Formula 1 Grand Prix



Title		Formula 1 Grand Prix
Game Type	Driving
Players		Variable
Compatibility	All (040/060 require VBR fix)
Submission	chris@tornado.pair.com

Review
Imagine mounting a camera on the helmet of a racing driver and
filming him driving round sixteen race tracks. Now imagine being able
to take over and control the car at any time. F1GP allows you to have
a drivers eye view of virtually all aspects of a race, from initial
practice, through qualification and into the race proper. You have
the ability to alter your car setup, changing the tyre compounds,
gear ratios, brake balance and wing settings.

The first thing to do is to replace the default drivers and teams
with the real drivers/teams, since for some odd reason the default
data is entirely fictional. However, for those of you without an
encyclopedic knowledge of drivers and teams, a full list of the 1991
drivers/teams is provided, and it is simply a matter of typing in the
data yourself. Once this is out of the way, you can select which
driver you would like to be, and go out and burn some rubber.

There are five difficulty levels, with the computer controlled cars
becoming progressively faster as the level increases. There are also
five driver aids, which are made unselectable as you increase the
difficulty.

Level 1 - Auto Brakes.

This aid will trigger the brakes in order to bring the car to the
correct speed for corners. Thus all you have to do is keep the
throttle wide open and steer.


Level 2 - Auto Gears.

The computer will change into the correct gear for a given part of
the circuit. It will not, however, change down in the event of a
crash or spin, leaving you to change down before driving on.


Level 3 - Self Correcting Spin.

Using this will not prevent a spin, but will make sure that the car
is pointing in the right direction after a spin, so that you do not
have to turn the car manually.


Level 4 - Indestructible Mode.

Yes, you read that correctly. Your Williams/Ferrari or whatever is
now more robust than a main battle tank. You can now drive off,
crashing into anything or anyone you like without worrying about bits
falling off the car, which is more than can be said for Jordan
drivers...


Level 5 - Ideal Line.

This mode paints a white dotted line on the track to show what the
game thinks is the best line to take. Bearing in mind that the
program was developed with the help of the Footwork team, the advice
is probably pretty accurate.


There is a sixth aid which is also available, Suggested Gear, which
displays the gear you should probably be in at any point in the race,
assuming you aren't in any sort of trouble.


So, if you are racing at difficulty level 3, you will not be able to
select auto brakes or auto gears.


Once you have selected a difficulty level and driver identity, it is
time to go racing. There are three options. The first is to practice
on any circuit without any other cars being present. This is probably
the best mode to begin in, since it allows you to get the hang of the
controls, and once basic control is established, then allows for as
much altering of the car setup as you like, as well as getting used
to the circuit layout.

After practising, you'll probably head for the single race option,
which sets you up with a full race scenario, but which is totally
independent of any race season you may be running (see below). This
option allows you to race against the other 25 cars and it provides a
useful introduction to such important aspects as qualifying, grid
starts, overtaking etc., none of which can be practised in the
practice option.

The final option is to begin a full 16 race championship season. This
is the ultimate option, since you must race on every circuit, not
just the ones you happen to like. Points are awarded as in the real
sport, and a running tally is made of all driver points and finishing
positions. Championships can be saved to disk for continuation at any
time, and it is possible to run multiple seasons simply by having
multiple season data files.

One final "difficulty" option I should mention is the race length
option. You have the ability to select any race length from 10% to
100% of the real distance, so if you just want a quick race, you
could go for a 10% race, which on most tracks would be about 6-7
laps. A point to note though is that race lap records will only be
recognised when set in a 100% length race, although qualifying lap
records will be recognised regardless of the length of race qualified
for.

An interesting point is that you may skip any of the pre-race
options, such as the two practice sessions and even the qualifying
session. If you skip qualifying you are placed in 26th place, which
is not exactly realistic, but at least you can jump straight into a
race, even if it means starting at the back of the grid.

Control of the car is handled by either a digital or analogue
joystick, or the keyboard. Personally I prefer the keyboard since
changing gears is a bit difficult to achieve smoothly on a stick.
Changing up requires the stick to be pressed forward and the fire
button hit, changing down requires the joystick to be centred and the
fire button hit. If your stick has a long throw between centre and
forward/back, the time taken to move the stick to the required
position for gear changing can be critical. At least with the
keyboard you can change up or down very quickly. I also think that
the analogue stick code does not decode the stick position entirely
correctly. Even though there is a stick calibrate option, once
calibrated the motion of the car, especially steering, does not feel
right. Note that the key controls are non definable, but the preset
keys are not too bad at all.

The game screens are all in NTSC resolution, and anyone with the
necessary hardware to run in NTSC mode should do so, since the game
looks much better when filling the entire screen. For multisync
users, the menu screens are promotable but the 3D display is not, so
you will still need a 15KHz display to play the game. Note that the
menu screens are system friendly and can be flipped with the Amiga-N
and Amiga-M commands, and if you have Workbench 3, they can also be
dragged around with the mouse if you have Screen Drag enabled in
IControl.

Whilst the menu screens are displayed the game multitasks, although
it seems to do a busy wait, since Workbench is far too sluggish for
the program to be multitasking perfectly. Having said that, this
entire review was written with F1GP sitting in the background, which
makes review writing so much easier being able to flick between
review text and reviewed program without having to reload the
programs all the time. All I'm saying is that you probably should
stop any graphics rendering or MPEG encoding before running F1GP
(unless you have a very accelerated machine).

If you are running on a slow machine, like a 7MHz 68000, you'd
probably want to reduce the graphics detail. There are three settings
which progressively remove background detail without affecting the
track detail. Unfortunately, on the Monaco circuit, reducing the
detail means removing the tunnel roof, which looks really sad,
especially when the tunnel is possibly the most famous single section
of any circuit (and certainly the most inspiring section to drive
towards).

The graphics themselves are rather good considering the age of the
game. Although there is no texture mapping, bitmapped graphics are
used to good effect on things like the trackside marshals and corner
countdown markers. The polygons are used well, with the cars looking
quite detailed, and they don't turn into undefined blobs as they
recede into the distance either. If you have the processing power to
run in full detail, the trackside detail is rather well done too,
with grandstands, camera positions, trees and bushes and background
buildings, especially on the street circuits like Monaco. (I like the
Monaco circuit :-)

The manual states that the circuits were modelled partly by examining
in-car video footage from races, and it shows. If your TV stations
show Formula One races, you should try racing the circuit in F1GP
before you see it on TV, and compare the in-car footage from the TV.
It is quite pleasing to be able to know almost instantly where the
real car is on the circuit simply by looking at the circuit ahead and
the trackside objects.

There is no simultaneous multi-player mode, i.e. no split screen or
serial link up. However, there is an interesting option whereby as
many drivers as you like can be marked as being human controlled.
During practice and qualifying each human driver is given their own
sessions. During the race however, each human driver is allotted x
laps, where x is the total number of laps divided by the number of
human drivers. Thus in a 50 lap race, with two human drivers, the
first driver will drive for the first 25 laps, then the second driver
will take over for the last 25 laps. When a human designated car is
not being controlled by the human, the computer takes it over.

This is somewhat of an odd mode of play, since only one human can
take part in the start of the race, which is generally the critical
part. Then just as the first player is getting settled into the race,
the computer announces that the next player is to take over, meaning
not only does one driver have to leave the game, but the incoming
driver is dropped into their car in the middle of the race. I don't
think Schuey or co. would put up with it... Basically, I'd avoid the
multi-player option at all costs, unless you want fights when its
time to change over drivers.

Note that all the game data refers to the 1991 season. Thus not only
are some circuits in the game no longer used in real life, but of
those that are, most have now been altered in some way.

And now, to round off this section of the review, a list of the
circuits provided in the game:

USA        - Phoenix
Brazil     - Interlagos
San Marino - Imola
Monaco     - Monte Carlo
Canada     - Montreal
Mexico     - Mexico City
France     - Magny Cours
Britain    - Silverstone
Germany    - Hockenheim
Hungary    - Hungaroring
Belgium    - Spa Francorchamps
Italy      - Monza
Portugal   - Estoril
Spain      - Barcelona
Japan      - Suzuka
Australia  - Adelaide


Comparisons to other driving sims...

The only other circuit driving simulator I have used on the Amiga is
Indianapolis 500. Whereas Indy 500 is faster and does simulate more
mechanical aspects of the car (like fuel loads etc.), it is just a
one circuit simulator. F1GP offers the ability to race on sixteen
circuits, all of them different.

F1GP is more of a playable simulation, whereas Indy 500 is more of a
realistic simulation, but is consequently not quite so enjoyable
unless you are very interested in racing.


To conclude...

A most excellent and playable simulation that does not require a well
equipped Amiga to run.  Even in it`s original form it`ll provide many
many hours of gaming enjoyment.  But with the addition of Oliver
Roberts` superb F1GP Editor utility, it gains another lease of life
(as well as having some compatibility problems sorted out), and if
anyone is still playing F1GP without also using (and having
registered!) the editor, then you need your head examined...




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