GameCube Index Episode 60: EA Sports F1 2002

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If GameCube owners in 2002 were looking for a way to experience the fast paced and exhilarating action of formula one racing, their best option was with EA Sports F1 2002. Driving games up to this point were both few and far between, as well as centered on street racing, and F1 was here to change that. By bringing the “highest class in single-seat racing” to the GameCube, EA Sports was hoping to scratch the itch of players everywhere, as well as continue their fairly well received game series.

There was, however, a pretty notable difference that only affected GameCube owners: this wasn’t EA Sports F1 2002. Instead of porting this year’s release over from the PS2, Scottish developer Visual Sciences ported over last year’s EA Sports F1 2001 and updated some of the art to match the 2002 Formula One racing season. Now, they did a great job, and as we’re about to find out, it didn’t take anything away from the title for a newcomer. The issue only came around if a player played on a PS2 the previous year and then made the switch to the GameCube. The odds of this affecting many players is incredibly slim, but it’s still a notable detail surrounding the release.

Now, reruns aside, EA Sports F1 2002 for the GameCube is a title made to introduce those unfamiliar with the sport to the world of formula one racing. Before you can even think about racing in a Grand Prix, you must first unlock this flagship game feature by completing the lengthy Challenge Mode. By completing challenges, you will be trained on everything from braking to hairpin turns to wet conditions and pit stops. This approach to unlocking the main game makes sense for a number of reasons: it both forces beginners to understand the basics to succeed, and it mirrors the real-life Formula One mode of operation: the best drivers in the best cars on the best tracks.

Before anyone gets spooked by forced tutorials, there is the option to just jump into a Quick Race, but honestly without the lessons learned from the challenges, or the fun of a full Grand Prix, Quick Races are only good for a bit of practice when you’re short on time. The real meat of the gameplay is found in the extended tournament, where you can eventually customize it how you want it, or even reenact the Monaco Grand Prix to your heart’s content. The handling of the cars feels the way it should, and gets even better as you unlock different transmission options and can make the move to manual cornering. Every race has that incredibly fast pace that you’d expect from a top-tier racing simulation, and it never feels clunky. The slowest part of the game is the pit stops, and even then, if you drive carefully, those can end up being limited parts of the experience.

Graphically, F1 looks like you’d expect from a first-year PS2 port; the vehicle models are solid, the parts of the track that you focus on look great enough, and the rougher scenery sections of the level you’ll hardly notice on account of how fast you’ll be racing. You also need to remember, real-life race tracks are usually built specifically in rural areas without a whole lot going on, so there’s not really supposed to be much to look at, anyway. In one of the stranger design decisions, all of the pit crew techs use the same character model, but this is just a minor blip in an otherwise decent presentation.

In the end, EA Sports F1 2002 was a solid first entry for formula one racing on the GameCube. This wouldn’t continue very far, as there would only be one other F1 racer on the system, and that was limited to PAL regions, but we’ll talk more about that in episode 272. Despite being a complete newcomer to the world of formula one racing, I can say that I am eagerly awaiting the chance to play more EA Sports F1 2002.

Did you ever play EA Sports F1 2002? What did you think of it? What did you like or hate about the game?

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About Geoff Girardin

Geoff Girardin is the producer of GCNdex, a weekly series that covers every GameCube game in chronological order. He also helped make two tiny humans, and he eats so much that his wife is worried. You can follow him on Twitter @geoffgirardin, or keep up with his experience with fatherhood on geoffgirardin.com.

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