By Paul Smith
Released in 1992 this was quite a step up from Revs with much more in the way of graphical detail and depth of play. Issued originally on 3.5" or 5.25" floppies, subsequently at least three different budget releases supplied it on CD. The PC version was designed to operate on quite a broad range of processors. It would just about run on a 16MHz 286 with 1 Meg of RAM, as long as all the graphic options were turned off. With everything on you could get by with a mighty 80MHz 486DX2. (well it was mighty at the time).
A useful option was the processor occupancy button. By pressing the 'O' key during play you could see just how busy your CPU was, and in fact this feature has been retained throughout the series. This would enable you to set the graphics options to give the best frame rate. With the level of equipment most home users had at the time it was depressing to see this figure mostly well above 100%. The PC was the preferred platform though as the Amiga struggled to keep up with it even with low detail. At least the PC could be upgraded!
With VGA at 320 x 200 being it's only resolution it was difficult to see any detail in the distance. Playing it now it seems very difficult to see exactly where your braking points are due to the blocky graphics on walled circuits such as Phoenix and Monaco. At last with this game we get sound effects through our sound card rather than out of the feeble and tinny PC speaker. This is the earliest racing game we have that supports this.
Like Revs no real driver names are included, but as the manual had the full list of drivers and teams for the 1991 season it was easy enough to edit these and save them. You had the option of choosing from five skill levels, each allowing a diminishing amount of driving aids. At the novice level with all the driving aids switched on it was pretty easy to compete as all you had to do was steer and accelerate.
You compete in a full 26 car grid, and it was quite common for a few of the AI's to suffer a mechanical failure or crash and end their race. After finishing you are presented with a comprehensive array of post-race stats which can be printed out if required.
Many more technical options were allowed, making it take quite some time to get the car well set up. You even had a choice of six different tyre compounds, from the hard 'A' to soft 'D' along with a qualifier and wet tyre. With a proper set up the qualifiers made a big difference to your lap time. Getting a 'tow' was also possible, making overtaking a bit easier as well as lowering your lap time.
Proper pit stops were now allowed, so that you could change tyres or refuel whenever you wished, as well as repair the odd crash damage. You had the choice of entering a single race or competing in a full championship season, with some post race animation if you managed to finish in the top three.
Multiple camera views were also available allowing you to view from another drivers car. This was quite useful during qualifying as it would show how a faster driver was taking corners you may have been a bit slower on. Racing in the rain was included, something which was sadly lacking from the later Grand Prix 2, and was very tricky indeed with the spray from a car in front making it nearly impossible to see the way ahead.
A patch was later released (v1.04), which allowed two machines to be linked via direct cable connection or modem. This version seems to be the one available on the budget releases.
Overall this is still a good game, apart from the dated graphics. The only real fault I could find with it is that all the track records include fastest laps from the '91 season, but as this is supposed to be the season that you are driving in then they would not yet have existed. It only remains to say that this title is still available on budget ten years after it was written, which alone speaks volumes for it.
A definite five star winner. It's possible to buy this for £2.99 at present and it's an absolute classic. Another fine effort from Mr. Crammond.