Grand Prix II
Review by Al Giovetti, 09/29/96
Genre: formula 1 race driving simulator
Producer: Stephen Hand
Art: Andy Cook
Music: John Broomhall and Andy Parton
Programmer: Geoff Crammond
Game Design: Geoff Crammond
Publisher: Microprose (Rob Davies)
Requirements: 486 DX, 100 MHz, 2X CD ROM drive, Color VGA-SVGA graphics card, DOS 5.0 or Windows 95, 8 MB RAM (Windows 95 requires 16 MB RAM), 15 MB free hard drive space, Microsoft compatible mouse, joystick, 100% SoundBlaster compatible sound card, wheel, pedals. (The Thrustmaster Formula T2 is highly recommended http://www.thrustmaster.com)
Company line: Racing enthusiasts can now join a real FIA Formula One team and race some of the most challenging courses on the planet. Licensed by FIA Formula One, Grand Prix II will put players in the driver's seat as they practice, challenge for the pole, and go head-to-head with actual Formula One drivers on tracks in Monaco, Brazil, France, and beyond.
Grand Prix II provides the ultimate in realism, with every aspect of the Formula One circuit re-created with incredible accuracy and detail. In addition to the actual courses that make up the Grand Prix circuit, the game includes full pitching and rolling, spectacular crashes, engine blowups and richly detailed 3-D effects. As drivers race through tight curves and fly down straight-aways, they will even see the same sponsors they would encounter at a real track.
Summary: A game for the purists. With Papyrus’ experience in this area expect a real Formula 1 racing winner. New features include curbs, sand traps, smoke, blow apart scenery and cars. Runs in both SVGA and VGA.
New: The teams complete with team car colors and uniforms, drivers and sponsors shown on the cars are the same as in the real sport. The game engine is a new three dimensional (3D) engine that has all six degrees of freedom allowing cars to go airborne when they bump other cars or course obstacles. A VCR will allow you to replay race circuits from all available camera views.
You can plan the full race strategy before the race. The new cockpits are really neat in graphic design and functions. Eight systems can optionally fail during the race leading to race disasters if mistakes are made. The sound is improved and more realistic. Now you can adjust suspension settings and monitor plank wear. There are also new custom control settings and performance graphs to help with custom set-ups.
Also new is the elimination of all the annoying micromanagement features in the original game. You no longer have to set up sponsors, worry about a budget, or any other administrative tasks. You are now free to race.
Plot: You take the role of a formula one driver (say Hill or Schumacher) or that you pick a team from the 1994 Constructors’ Championship teams due to the license with FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile and Fuji television. The nice thing about the FIA license is that it allows the game player to play with real teams, drivers, cars, engines, and tracks from the 1994 season. Next you must pick the driver from the 48 drivers slated to run in 1994, including the 33 drivers who actually ran. Whatever happened to the 1995 and 1996 seasons?
Statistics and graphs can be studied at the end of every race, practice, or car set-up. In the championship or non-championship race, the goal is to successfully drive the season of races with the highest overall points. The 1994 champion won with 94 points, 8 race wins, 2 race second place finishes, 2 did not race, 2 disqualified races, and one race not finished. So one does not need to finish every race to win only finish ten of the 16 in the first two positions.
Game play: Play a quick race, practice any circuit, practice, race non-championship, or race a championship season. Within the championship and non-championship you can free practice on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, you must qualify on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, you get a pre-race warm-up, and then you race. A quick race can be on any track in any grid position, while within a race you manually or automatically set pit stop strategy, and use manual or automatic car setup.
Tracks: There are 16 tracks, which are the tracks actually raced during the championship season in 1994. The tracks include (1) Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Interlagos of Sao Paulo, Brazil, (2) TI Cirsuit Aida Pacific of Okayama, Japan, (3) San Marino of Imola, Italy, (4) Grand Prix de Monaco in Monte-Carlo, (5) Grand Primo de Espania in Barcelona, Spain, (6) Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada, (7) Circuit de Nevers, Magny-Cours, France, (8) Silverstone Circuit in Towchester of Northamptonshire, Great Britain, (9) Hockenheimring in Heidelberg, Germany, (10) Magyar Nagydij Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary, (11) Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot, Belgium, (12) Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Milan, Italy, (13) Autodromo do Estoril, Portugal, (14) Circuito de Jerez, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain Grand Prix of Europe, (15) Fuji TV Japanese Grand Prix, Suzaka Circuit, Mie-ken, Japan, and (16) Adelaide Grand Prix Circuit, Norwood, South Australia.
Cars you drive and drive against: The fourteen teams also describe the fourteen cars. The Williams-Renault with V 10 engine which finished first in 1994 is followed by Benetton-Ford, Tyrell-Yamaha, McLaren-Peugeot, Arrows-Ford, Jordan-Hart, Lotus-Mugen (Mugen-Honda engine), Larrousse-Ford, Minardi-Ford, Ligier-Renault, Ferrari, Simtek-Ford, Sauber-Mercedes Benz, and Pacific-Ilmor. Only eleven cars finished in the 1994 Constructors’ Championship.
Realism: Former Indy Car Champion and current Formula 1 newcomer Jacques Villeneuve used Grand Prix II to scope out the Spa Francorchamps track in preparation for the 1996 Belgian Grand Prix. Winning the pole on what may be the world’s most challenging track and then finishing in second place, Jacque attributed to his playing the Microprose Grand Prix II.
Within the car realism menu you can optionally select one to eight possible failures, including suspension, engine, and transmission failure, loose wheel, puncture, oil or water leaks, throttle, brake, and electrical problems. If you choose all, none, or any that you select of the failures are possible within the race.
Settings include springs, dampers, wing downforce, gear ratios, brake balance and ride height which really affect the way the car performs realistically. Advanced car set up comes in two levels for the adjustment of each of the four tires individually, including damper, spring, ride height, anti-roll bars, and in advanced level 2 fast bump, fast rebound, slow bump, and slow rebound dampers can also be adjusted.
Once the car goes around the track you can see the effects of these modifications. Various manual sections and appendices help with car design and adjustments. The eye and feel are augmented by the new performance data graphs which compare the results of different set-ups and allow you to fine tune car performance to the championship race winning edge. You will need to learn to adjust your car if you want to win at any level of difficulty.
Difficulty: There are seven difficulty settings, from F1 to F7, including auto brakes, auto gears, self-correcting spin, indestructible, ideal line, suggested gear, and throttle help. The five difficulty levels of ace, pro, semi-pro, amateur, and rookie, control the number and combinations of the seven function key controlled difficulty factors. For example, in ace you can only use auto gears and throttle help, while a rookie can access all the assisted driving features. The throttle help is the new addition to the driving aids that was not contained in the original Grand Prix game.
Interface: The main interface is the cockpit display that is digital with the gear at the top of the dash in red. Racing number, grid position, drivers name, best lap time, time left to practice or qualify, and the number of cars out on the track is shown along with speed, fuel laps left, grid position, lap time, car, and best lap time. Other indicators for driver status, details, damage, and pits will come on with normal warning lights for fuel low, reliability problem, pit message, split times and gap measurements.
Keyboard, joystick, or even wheels and pedal controls work with this game. A Thrustmaster Formula T2 is the most satisfying, realistic and easy to control input control device. The keyboard is required no matter what controller you use. The spacebar selects, A accelorates, Z brakes, and the right and left arrow keys steer in the keyboard control version. A clutch can be supported if you can find a controller to work with one. Thrustmaster has promissed us a clutch in the next Formula driving controller, but to my knowledge, it is not out yet.
Views: As with most serious professional simulators, views are most important and complex. Many players have favorite views. GP2 has nine view controls based upon the hat switch, cursor, page up and page down keys, delete, home, and insert keys. The views are from the cockpit, trackside, various on-car camera views just like the ones shown in television coverage of the races, chase, reverse chase, other car cockpits, and TV Director Mode toggle.
The 6 and 7 keys can be used to zoom out and in, respectively, while the 3 and 4 key move the camera up and down, and the 5 key returns the camera to the normal view with many of the available views. The TV director activates a random movement from one view to the other accompanied by a clapper board in the top right corner of the screen. The VCR has the ability to replay the previous 20 seconds of action and makes no attempt to save entire races, so that if you are not quick you will miss the replay all together.
A hot lap or load game will allow you to replay an entire saved game, without any of the problems noted concerning the R-key 20 second replay described above.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): A demo mode is activated by deselecting all the drivers that allows you to watch the AI play. The AI is quite impressive and worth watching for a short tutorial.
Graphics: "Super VGA, 640 x 480 pixel resolution graphics, texture mapping and light sourcing have made Grand Prix II visually stunning, " says the manual introduction, and we agree. The sun glints off the shiny painted curved cowlings and driver’s helmets complete with accurate paint jobs and sponsor’s graphics. Nice touches include head turning, bob and weave when cornering or going over minor bumps in the track.
The tracks themselves are complete with ultra realistic details like multi-story buildings, sponsors banners, bridges, and other details like the new sand pits. Gravel now flies and the car slows down whenever you hit the gravel. Cars now graphically disassemble when there is a crash or other problem. Wings, tires, and parts come off realistically, either bouncing and bending or disintegrating right before your eyes.
There is a lot of detail near the track and on the horizon. The optional mirrors show objects clearly including oncoming competitors. You cannot see the wheels turning which is very disconcerting.
An automatic option adjusts frame rate to 17 to 20 frames per second (fps) while reducing detail to provide a balance between playability and graphics. The machine horsepower needed with full details to get a frame rate of about 20 fps will probably require a 200 MHz Pentium or Pentium Pro with appropriate 3D graphics capabilities. The game ran fine on my 166 MH machine with Stealth 3D 2000 video card.
Voice actors: Speech samples were done by Sound development Studios
Music score: John Broomhall and Andy Parton did the sound effects and musical additions to the game. The guitar music seems to mimic the feel of the game.
Sound effects: The engine sounds appropriately deep and rumbling, but there was no Doppler effects, three dimensional or surround sound technology implemented, which is disappointing
Manual: The excellent 150-page reference manual has a glossary and detailed contents, but no index. The manual gives statistics on all the drivers, maps, aerial photographs, and descriptions of all tracks, and full explanation of the functions of the program. The actual pictures of race drivers and their vehicles was a very entertaining addition to the manual. While there is little that was not included in the excellently written manual, there are some gaps which can be filled by a hint book.
Utilities: Save, start, load, and quit are the usual order of the day. A paint kit that would allow you to paint your own cars the way you like them was left out of the game, which will disappoint many people. The paint kit will be included in an upgrade.
Multi-player: You can play on two machines simultaneously when linked by phone modem or direct link null-modem. The null modem is a special serial cable that permits data transfer speeds of up to 57,600 bits per second. Null modems can handle faster transfer speeds, but the game cannot. Phone modems are currently limited to 28,800 bits per second so that the performance is limited in this mode and you must turn down all the game details.
You can also play in the hot seat mode which will allow two players to compete on the same console by switching off every few minutes or so as optionally selected by the game players. Game saves in the two machine mode must be made on both machines. Network and internet play is not currently supported, leaving out one of the most potentially fun aspects of the game. The network version should be released as an upgrade but it is expected that current networks may have performance limited by the speed unless they have been upgraded to faster speeds.
Comparisons: Grand Prix World Circuit, IndyCar Racing, NASCAE Racing, and IndyCar Racing II
Conclusion: What is the use of all the graphics, sound, music, views, controls, controllers, and game play options in the world if the game is not fun. GP2 is fun - a lot of fun, and therefore it is a good game. Not recommended for anyone without a high end system. The multiplayer options were poorly implemented and do not work very well.
Reviewers: Greg noticed there were no tobacco advertisers in the advertising mix shown. This is curious and we wonder what motivated Microprose to leave them out.
Grand Prix II homepage: http://www.holobyte.com/gp2/
Gordon Goble, Computer Gaming World, number 143, June, 1996.
Gordon Goble, Computer Gaming World, number 144, July, 1996, pg. 44.
Greg Booker, http://www.gamesdomain.com/gdreview/zones/reviews/pc/sep96/gp2.html,
Robin Morris, http://www.gamesdomain.com/gdreview/zones/reviews/pc/aug96/gp2.html
Martin Boer, http://www.gamesdomain.com/gdreview/zones/reviews/pc/jul96/gp2.html
Jim Varner, http://www.gamespot.com/sports/grandpr2/, (95%)
Joachim Gelhaus, http://www.gamesmania.com/english/reviews/new/grandprix.htm, 7/10 (70%).
Ben Chiu, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 112-114, 5/5, (100%).
Mike McGrath, http://www.megatoon.com/~t15/issue17/gprix2.htm, (92%)
Mark Arnott, http://www.game-over.co.uk/vol1issue4/f1gp2.htm, 8/10, (80%).