged to try a rental and those who are ready are already playing. Like the Marines, F1 2002 is aimed at the few and the proud out there. You know who you are.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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