Formula One games are the nearly boys of computer racing. I have played quite a variety of them over the years and each one I played was a good game in itself, but never really captured the essence of F1. Power sliding open wheeled cars that survive touring car style bumps does not a realistic F1 game make.
Unless you head back to 1995 that is. Back in 1995 Micropose released a Formula 1 game that captured the raw ingredients of the sport perfectly. That game was Geoff Crammonds Grand Prix 2 and is, in my opinion, the best attempt at an F1 sim out there.
I'll start this review by looking at the original, unedited aspects of the game - it is extremely customisable, but I will get into that later. The game is based around the 1994 season and includes all the drivers and teams from that season. (Ayrton Senna has been left out, probably out of respect due to this death at Imola that year). There are all the usual options in the main menu - quick race, race weekend, full championship and free practice. Quick race will put you straight into any race of your choosing, and is customisable in the options menu, where you can edit aspects such as your grid position and number of laps. The race weekend offers you the chance to compete in a full GP weekend, with practice and qualifying sessions as a precursor to the race itself. Championship mode sees you race through every track of the 1994 season, taking on the role of any of the 26 drivers and attempting to finish as the top driver of the season.
The cars are fully customisable, and you can tweak aspects such as downforce, fuel load and brake balance. You can save the setups and assign them to any of the tracks in the race calendar, so when you are fully satisfied with your car, it is easy to recall that set up for each race. Difficulty is also customisable in a number of ways. You can change the difficulty of the computer cars, which results in how fast they post qualifying times, and how difficult they are to overtake in race. Not only this, but you can change aspects about your own car as well, such as turning off damage, using the steering assist and turning the racing line on or off. I have to say that this set up is excellent for bringing the difficulty into perfect harmony with your skill level. As you get better at the game, you can shape the difficulty to match your progress. The game stays challenging, but without falling into the realms of hair tugging frustration. Finally, you can customise the races themselves, deciding on whether you do the full race or a certain percentage of it throughout a season.
The gameplay itself is exceptional. The game is easily playable on a keyboard, as an automatic steering assist is implemented for keyboard players. However, this does not distract from the game at all and you are left knowing that you are 100% in control of the car and not merely responsible for accelerating and braking. The game is also compatible with a steering wheel, but it can be quite tricky getting everything to work with such an old game. I use the keyboard and it is perfectly playable.
Down to the racing, and the most striking aspect of the game is how close it comes to replicating a full F1 race weekend. With the race settings set to full, you will have two 1 hour sessions of qualifying, interspersed with practice sessions. You will need to use the practice sessions, as knowledge of each of the courses is a must if you plan on finishing the race. In the race itself, you will soon notice just how well the computer cars behave. They stick to the racing line and hold position through every corner, and unless you are using the lowest difficulty settings, are a challenge to overtake. This is what really sets GP2 apart from everything that has followed, in my opinion, is that you need to work really hard to get past the opposition; it is not a question of just flying past everybody in front of you. The game contains a built in replay feature, which you can bring into play by hitting R when the game is paused. This really adds to the atmosphere of the game when you can enjoy your best overtaking manoeuvres again and again! Depending on your preferred settings, damage is also represented within the game. Smash hard enough and you will see yourself retire from the race, but minor damage can be repaired with a pit stop. The computer cars are also susceptible to damage and all are at risk of retirement, so you do feel you are on a level playing field. However, without editing, the damage engine can be quite forgiving and you can find yourself getting away with a few shunts and bumps.
As I mentioned earlier, this game is very old and very easy to customise. I will touch on these two aspects now.
Pretty much since its release, GP2 has been customised by an extremely talented pool of modders. There are plenty of sites on the web that are full of mods that are easy to download and apply. New tracks can be added, car liveries changed, new drivers included, damage modifiers tweaked, along with almost everything else you can think of. Essentially, this means that with a bit of tweaking, you can put together your perfect F1 game, including changing those damage modifiers to make the racing a lot more realistic! For instance, I have a 2009 season running at the moment, with almost (more on this later) all the correct tracks, 2009 teams and drivers, and a much more realistic damage system in place. Heavy shunts with other cars will most likely result in a retirement, adding to the realism of the game.
AN OLD, OLD GAME
Research on the internet has revealed a variety of problems faced by people who have tried to get the game working on modern machines. I have the game running fine under XP, albeit without the sound. However, people have reported that the game will run too fast, too slow, will randomly crash, along with a whole host of other problems. It is a shame, as it means a lot of people will no longer get the chance to play what is an amazing F1 sim. However, if you're computer savvy, then you shouldn't have a problem. I lucked out with the fact that my copy seemed to run just fine without any input from me. The age of the game can also cause problems with any patches you may download. As I mentioned earlier, I have almost every track of the 2009 season, but some failed to work with my game, making it unplayable until I removed the tracks.
To conclude, I have to say that this is the best and most realistic F1 game in existence. The difficulty settings are perfect and the races challenging. With the host of customisable content out there, you can edit the game to match exactly how you want to play. However, it is a very old game and you may not feel it warrants the effort to get it working on modern machines.
This game is one of my favourites of all time. For a start, you've got a great arcade simulator in the "Quick Race". You can vary the length of the race, and you don't start too far back on the grid, but on the other hand, there's still a challenge in that there's cars to pass. Okay, it's getting on a bit, but a quick web search will find patches for everything from the paint jobs to the circuits. You can drive as Ayrton Senna round 1950s Rouen, or as Stirling Moss round a bang up to date A1 Ring - the choice is yours. What's more, even without the patches, the game is great straight out of the box. It's playable, and the depth you can go into with the car setups will keep you absorbed for hours (hint: stiffen everything and drop the car as low as you can.) I've played a lot of racing games, and I love them all, but this one still has a place in my heart, and on my hard drive!
Formula One games vary greatly, but there are two main extremes. The arcade, power sliding racer, and the fully realistic simulation. If ever there was a game that took realism to the full, then Grand Prix 2 is that game. Of course, Grand Prix 3 is out now, and yes, it's better than Grand Prix 2. The thing is though, that Grand Prix 2 was around for so long, and thought of by so many as the best F1 game that it deserves a mention here. Even today it still plays a good game, and to be honest, bar obvious graphical improvements and the odd tweak here and there, is almost identical to Grand Prix 3. Grand Prix 2 is an immense game. Infact, it must border on a full technical simulation. Other games let you mess around with downforce and suspension. This game introduces car setup changes that I haven't even heard mentioned on the TV (bump dampers, anyone?). Before I go in to detail, though, some bad points. The games was released in 1995. Some of the circuits in the game are not even used today, some of the drivers and teams no longer exist. A root around the internet can solve this problem, and it is good to get up to date with all the drivers and teams. You can replace and reorder the circuits, but personally I don't mind the two old tracks (Pacific and Adelaide) because they're a change from the same circuits that you drive around in every F1 game. If you're adventurous you can even download other circuits off the internet, there is almost every track in existence, or even imaginary ones! The graphics in the game are as you would expect; not as good as a new game! But they aren't bad, not by a long way. Infact you don't notice that they're that bad, they're on par with some of the early Playstation offerings. The sound is just your average engine noises, but to be honest you aren't playing this game because of sound or graphics, you play it because it's so damned realistic. <
br>I could go on all day about how realistic this game is, but I better not because it would make this review excessively long. A few examples though..... * In a race meeting you have sets of tyres allocated to the race, if you use these during qualifying/practise then you will have to race on worn tyres. * Ever played a racing game which uses a clutch? This one does! * Taking a spin in the gravel trap makes your tyres dirty, and you can tell they give you less grip for a little while afterwards. * You also have full access to telemetry from the car, which you can compare with other laps to see how to improve your time. This really is the full F1 experience!! Of course, with such a realistic physics model, controlling your car can be hard. To this end, there are several driving aids that you can use to help you on your way. These include steering and braking help, traction control, automatic gears, spin recovery and an indestructible car. As you progress through the skill levels control becomes more realistic and the help available to you reduces. It's easy to think that you want to play a fully realistic game and turn all the options off, but I have played the game a lot and I can honestly say that I struggle to make it past the first corner most of the time with all the help turned off. Using an analogue controller (ie. a joystick) helps, but it is also best to use digital acceleration/braking. Using digital controls to accelerate results in a plume of tyre smoke and spinning back wheels, unless you turn traction control on. Luckily I don't feel too bad now that it is used in the real cars! It can be daunting to control the car in the race. Like the real thing, one mistake can end your race. Take too much rumble strip and you could launch your car in to a wall, contact is often very damaging and just trying to get round the track at the pace of the other cars is not all that easy.
IF you want the ultimate in F1 experiences, then play on the hardest skill level with no driving aids turned on, and struggle to complete a lap. From a standing start you'll have oodles of wheel-spin (but be thankful you can't stall the cars!), going round turns you must be spot on not to spin or hit the curb, accelerating out of the corner you can't be too early on the power or you'll end up pointing the wrong way. The game really does give you a good indication of just how powerful these machines are. And delicate too! The game implements a full damage model, although to be honest most damage results in you being out the race. A broken wing can be fixed, but by the time you make it to the pit lane and get it changed, your race is over. This makes the game very frustrating. One mistake and it's race over. 50% of the races end up with a first corner incident leaving you out of the race, and yes, I know it's probably me being a bad driver, but I can do all the other games. Despite this it's still a great game, and still one of the best F1 Simulations available - it's dirt cheap too!