Platform: Nintendo 64
Release Date: Sept. 1999
Developer: Ubisoft Paris Studios
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment Software
Players: 1-2 (simultaneous)
Special Features: Controller Pak Save, Rumble Pak
This intense and realistic racer replicates the open-wheel series amazingly well, despite not having an FIA Formula One license. The game features 16 tracks, 22 fictional drivers, and multiple selectable viewpoints, including several third-person perspectives and a first-person driver’s POV. Choose between two main styles to customize your racing experience: Arcade, which has forgiving physics and a rubber banding mechanic that allows you to recover from mistakes, and Simulation, which focuses on realistic physics and lacks rubber banding. Simulation comes with a four-wheel independent suspension system that models physics for each individual wheel, allowing tires to respond to tight turns and terrain changes. If you attempt to take a corner too quickly, the tires squeal in agony, lending to the amazing realism of the game. You can also change the angle of wings, suspension height, steering tightness, tire pressure, gearbox ratios, and body height, all of which have real and noticeable performance implications.
To finish in first place across different terrains in this mode, you will need to get comfortable experimenting with different load-outs and trying races multiple times. Arcade mode strips out most of this complexity, offering single race, championship, time attack, and duel (two-player) experiences with more of a relaxed (yet still intense) feel. Career mode offers a full season of racing across a variety of courses, including the sole licensed circuit, Monaco Grand Prix. Races do not feature any music, but cars sound like actual Formula One machines, which is a really nice touch. The game offers endless hours of gameplay despite the somewhat generic feel due to the lack of FIA licensing. You’ll have a hard time walking away from the game, as the urge to tweak your vehicle and try that last race again to shave a few seconds off your time is irresistible.
Starting out in Monaco Grand Prix, you will quickly discover that without making setup changes to your car, you are destined to finish last. You will also discover the physics system touted on the back of the box is no joke: misjudge the apex entering a hairpin turn and you will find your car spinning wildly out of control. It takes a lot of practice to handle these turns, but once you’ve mastered this and the layout of the tracks, you’ll quickly rise up the ranks. Getting the hang of Monaco Grand Prix’s physics sounds like a hassle, but it’s actually incredibly rewarding, and well worth the effort.