Amiga Power1st November 1991
Published in Amiga Power #7
From the man behind classics such as Sentinel and Stunt Car Racer comes what has to be the last word in racing simulations... and possibly the best game ever!
Formula One Grand Prix
From the man behind classics such as The Sentinel and Stunt Car Racer comes what has to be the last word in racing simulations... and possibly the best game ever!
Ahem. I have a confession to make. I don't like racing. Actually, that's not quite true - I don't like watching motor racing very much. I do like driving very fast though, but what with the British national speed limit being so low and being such a sad man and all, that more often than not means resorting to playing computer-based driving simulations. So what a pity is it that almost all of them are pretty crap - and that's on all computers, not just the Amiga.
Why, you could count the number of decent driving simulations on the fingers of one hand that's had the thumb and little pinky cut off. Let me see... There's Gremlin's Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge, which isn't too bad (the sequel's more of a doozy though), and Geoff Crammond's Stunt Car Racer, which is smarter than Einstein ever was. Ah yes, and there's Electronic Arts' Indianapolis 500, which only has one course but is the best motor racing simulation money can buy.
Was, sorry. Indianapolis 500 was the best motor racing simulation money could buy. I'm not going to beat about the bush: Formula One Grand Prix thrashes the pants off Indianapolis 500 and dumps on everything else from a great height.
The truck-load of options doesn't really come into it. I mean, any dork and his dog can collate buckets of statistics for a technically accurate world championship motor racing system (and given the quality of some of the previous racing simulations, those people have obviously been hard at work doing so). It takes more than a number-crunching nancy to take all the available data in the world and turn it into a simulation as good as this one.
The facility to enter your name or take that of one of the world's leading Grand Prix racers does nothing for me. Nor does being able to choose for which of the teams in the World Championship you wish to race.
The fact that the car you choose from the 26 available determines the performance of the opposition (with their skills based on statistics from the real 1990 season) is more appealing - as is the opportunity to fiddle with the car's tyre type, wing angle, brake balance and gear speeds before testing it. (Incidentally, the cars are all colour-coded to their respective teams.)
Don't It Make You Feel Good?
So those are some of the options, which are all well and good. But to turn me on, so to speak, a driving simulation in any shape or form simply has to 'feel' good. Formula One Grand Prix doesn't feel good, that's for sure. It feels abso-bloody-lutely bloody brilli-bloody-ant. And that's a fact.
Not ever having driven a Formula One car, let alone in a World Championship Grand Prix, I really wouldn't know if the car's handling and performance is realistic or whether the race tracks are accurately mapped.
And as far as the vehicle's concerned, I honestly couldn't care less. What I do know is that the car handles like a dream - it feels how I'd expect the reality to feel, so I couldn't ask for more. And as for the courses, they match curve for curve and (where appropriate) bridge for bridge and building for building the circuit diagrams found in books on the subject of motor racing, so I can't argue with that.
The feeling of 'being there' is far stronger than I have experienced in any other simulation, which is probably down to the uncannily high level of detail. There are crowds, buildings, kerbs, track markings, trees, and even pit crews for crying out loud. Sparks fly from the cars just like the ones you see in the racing on TV - so does the spray in the wet! - and the drivers are clearly visible. Every turn and bump and skid had me wriggling in my seat, and the sensation of speed is so convincing I found myself drowning in adrenalin.
Well, Hey, Them's The Brakes
Hold on though. Surely these must be something wrong with Formula One Grand Prix. Or am I in the midst of some sycophantic haze? Well, no, there isn't really - and no I'm not. There's nothing remotely irritating about Formula One Grand Prix. It's so slick, there's more chance of finding Lord Lucan than there are faults here.
The best I can do is comment on the lack of camera angle potential. The visuals are smart that you can't help but yearn for the facility to view the action from every conceivable angle. That said, the track-side camera views are in fact more than adequate.
My only other (very) minor gripe is even though the crashes are as painful-looking as any you are ever likely to see on a 16-bit home computer simulation, I'd still like to have seen more pieces fly off the cars involved in a pile up.
Formula One Grand Prix succeeds on every possible level. It offers the most comprehensive possible simulation of a motor racing event, but better still there's the sheer exhilaration of an outstanding driving experience. And I can't say "farthntht".
Crammond: A Decade In Pole Position
Geoff Crammond is the business. His entertainment track record may not be particularly long, but it's certainly strong. This man just doesn't seem to be able to put a foot wrong, so we just had to ask him why...
"I don't know," he replies. Mr Crammond is a modest man - and it shows. Even though Formula One Grand Prix is quite obviously ten times hotter than July, he doesn't blow his own trumpet any harder than, "I'm pleased with the different look of the tracks, and the mechanics and the number of cars on screen at once." Not one to brag, this Mr Crammond.
Geoff Crammond worked as a systems engineer for eight years before he bought himself a BBC in March of 1981, taught himself assembly language and wrote Super Invaders. His interest in motor racing began with his classic simulation Revs. "I didn't follow it before then, but once I became immersed in the project and all aspects of the sport, the technical side became apparent and I realised there was a lot more to it than I thought."
Work on Formula One Grand Prix began in March. "There was no way I was going to redo Revs. I didn't look at Revs at all, although the experience of coding Revs helped. I don't have much time to play games, but I will look at things out of professional interest, and I usually look at reviews - but not in too much detail. I don't want to be influenced."
Geoff's retisent to reveal the source of his technical information which contributes to Formula One Grand Prix being so fine. "A lot of the information was hard to get hold of, but it helps to know something about the maths behind it. Some just takes research though. I've been video-taping every Grand Prix I can for the last few years. There's one instance where Senna was shown doing an in-car lap, with a computer readout of his speed, and knowing the layout of the circuit and the characteristics meant I could work backwards to get information."
Geoff Crammond Softography
Commodore 64 (Firebird)
BBC, Commodore 64, Amstrad, Atari ST
"Steve Bak did the Amiga conversion"
Stunt Car Racer
Formula One Grand Prix
Formula One Grand Prix
IBM PC (MicroProse)
The Bottom Line
Uppers: It's super slick. Every worthwhile option is included, and the tutorial nature of the difficulty settings is most commendable (especially being able to tear along the dotted line). The attention to detail is something else. A more realistic, accurate, adrenalin-boosting racing sim simply isn't available.
Downers: Um... I suppose if this sort of thing only succeeds in driving you up the wall, then the high level of realism on offer here will only press your hat all the harder. Otherwise, there's nothing about Formula One Grand Prix that brings me down.
Remarkable. Incredible. Great. Unbelievable. Phenomenal. (And far out even!) All other racing simulations can quite simply cough and die. Formula One Grand Prix is just too sexy for the Amiga.