Formula One 06
PlayStation.com weaves through the chicanes and avoids the customary starting grid pile-up to bring you the lowdown on the new Formula One game for PlayStation 2.
Ask most people what their perfect job would be and it's likely Formula One driver would be pretty near the top of the list. Fast cars, international jet-setting, worldwide celebrity and all the massively oversized bottles of champagne you can drink; the perks of the job are pretty good. The bad news is that Formula One 06 is the closest most of us will get to joining the racing elite. The good news is that it's the most realistic and fun incarnation of the series to date.
Taken for a test drive
Starting up Formula One 06 is a simple affair. Choose how you want your driver to look (including comical handlebar moustaches and wacky helmets), then head over to what essentially constitutes an F1 job centre. Here you can receive emails from your agent, apply for positions with teams and start to work your way up the Formula One ladder. Initially you will most likely get a job as a test driver. This mainly involves performing consistent laps to test various aspects of the cars while your cruel F1 taskmasters swim around in giant champagne glasses in their mansions. But everyone has to start somewhere, and performing well at this level will lead to you getting promoted to a fully-fledged driver on the team, taking on the best F1 drivers in the world.
For the impatient however, there are plenty of other modes to satisfy the need for a quick racing fix. Quick Race mode lets you choose a driver and hit the grid as quickly as possible, while Grand Prix Weekend mode lets you experience the excitement and buzz of a full weekend of Grand Prix action - from the practice and qualifying sessions right up to the big race itself.
The race is the place
The first thing you notice on starting a race in Formula One 06 is that it looks absolutely gorgeous. The circuits you race on all look close to photo-realistic, and when racing the environmental effects are great. Convincing speed blur and droplets of rain all add to the feeling that you really are tearing around these circuits at speeds of over 200 miles per hour. If you're new to the series, there are a great selection of driver's aids, ranging from a visible racing line on the track, which plots out the best route to take for maximum speed, to assisted braking and steering, which are phenomenally useful in stopping you from launching yourself off the track and into a hotdog stand at 210 miles per hour.
Three new teams have been added to the mix this year, in the shape of Scuderia Toro Rosso, Super Aguri F1 Team and Midland F1 Racing, and every track from Bahrain to Brazil has been lovingly recreated in painstaking detail. All the new rules brought in for the 2006 season are here as well, including the new knockout qualifying and tyre regulations. Simply put, Formula One 06 is the most comprehensive and realistic F1 simulation to date, and the improved CPU driver AI means it's one of the most challenging too. Even with the driver's aids cranked up to the max, the CPU opponents are no pushovers and you'll need some serious skill to be able to take them down and get that champagne bath on the podium. Add to this split-screen multiplayer and the ability to transfer your profile to Formula One 06 on PSP via the GameSync option and you're in F1 heaven. Racing enthusiasts need look no further, but those who've yet to catch the bug - it's time to hit the grid. You won't be disappointed.
Be sure to check out the official site for games, downloads and other cool goodies at www.playstation-f1.com