Grand Prix 3
You get the feeling that even though the game is months away from release, Geoff Crammond's third F1 sim, Grand Prix 3, has won the race before it has even begun.
Winning game of the show at ECTS last month, the game drew a sizeable crowd throughout the three days. Some who saw it were nonplussed, commenting: "It's just another Formula 1 game." Others retorted: "But it's Geoff Crammond's F1 game!" It was obvious to all, however, that the game looked good.
Most important in a racing game, of course, is the feel of the cars - how well they react to keyboard prods and joystick pulls. F1 GP3, compared to the best F1 sim currently available (Monaco Grand Prix 2, probably), feels like it's almost there. Apart from the odd crash (due to bugs, not driver error), the cars moved fluidly, jostled for position and generally took textbook routes around the tracks. The physics was spot-on. All this was in an automatic rookie car. For the hardcore player, we can expect a total of five levels of difficulty, eight driving aids and your usual clutch of racing modes, from Quick Race to a full-on Championship Season.
All this would be lost, of course, were it not for the official tag from FOA. All the teams, drivers, tracks and sponsors from the 1998 season will be in the game, all looking as realistic as your 3D card will allow. And if you're unfortunate enough to be stuck in the pre-3Dfx era, the game still looks stunning. All these shots are from the software version.
Every so often, a game comes along that is so far ahead of the competition that it effectively defines a genre. Think first person shooters and you think Half-Life. Mention football management and you're talking Championship Manager. As for Formula One games, despite numerous imitators, for the purist there can be only one. On the PC, die Grand Prix series is Formula One, a fact that is down to the inspiration and dedication of one man.
To the uninitiated, Geoff Crammond may be no more than another burger-munching, baggy-arsed computer programmer (albeit a very rich one), but to those in the know he is nothing less than an industry guru, revered by many as a gaming God.
It is Crammond's obsessive attention to detail that has made his games benchmark titles, and he leaves no stone unturned in the quest for realism. He'll happily film and photograph every inch of a track to ensure authenticity, replicating everything from the camber of a bend to the shadows in a tunnel. He's the man who put the 'a' in anal. This emphatic attention to detail isn't without its drawbacks, though, and for a game that is scheduled for a summer 2000 release, Grand Prix 3 will recreate the 1998 season, replete with all the relevant teams, drivers and circuits. It's the nature of the beast that Formula One games are usually a season behind, due to drivers changing teams like some people change their toothbrush, not to mention new tracks constantly being added. It would be churlish to suggest that they could simply drop in the new data a week before the game goes on sale, much like football management games do with last minute transfers and, in fairness, recreating a Grand Prix circuit is probably slightly more involved.
Still, to continue the football metaphor further, it's the equivalent of someone releasing a World Cup game during the forthcoming Euro 2000. The 1998 season it is, though, and if nothing else, it'll give Damon Hill something to complain about on a Sunday afternoon.
You Really Got Me Going
The face of PC gaming has changed irrevocably since the last Grand Prix title, and the third instalment will be launched into a world rife with powerful 3D accelerator cards. Every screenshot shown here is from the software version, and the minimum spec they are aiming for is a PII 266. As for the accelerated version, shots are being kept firmly under wraps, as indeed are images in general, with these same eight grabs doing the rounds ad infinitum.
But it's what it loqks like when it's moving diat really counts, and we've seen it with our own eyes during the despairathon that is ECTS. Voted Game Of The Show, the two mock-up cars were rarely empty throughout the three days, with grown men emerging from the cockpits almost in tears, a few laps of Monaco enough to bring the memories flooding back, and this the best part of a year before the game's eventual release.
When it finally turns up in a box, GP3 will come replete with an exhaustive set of features that will keep FI fans glued to their PCs for months. Although clearly aimed at the enthusiast, the man in a hurry will be amply catered for by the quick race option, with an overhauled menu system making it even easier to get started.
It might look easy on the telly, but the massive power to weight ratio of a Formula One car makes it near impossible to drive, let alone race. Thankfully, Grand Prix 3 will accommodate cack-handed buffoons, and as well as five levels of difficulty, there will be no less than eight optional driving aids to ease the player into the experience, namely: auto brakes, auto gears, self-correcting spin, indestructible, ideal line, suggested gear, throttle help and steering help. If you ask nicely, it might even wipe your arse for you.
How Deep Is Your Glove?
The depth of the game is also fully adjustable, and when setting up the car for each track, you can utilise authentically represented car-to-pit telemetry information. This includes data on; speed, steering demand, RPM, throttle, brake, gear use, ride height, suspension travel and wheel spin for each wheel, plus longitudinal and lateral acceleration. The standard car set-up options include front and rear wings, brake balance and gear ratios, with advanced procedures going as far as adjustments to springs, ride height, dampers and anti-roll bars. For those who struggle to change a light bulb, there is a full reference guide available. It'll even tell you how to change a tyre, and the choice of'shoes' is crucial because, for the first time, weather plays a part - whether it's pissing down with rain in Belgium, or pissing down with rain at Silverstone (as usual).
To many, Formula One is a baffling sport watched by bearded men in silk Benetton jackets and Reactolite Rapide glasses. It might be little more than a procession of 200 mile-an-hour cigarette packets bogged down by incomprehensible technical regulations, but to millions of fans, Formula One is a passion. Geoff Crammond's passion is no less than an obsession, and working virtually alone, Grand Prix 3 is clearly a labour of love. It's not as if he needs the money, after all.
The data might be two years out of date, but that's the price you pay for genius. With Crammond in charge, there's absolutely no doubt that Grand Prix 3 will be a stunning game, setting the FI benchmark for years to come. You could almost say we're looking forward to it.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
Grand Prix 3 Screenshots
- 4x4 Evolution
- Boss Rally
- Colin McRae Rally
- Colin Mcrae Rally 2.0
- F1 Live Information
- F1 2000
- Formula 1
- Formula One
- Mobil 1 Rally Championship
- Official Formula One Racing
- Rally Championship '99
- Rally Championship Xtreme
- Test Drive 6