SCEE are back with this years installation of their F1 racing series of games, as expected the game takes all the tracks and racers from the real Formula One series and places them onto the PS2 for your gaming pleasure.
Formula One 2005 is strikingly accurate in recreating the handling and general feel of Formula One racing, even things like the weight of the amount of fuel your car is loaded with will affect its performance and as with the majority of modern racers there are screens full of sliders and buttons for you to use in customising the setup of your racing machine.
Unfortunately for the game the majority of people do not know the ins and outs of customising a Formula One car for performance and so some handy presets are provided, should you want to become particularly savvy at setting up the options yourself you may need to wade through several pages of the games included virtual encyclopaedia of Formula One racing theory. Furthermore you can customise the driver with your own face via the Eyetoy hardware if you have it.
The atmosphere of high speed racing is presented well here, the sense of speed comes not only from the fact that the game really is fast but is enhanced through the use of motion blur and of course the high pitched scream of F1 cars engines. Unfortunately the realism doesn't extend as far as being able to send your car screaming off of the track and shooting up into the air via an obstacle or opponent like happens in real F1 racing sometimes and in Formula One 2005 - as with so many other racing games - the player is asked to suspend disbelief and take it that when a car hits a wall full on at hundreds of kilometres and hour it will simply bounce backwards a few feet, although if realistic F1 crashes were included here I suspect that many players would crash on purpose just to see them and there would probably be a minigame revolving around spectacular smashes at silly speeds.
The actual racing sections of the game are very well done this time around, race meetings come with two practice sessions should you feel you need them, followed by a qualifier and then the actual racing event itself. Passing the chequered flag first will require skilled driving and cornering as the A.I opposition seem very comfortable indeed behind the wheel and you will not be gaining pole position on the higher difficulties if you are not adept at sticking to the track and making best use of the racing line, should you wish the game can display a virtual racing line overlay on the track for you to attempt to follow accurately.
The controls are all analogue as you would expect but in this game this means you need to really apply pressure to the X button in order to maintain top speeds, I mean really shove the button in and hold it that way which can get uncomfortable after a while.
As mentioned earlier the game engine will take into account the weight of your fuel to add to the realism, also the fact that tyres heat up after a while and reach optimum grip is calculated for, SCEE appear to have gone all out in getting the realism of the driving just right.
As well as the virtual racing line Formula One 2005 can provide all manner of assistance to the player if required, you can switch on spinout protection, steering and braking assistance and a cornering indicator amongst a few other little helping hands which can be toggled on and off mid-race from the pause menu.
An annoyance I have with Formula On 2005 is that it seems to be forever accessing the memory card every time you do anything in the menus, making a simple change to the options or changing menu screens usually means that you will be left staring at the screen for a few seconds while the game saves the changes, while I have no problem with autosaving it seems to happen far too often here.
The graphics may be the best so far in the series but there are a number of better looking racers out there on PS2, still the graphics engine in Formula One 2005 does the job nicely, the cars all look realistic and well modelled and the tracks are of the same quality, coming off the track means your tyres will take on the surface of whatever you drove over (grass, gravel) for a while and although the tracks do seem a bit bare in terms of scenery to be fair this is the way that F1 tracks usually do look.
In the most simple mode of play 'Instant Race' you can just jump into the driving seat after choosing a racer and track, going up a step from that you have the 'Weekend Meeting' mode in which you can race the practice sessions of Friday and Saturday before qualifying and finally racing the course.
A step further in from here you can race a whole season in Formula One and finally in the single player modes you have the option to simulate a drivers whole career beginning with having to race a tryout for a racing team of your choice.
Also you can take the racing online and compete in a field of ten gamers for pole position, connecting to the online content is very easy if you have a broadband provider that sorts out you IP address and DNS settings automatically for you as most do, you will need a playcenter username and password to play though.
As you progress you can also unlock extra cars, helmets and an extra track if you meet set criteria which are viewable under the 'Achievments' section of the main menu under which you may also access your trophy room.
As with any other videogame based on a sport one of the main factors that will determine how well a player receives Formula One 2005 will depend on how much the player actually enjoys the sport, fans of F1 racing will want to check this out as it's a very good simulation of the sport and a good knowledge of Formula One racing techniques will certainly give a player an advantage over a player who does not follow the sport at all.
The game is good fun and very fast but suffers from the fact that it can get repetitive after a while as the majority of the tracks look virtually the same.