a game by Papyrus Design Group, Inc.
Blur may recently have taken on lovable mop-heads Oasis (and lost as far as everyone but Blur is concerned), but in the world of pc racing car sims there's a fight that's been going on for considerably longer, and the outcome has yet to be decided. It's been the Yank programming team Papyrus versus our own home-grown Geoff Crammond in a contest that's lasted, on and off, for about five years. Maybe even six. I forget the exact dates.
If you're an old hand you'll know the story, so skip on a few paragraphs... but if you're a relative newcomer to the pc world, here's a quick history lesson.
A million years BC
Once upon a time, long ago in a world where everything was made of wood, and a top-notch pc was a 286/12MHZ job (really!). Papyrus dropped everybody's jaws with a racing car simulation called Indianapolis 500. There was only the one track, sure, but who cared, seeing as how you were able to drive around it the wrong way and smash head-on into oncoming traffic. Oh, and then watch the pile-up on a replay, and from several different angles to boot. Suddenly Outrun, Powerdrift, Chase HQ and their bitmapped ilk began to look more than a little tame. "Indy 500 is amazing." said Mrs Dorothy Postlethwaite of Hull, in a letter to the Daily Mail. "You can even change your car set-ups and everything. The future has arrived at last!"
The Industrial Revolution
And the future was continuing to arrive apace over on the 16-bit formats of the Amiga and ST, thanks partly to a busy bloke called Geoff Crammond. Stunt Car Racer was just one of his games, a formidable futuristic car romp that somehow got completely ballsed up when it was converted to the pc. (So score one to Papyrus.) But then, a year later, the ubiquitous Crammond pulled a rather large feather out of his bottom in the form of a fully-fledged Formula One Grand Prix simulation. Not just one track, but 16. And. unlike Indy 500, they weren't ovals, no, they were 'proper'; 16-bit owners swooned akimbo, and then kaboom! Grand Prix was converted flawlessly to the pc. There was even a tincey wincey bit of texture-mapping added for powerful 386s. Mrs Dorothy Posthlewaite of Hull wrote again to the Daily Mail: "Pinch me and tell me it's not a dream," she said. "Now I know how to take Monaco's Mirabeau corner flat out in third."
The race into space
Grand Prix was to reign supreme for quite a time yet - it even received accolades from real Formula One drivers for its accuracy and attention to detail. But Papyrus, meanwhile, was plotting and scheming in a darkened shed somewhere in the States. "We're going to kick this Crammond geezer's arse from San Francisco to Dubuque. Iowa," they said. (Or something like that.) Cue IndyCar. An all-singing, alldancing rehash of their previous hit. Eight tracks (mostly ovals) and texture mapped graphics to die for... indeed there was an entry in the Daily Mail's obituary column that month which read thus: Mrs Dorothy Posthlewaite of Hull passed painlessly away in the early houwof yesterday morning. Her dying words were: "IndyCar is more than impressive. The driving model in Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix, by comparison, now seems a tad iffy. The centre of gravity's all wrong, and the crashes are all sort of, well, fluffy and inconsequential. A bit like clouds. Like clouds. Gouds. Oh look, there's an angel. And there's baby Jesus, And Noel Edmunds, Raaaasssp.
Question Time with Jonathan Dimbleby
Mrs Postlethwaite's death was about three years ago... ish. Since then the debate has continued: who's the tops? (Crammond with his playability or Papyrus with its physics models and graphics?) And, also since then. Papyrus has released two upgrades for IndyCar (ie the tracks that should have been supplied with the original product). Oh, and the company's also released NASCAR Racing, but let's not confuse the issue.
So, a quick resume then. Indianapolis 500 comes out. Grand Prix shits on it. IndyCar tries in turn to shit on Grand Prix. but ends up only giving it a punch in the mouth. Next step? The boy Crammond has to counter with a Thai Boxing manoeuvre, of course, and we're thus promised Grand Prix 2 at the end of 1993- Then again at the beginning of 1994. Then at the end of 1994- It's now the end of 1995. and Grand Prix 2 promises that it's really, really, honest guv. almost, almost ready.
But IndyCar 2 has made it first. So will Crammond and his team be left reeling with the blow? And should they abandon F1GP2, even though it's (honest guv) ready to ship? Let's see.
Blimey, It's the same game...
I don't know quite what I was expecting actually, but I know for sure that I was expecting, er. more than this. Take my word for it that your initial response to IndyCar 2 will match mine. It looks virtually identical to the original IndyCar. Obviously the tracks are going to be the same shape and everything, because, um, they're the same tracks. Ditto for the cars. But nevertheless... you know what I mean? Maybe distant airliners flying overhead occasionally. Or flocks of birds. Or moving clouds and 'working' weather fronts or something. Yes. I'll admit that there are extra trackside details, such as parked camper vans and whatnot. And. as Jeremy reported in last month's Blueprint, there are other subtle graphic improvements, like to the crash barriers. The thing is that you don't really notice until you crash into them, and if you're as skilled as me, you won't. (Joke.) The pallette's a bit different though (if my memory serves), and the grass and trees and stuff look much nicer as a result. Deeper, fuller, somehow. In fact the Elkhart Lake track is now so picturesque it tends to make you want to pull over and have a picnic on it. Oh. and just a quick note on the sound: the SFX in IndyCar 2 are much bigger and cleverer than those in its predecessor, and there's also a commentator on hand to tell you when you've crashed or been black flagged or whatever.
What's the damage, mate?
The driving model, which was always one of the main selling points of the original IndyCar, has actually been improved, which means that if you're hopeless you can expect to crash more often than ever before: a point that'll be driven home by all the 'comey off bits on your car. In the original game your car would either be in full health or. after a shunt, completely buggered. In IndyCar 2 it can also be in a state known as 'slightly buggered'. You might lose a nose-cone for instance. Or damage a front or rear wing. Or screw up a wheel. All these things, obviously, affect handling to a greater or lesser extent, and beg the question 'Should I pit yet?'. (The jostling at the first few corners of a race, thanks to this possible pico-damage, has never been so much fun/such a nightmare... delete as applicable). Oh, and as well as that, there's a realism option that allows you to select Engine Breakdowns: a semi-random type affair that'll please the sort of people who select the Dud Torpedoes option in submarine games.
A question of intelligence
Something else Jeremy reported in last month's Blueprint was the fact that the ai has been upped, and happily it's true - Papyrus wasn't telling him porkies. The cars in front do seem to 'make themselves wider' in an attempt to foil your overtaking lunges, but luckily also seem to try harder not to touch wheels when you're right beside them. They still don't pass the 'park sideways in the middle of the road' exam, though. (You end up with a line of stationary thickies to your left or right.)
Something that hasn't been changed, and that frankly surprises me. is that the computer-controlled cars still don't crash into each other, like never ever. Or even just spin off occasionally. They did in F1GP, which was one of the things that made it so enjoyable - there you were, trying in vain to catch the seemingly uncatchable car in front, and he'd suddenly do a Damon. No such pleasant surprises with Papyrus. Mind you. something it has stuck in is the ability to change all the drivers' names, so you can finally get rid of Al Unser Jr and replace him with, say. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, or Gary Glitter. Oh. and something else... you know how in IndyCar I when you opted for no pace lap, the standing start was unfaif? That's been sorted: still no red/green lights though.
And the rest...
Select 'rain' from the options, and the track becomes slippy - but still no visual clues whatsoever. Boo! And no spray. Boo! However, this IndyCar version does come with all the season's tracks, so hooray for that at least. And it also comes with the Paint Kit, so you can customise the cars by writing rude words on them and so on. (Child - Ed.) There's a DOS version and a Windows 95 version, and though the Windows 95 version has a newly designed interface, the in-game gubbins are exactly the same as with dos (though, purportedly, it runs a tad faster). So what about multi-player racing? Well, if your translation of'multi' is 'two', and you've a couple of pcs and a serial cable, you'll be laughing your blinking head off, And svga? Hmmm. a bit of a slideshow at times, even if your computer's cpu title begins with a and has a high number after it. Lose detail and you'll struggle by, just - but having said that, it's much quicker than NASCAR, even with the out-of-car views. And that's about it, really. IndyCar 2 is an ever-so-slightly souped up IndyCar 1.
But the question we were always going to arrive at is this: Crammond or Papyrus? Do you hold out for F1GP2 or plump for IndyCar 2? And there's a supplementary question: if you've already got IndyCar 1 (and a pound to a penny says you do), is this sequel sufficiently 'enhanced' to warrant its purchase... regardless of Crammond and his team's existence?
2018-11-02 IndyCar 2 game added.