First of all I really like the game. The developers have created a solid game with that all important “fun factor” by keeping the physics believable to the point that you think you are driving a F1 car, but at the same time the physics are forgiving enough to allow most gamers to enjoy the game. I think if anyone ever put a console F1 game on the market that had ultra realistic features; it would die on arrival, with only a handful of dedicated gamers making a purchase. That sort of game would get ripped by the mainstream gaming press as unapproachable to most gamers.
F1CE overcomes this challenge by including a solid physics engine, and a whole host of driving aids. You can really set the options to your individual preferences. For example, my oldest son keeps all aids on, and damage off. I normally have all aids off with the exception of stability, which I currently have set to weak to give me a little help with throttle controls, especially out of most turns. Of course playing with damage on has shot my race completion percentage to hell and back. I think I currently failing to complete 15% of the races I enter, and I am only scoring around 1.8 points per race. Ouch! I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I crash from P6 on the last lap of a 10 lap race.
So far I have spent most of my time in the Quick Race and Time Trail modes, but I starting to move to the Grand Prix mode which has a couple of really nice features – saves and a new “evolution” tuning/setup process. If you do not have enough time to practice, qualify, and race in one sitting, you can save and pick up where you left off. I have not tried to save in-race; I have not run long enough races to see if this is something you do on the track or in the pits. I will have to play around with it to see exactly when it is available. The “Race Car Evolution” process gets you to run a series of laps during a race weekend’s practice session to help setup your car based on your performance with different fuel loads and tires (new vs. wear). I honestly have not played around with this feature enough to get my money’s worth, but not for lack of trying. I usually crash several times during a practice session and have to start over. With each crash, you lose 10 minutes from the 60 allotted for practice, so going balls out and crashing is not really encouraged. The “evolution” concept is nice; will write more about it later after I can keep it together enough to get some value out of the feature.
So far the racing action is pretty solid, without the perception of cheating catch-up type logic. If I mess up, I will probably not catch up with the front runners, but I may be able to regain a few spots, assuming I am running at a faster clip than the back-markers (fairly common). The fun part is trying to push the limit in order to catch up, but this usually ends up with me in a wall. It would be nice to have varying degrees of damage (all or nothing is fairly rough). The SIXAXIS controller works pretty well with this game, but right now I am not coordinated enough to make it happen; need more practice with this and I am surprised that I have not read more about the feature.
If you turn on most of the driving aids, and turn off damage, running the default 3-lap Quick Race is fairly close to what most gamers would consider arcade style racing. I have only won a couple of races, both at Indy, with damage off. I think I would do better (maybe not great) with damage on and more laps, but 3-lap races causes me to push harder and do more stupid tactics, often resulting in crashes, because I feel like I have to do something shady in order to go from 22nd to 1st with a limited number of laps.
The knockout qualifying format is a blast, and for this gamer, qualifying well actually matters. Bad things tend to happen when I am at the back of the pack, but I feel a little calmer (I can make things happen without going crazy) if I am closer to the front.
I could probably write a lot more, but Montreal qualifying just started (real life, not F1CE). I suppose next steps are for me to actually get better and maybe compare some lap times to the actual 2006 results. All in all, I still highly recommend this game to simulation fans looking for a good console F1 racing experience.