There's been a recent wave of driving games released on the PSP so you'd think Traveller's Tales would have decided to develop a game that is going to stand out from the crowd in order to get recognition. Unfortunately F1 2006 blends in with the coloured mass of crowd at the side of the track on the PSP version.. so is relying on the F1 racing style enough to entice driving fans?
Formula 1 racing games have always been a bit different to their arcade counterparts mainly because you felt like you need a degree to understand all the modifications needed to get optimum performance out of the ultra fast vehicles. It also required very precise driving; one high impact collision and you'd convert your car into scrap metal with the same top speed as an Allegro! The dedication to learning racing lines, breaking distances and knowing the difference between 23 types of tyre is what attracts F1 enthusiasts to those games. Obviously a large census of the gaming population is also put off by that required dedication, so now it seems F1 2006 has tried to find a happy medium and satisfy both camps.
Graphically it doesn't throw much at you to get excited about but the detail on the vehicles does stand out. F1 games are always kept to the basics; I guess it must be something about not distracting the driver with a beautiful sunset when he needs to be focusing on the racing line. No fireworks in the background or obstacles to evade (you don't get many parked cars on the track at Monza) its all about controlling you're super-powered car perfectly around a smooth stretch of tarmac. This means that handling and braking become the 2 key elements and therefore they need to have sublime responsiveness so the gamer has a challenge. Unfortunately by moving this game to the middle ground to attract arcade racers you don't have to worry much about collisions and the handling is simplified. I found it particularly difficult to control using the analogue stick. There's still a great level of detail within the game but after a while it becomes a bit monotone and with a lack of a real racing test it falls short of the mark.
Not much to say about the sound as there's limited background music and commentary is non-existent. not really a bad thing if you consider they could have resurrected Murray Walker up to whine away in your ear!
There are a few different game modes ranging from the standard World Championship to scenario mode where you take control at a crucial stage of a race or in some unusual circumstance (e.g. Racing around Monaco as pea soup descends (not really pea soup, for those that don't know its just slang for heavy fog.. pea soup would've made an interesting alternative though)) Bit of a shame they didn't accommodate the arcade audience with more of these challenges as they contributed some of the more exciting racing on the game.
You can have up to 8 players on multiplayer Wi-Fi but there's no game sharing so unless you know 7 other devoted F1 supporters it's unlikely you'll get full use out of the option. As the full rights are incorporated you'll have all the correct drivers, tracks, cars etc. and you'll even be able to download the current year data to make sure you're up to date. This will keep enthusiasts satisfied and it certainly helps add some calibre to the game.
Its not all bad and does the job of presenting an easily playable F1 driving game. If you can appreciate the basic graphics and want to win the same accolades as Schumacher without applying the braking and manoeuvres skill, then this will suit you.
However, rather than pleasing both camps I reckon F1 2006 will fall between the cracks for too many gamers to really make waves and I can only see it being stocking filler from the platinum section by Christmas.
5 out of 10