Everything will be better in the future we were told, but we now know that may have been a bit of a fib. Take Formula One as an example. In 2016 it become a procession lead by Mercedes, where the result is pretty much a foregone conclusion. Excitement usually only being found by guessing who will get overtaken in the pits. Now look back to the 1980’s and it’s a very different story. Racing cars with well monstrous level of power driven by the seat of the pants, more than two drivers that could win and *shock horror* actual proper passing on the track. If only there was a game that could show us how good Formula One used to be. Thankfully screaming out of the pit lane comes Formula One, published by CRL in 1985.
Stepping into the roomy trousers of the owner of one of the six F1 teams, the challenge is to run a two car team with the ultimate goal to win drivers and constructors championship. Pick a team, hire a good driver lineup, choose some sponsors, develop a car and get ready to race. After much tweaking of the cars it’s time to set off round the world for a whole season of races. Red lights turn to green and the pack scream away from the line followed by an anxious wait to see who will be at the front after the first lap.
Each track has its own dynamics and challenges although, suspiciously, every track has the same start/finish line. As the race progresses changing weather and incidents on track can be a blessing or a curse though they normally result in a quick trip to the pits. Taking control of a wheelman, it’s a race to change all the tyres and if needed repair any damage the car may have suffered. Only once work is finished can the car get back into the race.
Surprisingly the actual race simulation still holds up well. No two races are the same and there is real tension as the race order is scanned to see if something has happened to the drivers. Whilst there is no ingame music there are plenty of effects used throughout the race. Weirdly the engines sounds are very similar to modern F1 cars today and the race ticker tape is a strangely hypnotic.
Did we mention that Formula One can be played with six players as well? It ends up with a mad fight for the keyboard but, as many many games that were played back in the 80’s with my cousin will testify, it’s fantastic fun on a wet Saturday afternoon. Another nice feature allows a few of the lower ranked drivers to be renamed, so if the F1 dream died along with a failed driving test there is still a chance for virtual glory.
It really is a testament to just how good this game is that whilst researching for this review I managed to lose more than a few hours trying to win both championships. Go search out this underrated classic, you won’t regret it.
– Alan Hammerton