[IMGW]http://media.1up.com/media?id=3208749[/IMGW] By John Davison 02/27/2007 VIDEO: Head over to our videos page to check out all Formula One: CE footage!

In keeping with the legacy of Formula One games on the PlayStation platform, Sony Liverpool's game Formula One: Championship Edition certainly looks gorgeous. The full 2006 season has been painstakingly re-created (which means 18 tracks, 11 teams, and 22 drivers) in glorious hi-def-o-vision, and the result is something so striking there are times where you could mistake it for broadcast. The tracks, in particular, are packed with detail, and there are some stunning weather and lighting effects, as well as subtle camera treatments that hammer the point home of how powerful the PS3 really is. It's a good game to show off, that's for sure.

Get beyond the pretty stuff though and you need to be prepared for an excruciatingly steep learning curve. Prerelease coverage has joked about the number of driver aids that can be activated to nanny a novice through the experience, but this stuff isn't just for beginners. Even skilled racing enthusiasts are going to struggle with how sensitive and understeering-prone the cars can be, and anyone used to the way a "normal" car performs is going to be quite shocked by the behavior of these cars. Unless you are some kind of race-driving savant, you're going to need to spend a few hours with the braking and steering assists turned on, and even then you're no doubt going to have a fairly hard time with it for a while. Forget the challenges of racing against 21 other drivers; they are the least of your worries. You have to tame your expectations as to the car's performance first. Once you do, it's remarkably rewarding but, as with any racer, finding the rhythm of a track, finding your line, and gradually working your way through the pack is what sparks the magic. You have to work at it though, and the early phases of the career mode will no doubt lose race fans without the patience and willpower to work through the ranks and achieve placements in the better cars and more illustrious teams.

[Click the image above to check out all Formula One: CE screens.]

On the subject of those other drivers, it's worth noting that, regardless of the difficulty level you're playing on, their behavior conforms to essentially the same patterns. Sure, their abilities scale, but their apparent awareness of their environment stays roughly the same, and as your experience grows, this becomes quite disconcerting. As a race starts, the 22-car pack squeezes its way through the first bend, and at this point it becomes very clear that while the 21 A.I. cars are perfectly aware of each other, you are the single element of chaos in their otherwise ordered universe. You'll see them jostle with each other for position, but they'll seem to be completely blind to you, and will consequently ram right into you, clip you on a bend, or (as is more often the case) hit you so hard that something falls off your car and punts you out of the race. Until you learn to live with this, you'll find yourself spinning out of control and cutting corners a lot...which leads to a personal peeve; the in-line penalty system. Rather than penalize you at the end of a race for doing something naughty, the game seizes control of your throttle midrace and makes you endure your punishment on the track, rather than simply on the clock.

[Click the image above to check out all Formula One: CE screens.]

The game features a number of control options, including the soon-to-be-ubiquitous "hold the Sixaxis like a steering wheel" nonsense. Using the tilt controls makes an already tough game even harder and again necessitates the application of driving aids while you get used to things. If you can wrestle MotorStorm into submission in this fashion, you may very well respond to the same system employed here, but for the rest of us mere mortals, it's best thought of as little more than a gimmick. On the flip side, if you have a Logitech driving wheel, you're in for a treat. Again, this further solidifies the fact that the game is aimed squarely at full-on racer nerds, but if you have a really dorky setup with a racing seat and a wheel/pedal set, the experience is markedly superior to just using the controller.

Online play is fairly simple and bare-bones. All races are (thankfully) made up of 22 cars, to keep things authentic, with A.I. cars joining players on the track, but online challenges are individual races with stat tracking and leaderboards rather than any kind of online championship structure. Given the amount of stuff going on, performance was (for the most part) pretty stable, but we did find that the action would choke a number of times each race for a second or so. That said, a brief pause is arguably preferable to seeing opponent cars dancing around all over the place as we so often see in many online racers.

For many, the steep learning curve, the quirks, and the flaws may all just be a bit too much. As with any sports game, an appreciation for the subject is a must, but to be completely honest "liking racing games" isn't going to be enough to get the most out of this. Lovers of Formula One will get a huge kick out of the way it wallows in the culture of the sport. From the presentation to the minutiae of managing a driver's career, it's steeped in layers of process that encourage purists to let their freak flag fly. That said though, its biggest flaw is that, rather than providing you with an experience that makes you feel like a Formula One driver, it instead seems to require that you practically need the skills of one to truly succeed.

Thanks to 1UP.com for sharing the news with us!