By Stephen Holmes
7 July 2001
In human life expectancy terms, three years is not very long. In the rapidly growing world of computer sims, three years is a lifetime. As we move into the early stages of the year 2001, it's hard to believe that waayyy back in 1998, the much anticipated Grand Prix Legends (GPL) was introduced onto the market by Papyrus and Sierra Sports. Three years on, this game is still arguably the best racing sim of all time.
GPL set new standards in almost every respect and fired up the previously dormant immaginations of tunnel visioned game creators, focused mainly on modern Formula 1 and NASCAR racing. The realisation set in that a racing game can be based on any formula in the world, creativity was the only limit. It also showed that although this is a high tech industry, games based on low tech formula's could be just as much fun.
In the three years since GPL, gamers have been bombarded with an unbelievable selection of racing sims and games. Everything from Truck Racing, Dirt Track Racing, Drag Racing, Touring Car Racing, have all appeared. A number of games based on old day formula's also appeared, jumping on the band wagon GPL created, none of which come close. Spirit of Speed 1937 was highly forgetable, and Papyrus' NASCAR Legends, based on NASCAR 3 physics was also disapointing (NASCAR didn't run restricter plates in 1970!!!). The old race tracks were a major attraction of GPL and were incredibly recreated. This is an amazing achievement considering many either no longer exist or have been altered beyond recognition. Many of these tracks are a joy to drive on even solo, and can be as much fun as the racing itself. I have never spent so much time driving solo as I have in GPL. I certainly can't do that in any NASCAR sims.
GPL created a lot of anticipation over what creators could come up with. The sky really was the limit but I think there has been a fair amount of disapointment from gamers over what we seen had since. Too many potentially great games have been released on the market only to be let down in one or two small area's. GPL itself had some major negatives. It was just too hardcore sim. Real world racing promoters know that to fill their grandstands they have to appeal to more than just hardcore race fans, they have to appeal to joe public.
GPL appealed to hardcore sim racers and, er.....well that's about all really! And there just aren't enough of us. As a result, GPL was not a great financial success. It was too hard for the casual gamer. GPL took weeks and months to master. Completing a lap without falling off was an achievement in itself, let alone a race win. Even the Novice setting was tough.
The concentration required is enormous, I sometimes feel mentally drained after a hard race, and the frustration can reach boiling point when small unforgiving mistakes ruin a top spot. My steering wheel has taken numerous beatings because of this game. But, get it right, and what a feeling! Winning somewhere like the beautifully flowing left-right-left-right-rising-dipping Zandvoort is unequalled in any other sim. My girlfriend stares at me funny and dosen't understand my excitement when I bounce around the house having just blitzed the best 1967 had to offer.
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