F1 Career Challenge Review – Gamecube

F1 Career Challenge Review for Gamecube

Reviewed by Siôn

Last year I picked up a Gamecube for cheap, I haven’t had a Nintendo machine since the N64, which I really loved, and had great memories of playing F1 World Grand Prix, (I even have a strange love of the terrible game F1 Pole Position 64, maybe it was the looks of the cars). The N64 had a great number of Formula 1 and general racing games, and to my surprise this wasn’t the case with the Gamecube.f1 career challenge review gamecube

However, after doing some research I found two games, F1 2002 and F1 Career Challenge. F1 Career Challenge promised me racing between the years 1999 to 2002, sounds exciting! Although F1 Career Challenge was a little bit harder to get my hands on, I did manage to pick it up for 2 Euros!

F1 Career Challenge contains all the drivers, cars and circuits from the years 1999 to 2002 and it’s based around the player starting their F1 career  in the year 1999 and moving upwards, culminating in the year 2002. Yes, it’s only four seasons, but it’s three more than any other F1 game has.

Career Mode

You start of the career mode by entering your personal details and choosing a driver who most closely resembles you, the choices are very limited and a female model for female players would have been nice. You can also select your helmet, again the choice is very limited, but you can open up more choices in the game later. Once you have entered your details you are treated to a animation of your character walking into a garage where a blank car waits and some mechanics who seem be overly joyed at seeing you, shown through a lot of clapping.

Before you start racing you have to first prove yourself in driving trials to prove that you are capable of handling a F1 car, these trials are split into 4 sections and get progressively more difficult. It’s nowhere near the same scale as Gran Turismo, but it does provide a fun way to gently teach the controls without going through boring hand-held tutorials. Most are easily doable in one go, although, there were two tricky trials for a new player, one which involved braking, the game provides no guides on where you should start to brake, so it’s a lot of trial and error. In the other one, you are put into a wet weather situation at Silverstone, wow, it really feels like you are driving on water, and a lot more difficult!

Once you have passed the trials, you are given some offers to join one of the 1999 season teams, I was given the choice of Prost, Sauber or Arrows. After agreeing to drive for one of them, I was shown yet another clapping scene, and my beautiful 1999 car (I chose Sauber).

Before every race, you start at a menu screen, where there are four options; Test, Race Weekend, Your Performance and Spend Points.

The test is not always available, but consists of different challenges, where you can earn points (more about points in a moment), some of the challenges are more difficult than others, such as one where your rear wing falls off and you have to drive the car back to the pits, this was really hard, with it being so easy to spin the car.

Now, to the meat of the game, the race weekend. Before every race, you get a little message on your virtual PDA or mobile phone, which gives you your teams expectations, these change depending on your performance in each race. Usually, it starts of at something very easy to do, such as finish 18th in Australia.

During the race weekend, you can practice, which I found to be a very good idea to learn the track and get my time down before qualifying. I would have liked to have seen other cars in practice mode or to at least have the times of other cars shown to me, so I could know where my lap times are in comparison to the competition, and make any changes to the car before qualifying.f1 career challenge review gamecube

Qualifying, consists of 12 laps (although the most you probably can do is 4 or 5), as in and out laps are counted. One issue that I’m not sure that I liked was that you can’t drive the in and out laps, as the game automatically puts you on the main qualifying lap, it would have been nice to practice a little, although I guess that’s why the practice session counts more in this game. The difficulty is at a very realistic level, so I found I often found myself in the back few rows in the slow Sauber.

After qualifying, it’s time for the race! A quick run down the grid by the camera, shows all the cars lined-up and you even get your own ‘pit-girl’, even though they all look the same, except for a change of colours for each team. The lights then count down and the race starts. One thing that I did find was that it was very easy to overtake a lot of cars at the start, but to keep them behind in the race was very difficult.

At the end of the race, you are treated to another animation depending on your performance, win the race and it’s celebration time, have a good performance and your mechanics give you yet another clap, do badly and everybody looks away.

During the race you can earn ‘EA Cards’, these consist of achieving different tasks at each circuit, such as overtake a certain amount of cars, do well in chicanes and certain corners, these cards also give you points that you can spend on the main menu. This is one thing that takes this game away from being a simulation and more arcade, for example you can buy upgrades that last for one race, such as acceleration and grip, you can also buy a few more pit girls and a couple of helmets.

You can see you performance (or reputation) level through the season as a graph, if you do well you will get an offer from a good team to drive for them, do badly and you’ll stay at the back of the grid.

The Racing

One thing that did surprise me was that despite this game having teams from 13+ years ago, was that I was really enjoying driving the car, even in practice mode on my own, I would dive 7 or 8 laps, it really does feel fun to play and difficult to put down. The controls are easy to pick-up but difficult to master, at the start you’ll be throwing the car around the corner like a rally car.

The two cockpit views feel really fast and exciting, I prefer the view from behind the driver, where you can see his helmet, but more hardcore drivers will love the view from inside the cockpit as you do feel like you’re down really low next to the track and it’s difficult to see the corners.

One thing that I would change would be reversing the change view and rear view buttons, as the rear view button is the ‘Y’ button, which is more difficult to press than the ‘X’ button, when you’re holding down the ‘A’ button which is to accelerate.

Pitting for fuel is more fun than a lot of other F1 games that I’ve played, as you have to press the correct button at the right time, such as to slow down, turn in, select first gear and accelerate away, with the game punishing your for being slow.f1 career challenge review gamecube

The realistic damage setting is great, you’ll lose parts of your car and as mentioned before, you do really feel the difference and sometimes it’s a really struggle getting the car back to the pits.

The AI is probably the game’s weakest point, but it’s understandable for a game of this age, sometimes the computer controlled cars just seemed to stop suddenly, especially if I came back onto the track in front of them, and sometimes they seem to readily to not avoid making contact with you. However, they overtake each other well (and you) and during the race, you’ll often see a car spinning out in front of you, or an engine letting go.

The Graphics

While the graphics don’t compare to modern games, they do mostly hold up, the car models look good, the helmets are shiny and the track does look wet when it’s raining. However, some of the graphics look a little dull and some of the tracks look a bit desolate, the human models, such as the mechanics, drivers and pit-girls do look a little strange, they feel like they are made of paper and seem very emotionless.

F1 Career Challenge ReviewOverall,

I wasn’t expecting much from this game, but it sure did surprise me. This is more of an arcade version of Formula 1 than a simulation, so although it’s easy to pick-up and swing your car around the corners it does take practice to master, Monaco seemed impossible on my first play. If you look past some of the dull graphics, the game is really fun to play and has me hooked, I really didn’t want to skip doing any of the practices or qualifying laps. If you have a Wii or Gamecube and some Gamecube controllers lying around, I really recommend picking this up second hand somewhere, it’s become one of my favourite F1 games.

9/10 A great arcade racer!