One of the most popular sports for people to pass their time watching is Formula One, and as a result there has been no shortage of Formula One games being developed for various arcade systems, consoles, and computers from the 70s to the present day. F1 (known as Formula One in the USA) is the original Formula One title to come from developer Domark. It is a game that spawned a few sequels including a World Championship Edition for the Sega Megadrive and Game Gear exclusively, but this review covers the original that made the various sequels possible. After loading up Freeze SMS's user-friendly interface to mount the F1 SMS file, this is what we thought of the experience.
F1 is one of the very few officially-licensed Formula One-centric titles that you will find for any of the older gaming systems. The official licensing from the means that the game is able to portray any of the official drivers, tracks, and teams in an official capacity. If you put this in terms of modern games, you have Pro Evolution Soccer, which doesn't possess the official FIFA licences whilst the FIFA games do. This kind of advantage for a game cannot be understated, and it is the official licenses that would have drawn a significant number of players to F1 instead any of the rival racing games out there. Its only real competition was Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II, with F1 leaving other racing/Formula 1 titles like World Grand Prix eating its dust.
From the outset you've got a few options that allow you to experience the gameplay in slightly different ways. Firstly, you've got the choice between Arcade Mode and Grand Prix mode, the former allowing for some quick-and-easy fun whilst the latter involves a little more investment of your time and a more competitive experience overall. After this you choose your difficulty between hard and easy, before naming your driver, choosing your race length in laps (4, 8, or 12 are your choices in Arcade Mode). After choosing your tracks you're then ready to dive in.
The Formula One experience itself is actually quite impressive for an 8-bit system. In fact, it can be argued that F1 is the best Formula One-centric game you'll find on the Master System. Gameplay is seen from the third-person perspective, with your car visible on the screen and the sort of heads-up display taking up around 1/3 of the screen at the bottom. You've got the dial indicating your revs in this display as well as other vital stats concerning your laps and also the classic birds-eye representation of the track with the tiny marker indicating your position on it at any time.
Content and Graphics
F1 has a great deal of content in terms of the tracks it has to offer: you've got San Marino, Australian, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, German, British, and French tracks to choose from. The choice between Grand Prix and Arcade Mode also brings some added choice and therefore depth to the experience. The gameplay itself is unfortunately quite flat, quite literally in one sense as the tracks look and feel extremely flat. The hardware limitations of the 8-bit Master System really rear their ugly head here; the Master System simply cannot keep up with even rival systems like the SNES in terms of speed, let alone the Megadrive with its superior processing speed. Playing this through any emulator such as Freeze SMS isn't going to improve things either since this emulator and all others are designed to replicate precisely the hardware that their respective consoles were comprised of.
The graphics are actually quite impressive for the time, and it obviously isn't fair to compare them to the F1 Game of the modern day. The sound isn't brilliant however, and the revving sound of the engine gets very annoying very quickly.
As far as F1 games go in 1993, this was one of the better ones. Playing it on an emulator today and comparing it to even the most rudimentary of flash games - Formula Racer by Turbonuke for example - really shows you how far technology has come since F1's release for the Master System. It is one of the best racers you'll find on the Master System, but its graphics and presentation fall a little flat compared to the same game on the Megadrive.