Grand Prix II
No Longer Do Our Lives Seem So vacuous and dull, dull, dull. And the reason? Well, it's all thanks to Geoff - he's finally pulled his finger out and put an end to all of our misery by finishing Formula One Grand Prix 2, the follow-up to one of the finest and best-selling pieces of software in the history of the PC. You won't have to rely on driving high octane American imitations around oval circuits for your racing relief any more, this is without doubt motor sport at its very finest -twisting chicanes, blinding straights, high speed corners, pit stops and all the excitement of a full race weekend.
A Grand Prix two-day event must rate as one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a lazy summer's day. It's a truly grand occasion: 90,000-plus crowds, the deafening roar of the f1 engines and of course the constant buzz of helicopters continuously dropping off celebs in the centre paddock. And let's not forget the culinary burger delights of Mrs Miggins Stale Buns Ltd. or the mad butcher from Yorkshire with a bit of a preference for stray dogs who stuffs in all the dodgy fillings (chubby, sweaty hands are a prerequisite of employment, by the way).
Anyway, I digress. Yes, it's finally here, probably the most long-awaited game in living memory (well, apart from that one beginning with you know the one I mean, the follow-up to Doom. The name escapes me for the moment). This is it as far as I'm concerned, the pc was made for titles like this. You can keep all your fmv crap, despite the fact that there seems to be such a bloody endless stream of it. Geoff and his small team of co-workers have proved once again that knowing exactly how a game should play as well as the roll call of essential gaming ingredients are all you need to create a modern day masterpiece.
The first thing that hits you straight between the eyes is the presentation of the menu screens and sub-menus that lead to the multitude of pre-race options and set-up screens. This is a glorious front end; every screen is beautifully laid out over some of the best f1 action shots from the last couple of seasons.
After spending only a couple of minutes looking at all the pre-game options, it becomes obvious just how damn easy it would be to spend ages and ages happily playing around with the set-up screens and moulding the feel of the game to suit your own personal style.
Setting up the car is obviously one of the most important aspects and there are a number of sub-screens that you can enter, depending on your technical knowledge and patience. Of course you can always just have everything on automatic so the front and rear down force is predefined, as well as the brake balancing and camber adjustments; this allows you to just get on with the racing while leaving the techie stuff to Geoff s pre-programmed groundwork. If you've made changes to the chassis and wing adjustments, you can test them during practice sessions; any faults or problems with the car you might come across can be changed in the pit lane garage.
As well as all of the car and engine tinkering, there's the in-cockpit features to adjust the gameplay (which players of the original game will find familiar). You can amend these options during the actual racing periods easily enough by tapping the function keys to toggle the driver aids on or off. The full range includes: auto brakes, steering, gear changes, as well as the facility to switch the racing line for girlie no-nobs and everything off for blokes - yes folks, the choice is all yours.
Let's get physical
Whether you're on the circuit or setting up the cars in the pit lane garages, the one thing that stands out above all the other features is the pure attention to detail - it really is more than evident that Geoff has gone to painstaking lengths to make sure that every aspect of the game is 100 per cent perfect.
Way back in the very early days of the game's development, were kept up to date with Geoff s numerous trips abroad visiting race meets world-wide, where he'd walk around all the circuits recording reams of film with his trusty little camcorder - with such thorough preparation and knowing his thirst to capture 'the whole picture' we knew that we'd be in for a real treat. Indeed, he recorded every possible aspect of the various world circuits, including the differing colours of the tarmac - that may sound just a little bit excessive, but Geoff felt it necessary to note the wall and floor textures and the exact physical representations of every corner and bump in the road surface.
The physics of the F1GP2 game engine are just outstanding. Geoff could have plumped for the much easier option of just plonking new textures and models on to the old engine, but . that just wouldn't do. would it?
But not only is F1GP2 as close as you're likely to get to the real thing (without being battered about the head and neck by incredible forces of the 'G' variety), the addition of the official fia license just further enhances the realism. Every detail is correct down to the smallest of pixels, the physical models, the sounds and the structures of every circuit based on the 1994 season, the outside views of the cars and drivers, the heads of the drivers bobbing and shaking violently on the tight corners, the car's bloody uncontrollable rear end after a shunt if you end up in the gravel traps. The real-time light sourcing of all the objects is incredibly subtle, yet very effective. It certainly gets your adrenaline rushing - the light gleams off the car monocoques and the drivers' helmets, and you can't help but feel that you really are going to lose your momentum by trimming those kerbs a little too much.
Naturally the shunts and accidents are accurately represented throughout the race season and there's an option to have the drivers perform in a similar way to their actual performances in the 1994 season, or they can be random. Yet more options, I think I'm going to start screaming! If you're feeling excitable, indulge yourself in the pit stop strategies and tyre selection throughout the race weekend' - but regardless of the amount of techie stuff you decide to get stuck into, the atmosphere generated by all these features is simply unbeatable.
Oh no, it's all over!
It has to be said that nearing the end of this review I was incredibly hard-pushed to fault this game in any way, shape or form. It's clear that if you're not a fan of racing titles then you're simply not going to be interested, but for the rest of us this is the driving game, bar none, and I can safely say that it will remain so for some time. But be warned, it isn't easy: one mistake on the corners, even with the driver aids switched on, and the car will become uncontrollable -don't forget that you're dealing with a simulated version of a highly tuned multi-million pound piece of racing engineering, not a go-kart.
However, to have all the options and textures in their full glory it's a case of Pentium-only I'm afraid, but if you chop some of the backgrounds down you'll have a decent running speed. Having said that, F1GP2 is nonetheless one of the best-looking games I've ever seen, even in low-res. It looks outstanding and from a distance using the outside camera views it's like watching BBC2 on a Sunday. The hi-res mode is pure eye candy, but requires something of a ninja pc to get a decent frame rate.
Looking ahead I can see my social life disappearing and my conversations in the pub leaning towards brum-brums and pit stop strategies. But I don't really feel as though I've finished this review; I've had to leave so much out, simply because there's so much involved and so many options and sub-options and sub-sub options to fiddle with. F1GP2 is already a main contender for Game of the Year and one of the finest pieces of software I've ever had the pleasure to review. F1GP3 anyone?
Download Grand Prix II
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode