IndyCar Racing II
Papyrus is enjoying something of an enviable reputation for producing the best racing Sims on the PC - not bad at all for a company that's responsible for just three pc products to date. Indianapolis 500, the original IndyCar Racing and NASCAR were all greeted with a bombardment of superlatives when they were released, and within just a very short time, Papyrus' flagship product IndyCar established itself as the racing sim to beat (ahem).
NASCAR again set the standard, but was notoriously processor-hungry, especially in svga mode which required you to switch off just about everything but your machine to get it past chuggs-ville - even on a high-end Pentium. And then there were all those jokes about driving around in circles all the time. Not exactly much in the way of variety. but plenty to be getting on with in the way of car set-up while the'arcade kind of extenor views were a nice addition for those who just liked to drive around the track the wrong way and cause massive pile-ups.
I always preferred IndyCar myself. A kid called Johnny Herbert used to live just down the road from me when I was but knee-high to a Raleigh Chopper bike; I'd like to say I could fondly recall long hot summer days pinching wood from building sites and making go-karts with young Johnny, but I can't so I won't. And I know F1 isn't IndyCar. but it's closer than NASCAR. And a lot faster.
The all new IndyCar...
So what's new? Well, this time round there's an svga mode, and hoorah for those who don't own a P133 (which, incidentally, still couldn't cope with NASCAR with all the detail turned on in hi-res mode) - the frame rate has been bumped up by over 70 per cent so it runs quite acceptably in hi-res with most of the detail on high (who needs asphalt anyway?) on a P75. In vga mode it's speed-city with all the juicy scenery glowering in the American sunlight. Speaking of which, there are now new billboards, campers, buildings and 'objects'. The producer tells me the artists have spent ages getting the textures to the crash barriers just right, so when you're flying towards them at 20omph you can really appreciate what it actually looks like to go head-on with a real piece of bendy metal.
They've also spent ages re-doing the tracks and making them even more detailed and. unlike before, the game comes complete with all 15 of 'em, so no more tacky track-pack rip-offs. They've even thrown in the paint kit too. Generous to a fault is Papyrus.
Handle with care
Of course, what the real fans of the original will be wanting to know is what's been done to make it more realistic. IndyCar was always meant to be a simulation rather than a jaunty arcade-style racer, and as a result you were severely punished if you even thought about attempting any Ridge Racer-style manoeuvres in your delicately responsive missile on wheels. IndyCar was designed to handle like a real IndyCar and that's why it was tops.
Tug too much on the wheel and the car wouldn't just spin into the barrier and miraculously right itself in a nanosecond, it would spin and spin, and then spin some more and then eventually come to a halt against one of the crash barriers, looking very much worse for wear. Crashes were always spectacular, and a definite high point of the game - even if the only bit that flew off your car into the crowd was the odd wheel, it was still rather impressive. Well, now it's even more impressive. Just try turning your little baby round and going back round the track a la Duncan MacDonald and you'll not only see wheels flying through the air, but nose cones, spoilers and back axles when you pile into the oncoming pack. What's more, cars will not only fall to bits, but they'll featured crumpled bits and dents too. Papyrus has even added a random engine blow-up option to keep Ferrari fans happy. How thoughtful.
Of course the cars handle more realistically too. The development team has spent aeons making it even more true to life and assures me that it's the closest possible thing to the real thing. I'm inclined to believe them because they seemed to know just about everything there is to know about car set-ups and enjoyed re-telling a number of in IndyCar jokes while they were talking me through the improved game: "...Yeah, and Brian, well he had his car set up like, like he was totally screwed (man!) - and he thought he was gonna whip my arse no problem. You shoulda seen his face when I took him on the 27th lap. It was beautiful (man!) - hahahahah! I told him to switch compounds for... etc, etc." And as I think they're on a pretty safe bet (like how many people have sat in a real IndyCar, let alone driven one?), I decided to go with the flow and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Well, the sound's been beefed up a bit, including the 'arcade' style out of car views, and it's all been updated as far as sponsors, billboards and (of course) drivers and cars are concerned. Oh yes, and there are going to be different versions for dos, Windows 95 and PowerMac. The Windows 95 version (apart from being a bit quicker than the dos one) will sport slightly different menu systems (the dos version will look and operate pretty much the same as the original in an attempt to maintain some consistency), and both will support head-to-head racing. Multi-player network racing will not be supported yet, but might be in the future. Papyrus already operates its own 37-way dial-in network in the States (which has proved extremely popular so far) and it's not keen to hand over the opportunity of setting up a similar system over here to a rival: it wants to do it itself - properly.
The other significant area to have been improved is the A1 (Artificial Intelligence) of the computer driven cars. They now behave much more realistically and act as if they've been away on a defensive driving course. You'll still be able to switch the number of cars and their capability down, but when you're racing full-on, expect a much rougher ride than before. Of course, by the time IndyCar 2 is released, Geoff Crammond's F1GP2 will no doubt be at the top of the gaming charts, so Papyrus is well aware that it's going to have to produce something pretty special to beat it.
I'll give the last word to game designer Adam Levesque: "I enjoyed playing the original F1GP and I've seen what he (Geoff Crammond) is doing, and I've gotta say I'm impressed. But I'm also impressed with what the guys back at Papyrus are doing too. Obviously I'm biased and you can't expect me to be totally objective here, but I think it's gonna be a close thing. It's good that we've got something to aim for. At the end of the day it means you (the gamer) will get two incredibly brilliant - but different -racing sims. You pays your money and you takes your choice."
Download IndyCar Racing II
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode