F-1 Challenge

F-1 Challenge
Game Name: F1 Challenge
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): SEGA
Developer(s): SEGA Sports
Genre(s): Racing
Release Date: 1995
Serial Number: PAL -MK81206-50
Region: PAL

F-1 Challenge Menu

A fully licensed 1st party Formula 1 game!?
For a young Motorsport obsessed chap in the mid 90’s, acquiring this sort of title was an absolute must, and this is one of a handful of Saturn games that I have very personal memories associated with.

One of my most vivid gaming memories involves going off into town specifically to purchase F-1 Challenge, it really did look the business in those review screenshots, and it really was the business… for about thirty minuets.
So how does this title hold up in the objective eyes of an older, wiser and more discerning me?
Well if like me you have fond memories of this title, take them and run…

F-1 Challenge presents you with the opportunity to race any one of five genuine (circa 1995) Formula 1 cars on a choice of six courses.

Three of those  courses of varying difficulty are set around the mythical ‘Neo-City’ while the other three are genuine courses; Hockenheim, Suzuka and Monte Carlo which are, considering limitations of the time, very accurate reproductions.

F1 Challenge Menu Screenshot

Before racing, the game presents you with some basic customization options which any of you familiar with F1 games will be more than at home with, these include: tyres, wing angles and fuel load, but are unfortunately lacking some of the more advanced options of later games. However to the casual player of Formula 1 titles the absence of this anal detailing, robbing you of the chance to spend two hours setting up your car before a race, will come as no great loss.

Once you fly off your mark and take the first corner you may need to instantly quit back to the options screen… one of the rather nice advantages of F-1 Challenge for casual players over other F1 titles is that the difficulty mode totally changes the handling characteristics of your vehicle.

The Easy mode presents you with a very easy to handle, arcade, Daytona USA feel if you will, the corners are nice and easy to handle and no serious ability is required.
If you’re a full on F1 junkie-mentalist as I was back in the mid-90’s, you will most likely want to switch straight into Hard, the handling now takes on a more realistic feel and you will find yourself needing to brake correctly in the appropriate places and consider your position and racing lines on the track more precisely.

F-1 Challenge in game ScreengrabOne of the noticeable and few positive things graphically is that every competing car sports the same nice quality (albeit low-res) texturing with sponsor logos etc. which is nice to see on such an early Saturn release, as it became very traditional to dumb down the graphical quality of competitors vehicles to improve overall game performance (blame Atari’s Pole Position for this trend).
Unfortunately the next thing you notice is the very bland and sub-standard graphical quality of most other objects in the game.

On the Neo-City and Monte Carlo tacks in particular the poor scenery texture quality and serious lack of track-side detail unfortunately ruins the feel of the courses, especially on the famous and very familiar Monte Carlo track which is otherwise an excellent replication of the course.
That said this probably helps the game’s framerate which is good and consistent, there’s virtually no slowdown to be spotted even with many cars on screen and it maintains a pretty smooth feel throughout.

F-1 Challenge has the feel of a game that could have been so much more with a little further development. Only two view modes? A mediocre cockpit view and an awful second-person view that obscures too much of the course ahead of you to be any use, and the floating rear view mirror, which is great when racing from the useless second-person view, but for some reason has not been integrated into the actual mirrors for the first person cockpit view.

F-1 Challenge Screen ShotThe scenery texturing is for want of a better term piss-poor, even for 1995 standards, and with the car texturing being so well executed it takes on the feel of an unfinished game, especially flying down towards Mirabeau Haute and Rascasse in Monte Carlo where there are huge sections with no scenery and a view out into a void of solid colour!

F-1 Challenge had masses of potential but sadly just falls short of the mark, the graphics were far from ground breaking at the time and have dated extremely badly, so much so that it’s difficult to ignore during play.
The handling and general gameplay does however stand up reasonably well for it’s time, but it’s very much of it’s time and even retro-gamers who are F1 fans will more than likely find better offerings from around the same era.

Even back in the day F-1 Challenge was mildly disappointing, and with the Saturn port of the excellent ‘Formula One’ being cancelled F1 fans eventually ended up turning to EA’s far superior Andretti Racing for their salvation, you may want to do the same now as F1 Challenge stands as a game consumed by the ravages of time.

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