I've been awaiting this title ever since it was rumoured that Paradigm were working on a Formula 1 sim. And although it lacks a little refinement, it has more than met my expectations.
First off, let me note that this game isn't easy to just pick up and play. Unlike the far more beginner-friendly F1: CE on PlayStation, you actually have to drive the car. The braking and steering assists don't do as much to help as in F1: CE, the racing line is less prominent and the coloured "braking areas" are absent. However, once you get past the initial barrier of the unforgiving control, the game turns out to better F1: CE in almost every area.
The graphics in this game are excellent, although in places the framerate can slow to a crawl. Thankfully, these occasions don't occur very often (Formula 1 cars tend to spread out throughout the tracks, rathing than sticking in one bunch), but they are incredibly annoying. However, the tracks are rendered in superb detail. The legendary Monte Carlo circuit in particular looks terrific. Although the textures are slightly blurry, and the video screen has a still picture, the track looks better than it's PlayStation counterpart.
The sound effects are pretty much what you'd expect, there's really nothing different in this game than in any other (modern) F1 racer. However, there is also the inclusion of speech from the pit crew. Instead of a whole commentary system, your pit crew relays information to you, like telling you who's in front of you or behind you (and by how many seconds), who's dropped out of the race, and who's leading the race. They also presumably inform you of the condition of your car.
The control is a little hard to get used to at first, but after a while it becomes second-nature. The analog stick again proves it's usefulness right here. After playing for years with the PC Engine, Super NES and PlayStation digital pads with F1 games, it's great to adjust your car on a straight without a multitude of tapping on the pad.
What amazes me about this game is the attention to detail. You can tell by looking at the manual the developers did their homework--each F1 driver has their own characteristics, depending on how they drive in real life (although I have to wonder why Schumacher's Aggressiveness isn't maxed out? :-) ). Each of the team's cars also has their unique characteristics displayed, even down to the reliability of the engine (although, unfortunately, your own engine can't blow). In the game's innovative Challenge Mode, where you take control of a car in mid-race and you have to achieve a certain objective, you can also see the attention to detail. The first option simply says that you have to gain as many places as possible while everyone else is in the pit. When you choose the option, the game explains it fully. You then get treated to a story about Bridgestone and Goodyear tires, and why everyone else has pitted and you haven't. Awesome! Another little detail which amazed me was in the car itself. If you watch the hands of the driver on the wheel, they don't just stay stiff on the wheel--they shake, just like real life (I'd imagine it would be quite hard to keep control of a 300km/h vehicle!). Not only that, the Left C button makes you look back through the left rearview mirror, and the Right C button is for the right rearview mirror! It's the little details like this which make F1 such an incredible game.
The two player game is also a lot of fun. I played a couple of races with my uncle, and there was only a little drop in the framerate. The catch-up option also works well to keep the races close!
One last note here on the replay mode. It is fabulous. Although it too suffers from slowdown in places, it is truly just like the real thing, especially with the addition of TV-style timing bars at the bottom (complete with Tag-Heuer sponsorship!). The developers also allowed you to run an exhibition race and choose "TV Cameraman" as the driver, so you can control the cameras on a computer-controlled race, highlighting certain cars or changing the views at will.
Overall, F-1 World Grand Prix is an excellent game. Although the game does need a little polishing (framerate and beginner options for example), it is a fine game, one that every F1 fan should have!