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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Review - F1 (by Domark)

I said in my last review that games from 1993 - one of the last years of the SMS - tended to show great development in design and programming from the basic games of earlier years. This is the major exception to the rule ...

The Master System does colour and detail very well, but its major stumbling block is processing speed, which meant that even technically inferior 8-bit systems such as the C64 and NES had the edge over it in driving games. Its best efforts are the respectable (but very simplified) version of "Out Run" and the surprisingly impressive 8-bit version of "Road Rash", which both manage to squeeze some interesting track layouts and fair speed out of the hardware. By and large, however, driving games on the SMS tend to be very compromised affairs. "World Grand Prix", "Chase HQ", and "Hang On" all have flat, rather featureless tracks with limited scenery and no topography, while "Out Run Europa" has plenty of scenery but a poor frame rate and an unrealistic control system, with the car not being centred on the screen, so all sense of a driving simulator is lost.

Domark's "F1" also compromises, and then some .... It has the limited scenery, the flat tracks (with very occasionally a poorly-depicted hill or bridge), and the unrealistic uncentred control system, which makes it feel far less convincing a driving experience than the far earlier games I mentioned. The fact that it markets itself as a serious F1 driving simulator is ludicrous: it seems more like a belated attempt for the Master System to emulate "Pitstop 2" for the C64, though this had already been done by 1993, with the Master System version of "Super Monaco GP". Playing it without looking at the date of production, it would seem more like a contemporary of "Pole Position" than "Virtua Racing" ... though even "Pole Position" had a much better control and sense of motion, and was, in any case, far more competently emulated on the SMS by "World Grand Prix".

Sound is nothing to write home about at all. There is a typical engine hum and undistinguished sound effects during the race, and music on the presentation screens, but nothing to rival the excellent soundtracks for contemporary SMS racers such as "Out Run Europa" and "Road Rash", or, come to that, the music tracks for "Out Run".

Gameplay is seriously harmed by the dull-looking tracks and detached, third-person control system, which I could accept in a spy-themed arcade racer like "Out Run Europa", but seems hopelessly out of place in a supposed F1 sim. However, some points should be awarded for the head-to-head two player option, although "Super Monaco" had shown that this could be achieved with a more realistic control system. There are also a good number of options to choose from: difficulty levels, two modes of play (arcade and grand prix), car configurations, and qualifying stages. If these were attached to a less antiquated-looking game, however, they would be worthy of more credit.


Conclusion - Good presentation, but the game itself would have looked dated in 1986 never mind in 1993, and completely fails to capture any of the atmosphere, excitement, or realism of motorsport racing. A better experience along those lines could be had by taking out the cartridge, turning on your Master System without it, and by just playing "Hang On" ... unless you have the MK2, of course, in which case I would suggest buying (or downloading) "Out Run" or "Road Rash".