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Posted: Aug 22, 2004 @ 02:52 pm GMT-0600
Updated: Feb 17, 2023 @ 01:16 pm GMT-0600
Sorting Tags: Article Review, Article Software, Articles, Formula One 04,

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Providing the world’s only retail game of this year’s F1 season, Sony released Formula One 2004 for Playstation 2 in Europe a few weeks ago. It made a fair splash in the UK charts.

Platform Playstation 2
Release (UK): 30 July 2004
Review code: Pal / Europe
Wide screen mode: Yes
S/Sound : Yes
60Hz: No
Online content: Yes


Since 1996 an official F1 game has been released annually for Playstation (or PS2). Initially published by Psygnosis, Sony bought them out and now publish the game themselves. This game is developed in Liverpool, at Sony’s own studio (basically still Psygnosis), as it has been for each annual iteration for the past few years. This is the second in a four year exclusive deal with the official FORMULA ONE owners.

Handling, physics, crashing

The question that RSC members want to know is…is it a realistic simulation of that most technically amazing and most expensive single seater neck snapper.

The game has all the right hall marks of a simulation. You can tweak a lot of the car components and you can run a full season including the many practice sessions. With the ability to tune the brake bias and traction control in-car, whilst racing, there was every indication this might be the full five course sim meal we want. As it turned out, Formula One 2004 is more akin to chicken nuggets:- You can nearly guarantee it hasn’t changed much from last year, it’s accessible to all (the kids love ‘em) and it’s best taken in small doses when there’s no time for anything else.

Soggy chicken

The main problem with the chicken (sorry – the game) is the steering input. It’s fair to say that when using a pad, you can go lock to lock in milliseconds. Not even Britain’s great hope Jenson can do that. So as you’d expect the chicken is damped (dammit!) and this damping would aid realism…if this was a GT car. But it’s not. It’s F1. It’s direct. We only have to watch it on the tele to appreciate that each miniscule movement of the steering wheel directly and…here’s the important bit…immediately turns the wheel. But not in this meal. (go on, take a deep breath, then a big collective sigh!)

With the pad being so poor, I plugged in the greatest hope of all for this game – the Logitech wheel. New device, new handling I hoped. It works with the game, but it doesn’t work well. Sadly the same damping applied when using the pad, for some mad MAD reason (Exotic Newcastle Disease?), is still applied to the wheel input. So you take a fast sweeping corner and try to switch lock…but your car is a whole week behind you in getting the front wheels turned. It’s unbearable when you’re accustomed to sim handling. It means there’s no feeling of realism and in turn that means no reward. So the game is still comparable to Nuggets then…not real food and no reward for consumption (with no minerals, proteins and vitamins etc – Lord knows what Nuggets are made of)


It is becoming more and more difficult to review Formula One 2004 and not sound like I just threw away the take-away after puking. The game is smooth which is of course the most important issue for graphics. I’m a bit sucker for super smooth graphics, regardless of texture definition, clipping etc. Additionally the in-car view is just right. But sadly unlike say Turismo (from three WHOLE years prior) and the onslaught of Xbox racers of late, the rest of the graphics are frankly unacceptable. The car models are the worst offender. They look like they’re sub 1000 polygons. I’m reminded of a Latin phrase I learnt from some really dull studies – Res ipso Loquitur – or ‘the thing speaks for itself’. You’ve seen the stills. You don’t need to know any more.


Audio, on the other hand is acceptable; different for each car and it sounds nice enough. Nothing to excite me though and sadly the sub woofer couldn’t even shake the dust off. So you’d think ordinary. But there is one pretty big gripe for the audio which helps file this meal under the ‘microwave 3 minutes’ variety. The sound of traction control still puts an F1 fan’s heart into their mouth as the sound of a failing engine is confused with the traction control. For anyone unfamiliar, I believe that traction is gained by cutting power, which in turn is achieved by causing a mis-fire. So it’s an extremely loud and frightening sound – and a big part of today’s F1. Sadly not in this game. The traction control is represented, but it doesn’t sound right and a more realistic volume would be achieved if the sample volume was multiplied by a factor of 10. This is no petty gripe. I invite Sony Liverpool to state right here why something so obvious could be missed …when assumedly they have a staff audio engineer and he’s had about five years to research and get this right? (I’m shaking my head right now in the same way as I do when people confuse Nuggets for food.)

Track selection

This is the only place you’ll get to race Shanghai or Bahrain. And I have to say, I went for spin around Shanghai and was very impressed by the track. For F1 (rock)hard-core nuts, it’s almost worth it to preview the circuit in a realtime environment.


There is a career mode. It works, say, like your Amiga career mode did back in the 16 bit days. It’s truly awful and Sony will know this…so I don’t feel any pressure to explain why. Let me repeat: Truly awful.


Sadly there’s no racing online. But you do have online features and can upload your ghost car time trial. Sadly, when time trialling, you can’t setup your car. If the handling was spot on – this in turn would have ruined an otherwise average game. As it stands, this doesn’t make much material difference.

Caveat Emptor

For non sim racers, I can completely understand the reasonable sales already achieved as it’s still an exciting prospect to race the latest F1 cars. If you want your pre-teen to get a taste of sim racing, start here. But you gotta wean the kids off Nuggets before they become convinced that ketchup is flavour and the rest is just there to pad your stomach.

As handling is so important here to RSC members, I simply cannot commend this game to you. It’s not a sim and it’s a very under-average game. Reformed chicken? No thanks.

Sim grade – 1/5
Game – 2/5

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