Champion Driver logo

Erst im letzten Heft hatten wir "F1 G.P. Circuits" in der Mangel - jetzt wollen uns die Mannen von Idea Soft fast genau dasselbe Rennspiel nochtmal andrehen!

Aber gottlob eben nur fast: Zwar sind die Ähnlichkeiten auch mit zugekniffenen Augen kaum zu übersehen, jedoch wurden allerlei Macken des "Vorgängers" ausgemerzt.

Mit fünf unterschiedlichen Vehikeln vom Go-Kart bis zum Formel 1 Boliden ist die Fahrzeugauswahl nun wesentlich überzeugender, auch sind 50 Rennstrecken halt deutlich mehr als deren neun.

Fünf davon sind reine Übungskurse (für jeden Fahrzeugtyp einer), fortgeschrittene Piloten dürfen dank einer Save-Option jederzeit wieder da einsteigen, wo sie zuletzt ausgestiegen sind.

Zu sehen sind die Rennen nach wie vor aus der Vogelperspektive, mal wird bei glühender Hitze, mal bei klirrender Kälte gerast.

Nur wer in jedem Wettbewerb (drei bzw. vier Runden inklusive Boxenstip zum Auftanken) zumindest vier der sieben hartnäckigen Computergegner abhängt, nimmt am nächsten Lauf wieder teil. Seine Siegprämie darf man dann im Supermarkt für Tuning-Ausrüstung verpassen - griffigere Reifen, mehr Pferdestärken oder zusätzliche Nitro-Power haben ja noch nie geschadet.

Über die technische Ausführung kann man jetzt nicht mehr meckern: Der Sound (Titelmusik und Motorengebrumm) ist ohnehin Nebensache, und die bunten aber etwas mickrig gestalteten Landschaften scrollen ebenso flott wie multidirektional vorbei. Die ausgezeichnete Steuerung erinnert an die von "Super Cars", genau wie eigentlich das ganze Spiel.

Idea Soft hat die schwache Vorlage somit zu einem soliden Rennspiel aufgemöbelt, aber wo bitte bleiben neue und eigene Ideas? (rl)

Champion Driver logo

Following the recent glut of driving games (OutRun Europa, F1 Grand Prix, Lotus 2 etc), all that we've been missing is a Nitro-style overhead-view scroller to complete the set, and now that gap's been filled by Champion Driver.

Set on 50 Grand Prix tracks from around the world, the game starts you off as a go-kart racer, with the objective of rising through five categories to become a Formula One star. This you do by the simple expedient of beating a variety of computer-controlled cars in 10 three-lap races per level, the only complication involved being a limited fuel tank, necessitating fairly frequent trips to the pits if you're not going to be left sitting embarrassingly in the middle of the track at a complete standstill.

In a similar vein to Nitro and Hot Rod, you can also use prize money to buy improvements for your vehicle (bigger engine, better tyres, the usual kind of thing), which will help you counter the increased speed and improved opposition of the later levels.

The first thing you notice in Champion Driver - and the importance of this can't be overstated - is the quite staggeringly bad copy protection system. This kind of thing makes a game a real chore to get into and can seriously affect your feelings towards it before you even play - you find yourself thinking 'Sod this for entertainment, who do they think they are anyway, putting a poor player through such torment?'Well, that's what it does to me, anyway. If I hadn't had to review it, I would have got as far as the protection and thrown the whole thing away in disgust. I don't fork out £26 on any product to be treated like this, and neither should anyone else.

But I'm digressing rather wildly. Once past the copy protection, what you find is an unexpectedly great little racing game with attractively understated graphics and a perfect handling feel. From the start screen you can either jump straight into the game proper, or practice a single race on one of the four harder levels - a clever and effective way of maintaining interest by way of a tempting carrot, where otherwise you might get a bit dispirited by lack of success. Here, you can always get a tantalising glimpse of what it is you're striving towards.

In play the game is fast and smooth, with lots of variation in the tortuously twisting tracks and well-judged difficulty curve. The lack of a multi-player option knocks potential lasting appeal down a bit, as does the essentially repetitive nature (especially when, unlike Nitro and Hot Rod, the graphics don't change significantly between levels), but it's demanding enough to make you work pretty damn hard to get anywhere, which should keep your interest high for a while at least.

We've had (even) more arguments in the office about what mark games should be getting than usual this month, and I know for a fact that a number of people disagree with me, but I'll say it anyway - this is a highly entertaining game that I really enjoyed playing, but if you're looking for something to keep you going into next year, look elsewhere.