Anything Mansell can do you can do better

Formula One Grand Prix logo Gamer Gold

MICROPROSE * £34.99 * 1 meg * Joystick * Out December

In the long and honourable history of racing games/simulations, attempts have been made to capture the behaviour of the car as much as possible. As we enter 1992 the programming know-how is there, in a number of places, to faithfully reproduce the behaviour of a Formula One Grand Prix car.

Up until now though, no-one has ever accurately represented the 16 Formula One tracks of the championship tournament - no-one, that is, until Geoff Crammond began work on Formula One Grand Prix for Microprose.

Building a reputation on Revs for the BBC Micro some years ago, a game which Acorn users the nation over swear by, he then went on to do Stunt Car Racer, a game that won him the same acclaim from 16-bit owners as he received from Beeb owners before. Since then he's been working on this, the game that puts you into the driving seat of a six gear, normally aspirated 200mph plus racing machine, and frankly it scares the pants off me.

Strictly speaking this is a simulation - that's why it is being published on the Microprose label, and once you get into it and discover the attention to detail you'll understand why.

The game begins in the pits as you prepare to qualify for the race ahead. Don't panic though, no matter how bad you do you will always qualify for the race. This 120 minute qualifying section gives you a chance to get used to the track and mess around with the car's set-up.

Four variables can be, erm, varied on the car - tyres, brake balance, down-force from the wings and gear ratios. While the car does have default settings for each of these parameters, it is always better to have a twiddle yourself as the car's performance can be increased greatly.

There are six options for tyre choice- A to D are the four dry racing tyres ranging from hard to soft, qualifying tyres that give a good speed but disintegrate and lose grip after only a few laps and are absolutely no good for a race, while Ws are for wet weather driving.

Brake balance affects the distribution of the total braking force between the front and the back axles, altering the way the car behaves on braking. The type of corners on a certain track will determine the way this parameter is changed. The amount of down-force is also crucial - the more down-force, the better the cars holds the road on corners, but the top speed is lessened, so a track with a lot of tight corners - Monaco for example - would need a lot of down-force whereas a track with a long straight, like Hockenheim, would require less down-force to increase the top speed.

Gear ratios have much the same considerations, with winding tracks needing more low-end acceleration to come out of the corners faster, but the trade-off here is a lower top speed - for a higher top speed the low-end acceleration will have to suffer.

The idea of the practice laps is to give you a chance to experiment with these set-ups and see which variation best suits the track. Each lap time is recorded and the best one determines where you are on the grid. Two or three laps with each set-up tell you whether or not it is worth pursuing, and which drivers you are going to have to look out for.

To help the novice there are six driving aids (see box), one of which is lost every time you increase to the next of the five difficulty levels. There are all useful but once you have become used to how the cars function you will find that although you might not want to increase the difficulty level just yet, you won't want all the driving aids on - after all, it takes most of the fun out of it.

The five difficulty levels determine how well the other cars drive, but you can also determine the distribution of performance between them using the switch at the bottom right of your dashboard. A diagonal slope means that is is realistic, i.e. the best drivers will be in the best cars. These figures are based on race times for the 1991 season which has just finished. A flat line means that all cars and drivers are the same, and a wavy line means that it is randomised - good drivers could be in crap cars and vice versa.

Race length will have already been determined by you at the start of the championship as a percentage of real race length and cannot be changed without resetting to the beginning - after all, it would be unfair if you changed the last race of the championship to one lap to make sure your position was unassailable. Naturally because each race can take up three hours if played at the full length of the championship can be saved, and so can the race at any point whatsoever. This may sound unlikely but when you consider that the computer is actually driving every car on the track, not just working out where it is, the computer knows exactly where every car is at any one time. Therefore it can save that information quite easily.

All this driving does lead to certain compromises on the graphics side of things. There are no two ways about it, on a standard 1 meg A500 it is jerky. But 3D vector graphics are the only way the circuits can be captured accurately right down to the last bump and track-side building.

Well, almost - not all the detail is there but what is there is very accurate. Monaco is the clearest example of this with the Casino and that tight-left hairpin which drops about 20 foot during its course, to name but two features being clearing recognisable.

The accuracy of the tracks has been worked on for a long time using videos taken from the BBC and satellite TV, car data has been gained from Honda technical data and close contact with the Footwork team (formerly Arrows) who gave a lot of assistance with the friction and drag data. One member of the Footwork team drove around a few of the tracks in the game and was apparently stunned by the accuracy.

The jerkiness is acceptable when you take all of this into account and more so because the game still feels as though you are actually racing at 180 miles an hour. It isn't slow like some games, just a bit like blinking a lot while you're driving.

The sound is the biggest let-down, the engine noise being simplistic to say the least, but something had to be sacrificed in a packed memory and that was it. Then again, a droning whine might be all you hear inside a helmet!

This is a minor quibble when you look at the game as a whole. I was worried at first when I heard the term 'simulation' mentioned, because I felt that gameplay would be sacrificed for accuracy, but if anything the accuracy helps - it means that each track requires skill and concentration and a lot of practice before you can get close to emulating the fastest times.

As well as this, because each car is being individually driven, each race becomes engrossing to the extreme. Brilliant.

Read this if you can't drive
Generous to fault, Geoff Crammond has provided six driving aids to help the crap ones among you. These are the finished aids which some earlier reviews in other mags failed to mention:
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidAuto braking - This brakes the cars to the right speed for the corner. It won't stop you hitting another car though.
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidAuto gears - Changes up and down in just the right places.
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidSelf Correcting Spins - If you spin off then you will always be turned to face the right way.
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidIndestructible Mode - You won't be beaten up by other bigger tougher cars.
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidBest line - Puts a dotted line on the track which shows the best route to take around the track.
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidGear Reminder - Suggests the best gear for the next corner.

Formula One Grand Prix logo

Geoff Crammond changed Amiga driving forever with Stunt Car Racer. With Formula One it looks like he's up to his old tricks again.

Despite the best efforts of McLaren Honda to turn this year's Grand Prix season into a 16-stage victory parade, Formula 1 retains its magic. The sheer power that throws cars forward faster than your average guided missile, plus the glamour of multi-million dollar automotive gambles, make it a very special sporting event. Now a 17th venue has been added to the racing schedule: your Amiga, courtesy of Geoff 'Stunt Car' Crammond. And just like Stunt Car Racer, it takes computerised driving further and faster than ever before.

Short circuit
16 world Grand Prix circuits await, 26 different cars are idling on the grid, and a team of mechanics are standing by to tweak the car's set-up to your exact specifications. A full racing season is about to being and you now have the chance to take the wheel in the world;s most technologically advanced sport.

Each race begins with a qualifying round, where the pole position pecking order is decided. You've a few short laps in which to climb from the back of the grid and earn a good starting position. Using a custom set-up and ultra-adhesive tyres you have to make your time mark on the pack and learn the line of the circuit. Scream around the track at speed and you're rewarded with a high-priority position on race day, fail and you'll still start - there's no pre-qualifying - but from 26th place, which isn't always the curse it seems.

It's Sunday and the Grand Prix is about to start. The car's configuration has been changed: the wing's have been tweaked, different tyres selected and the braking balance shifted to suit the new track. The lights go red and the revs pick up. Lights go green and you start shifting gears through quick joystick clicks, the mass of stationary cars becomes a swarm of speeding metal slewing around as the torque hits the rubber which hits the track. Threading your way through the mayhem, you have to find the right line for the corner ahead.

Ahead, two computer cars touch and one spins off. Fighting for the same line they come together in a Senna/Prost style debate over who has right of way. The field constricts to work a path past the marshals who are pushing the wreckage from track. Through the first corner and the field starts to spread out.

Pushing up through the box the speed mounts and the race becomes a test of high-speed skill from slow pace dodging. Following the white race line along the straight, you check the mirrors so any challenge from behind can be firmly shut out. Trackside signs warn of an approaching bend's distance and direction, while a dashboard indicator flashes the best gear for that section of track.

The race reaches half distance, the field has strung out and now that the road is reasonably clear it's more a test of concentration than flat-out speed. The pit lights flash when the crew think you need a tyre change. Slowing as the lane markers appear the car pulls off the pit raod and into your own bay. A rag wipes your visor, a jack lifts the car and a map lillipop lady waves a 'Brake On' sign in your face. The clock clicks off eight valuable race seconds before the wheels hit the floor and you power back out on to the track. The race is nearly half over: the rest is up to you. Have you got the skill and the stamina?

L Driver
Formula 1 has three obvious goals: learning to drive and qualifying above 26th on the grid, winning a single Grand Prix and taking the F1 drivers' championship. The first objective is easily achieved once you understand quite how these high horsepower machines have to be driven, as well as how to set the car up to suit both your driving style and the track.

Any track can be chosen for practice, so all the circuits can be visited until you find one that feels right. This goes for winning your first GP too. Single races anywhere in the world can be set up, with the abilities of rivals restricted in order to give you a chance of success. Even with all the driver help functions enabled though, your first victory will take serious work.

The Drivers' Championship always remains the real aim of F1. The season takes you to all 16 circuits in a random order, so vast amounts of practice are needed to gain a competitive edge. Luckily the liberal save function helps here, with the even an option to save a game mid-race, and a car already set-up in race trim, so that you can slowly build better positions and higher point scores. It's not strictly realistic, but it does add an element of gamesmanship to the proceedings.

Indianapolis 500 was king of the oval ring, but it has been dethroned by F1

Lap land
F1 GP is racing at its best, real nip and tuck high-speed vector racing, that requires an addictive blend of skill and lunacy to ensure victory. It feels right, offers the right choices and has the visual power to carry the illusion. For a race game to work it has to convey both the sensation of speed and control. Real life road drivers need visual proof - as tactile response is negated - to convince them that each section has a definite and quantifiable effect on the car.

F1 gets the left foot tapping nervously for the brake with a host of tricks that make the car feel very real. Sudden acceleration or braking has the nose rising or dipping, an effect you hardly notice while driving because it's what you expect. Hit a kerb and the car bounces up. If you have the brakes balanced badly or the wrong wing set up, and the ar suddenly under-steers horribly, while revving on the kerbside grass gets you going nowhere except round in circles. The cars have the integral feel of being real models in operation on the proper world circuits.

The graphics are the only cue a driver gets - ignoring the high-pitched engine whine - and if they fail, the game itself is doomed. F1 brings a mix of sprites and vector graphics to track. The road and cars are constructed from polygons while the roadside objects, marshals and pit crew are all sprite based. In full detail mode the screen is full of information and peripheral Grand Prix graphics that give the game an air of authority. In lower detail settings, the heart of the race remains - track, signs and pit crew - but the roadside dressing is removed.

Monaco, for example, is unmistakably when driving around in full-detail mode but the additional stress it puts on the machine causes a slight chug. If you remove the superfluous stuff and then Formula 1 flies. The tracks remain the same, the competition is just as tough, but the racing is fast enough to get drivers leaning when their sim cars are pulling turns at high speed.

Good sport
As a true sports simulation, F1 is like Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker in one key respect: namely that due to the skills it forces to you learn, a slow and inglorious start is assured. Fortunately F1 offers a bevy of 'cheat like' tweaks to help drivers through the learning process and into pole position.

Braking, gear changing, self-righting after spins, no damage, having the best line shown on the road and gear suggestion options are always only an 'F'-key-press away. But even when these are activated and all you have to do is point, the racing is still competitive, just far more friendly.

Taking a leaf from Indy 500's book, crashes can be viewed and replayed from a multitude of angles, which helps soothe the initially rough ride. It's fun to watch the last 20 seconds of motorised mayhem from different positions. From within the game replays have little real purpose, other than encouraging gratuitous destruction, but they do help you weather the novice storm.

The ability range of opponents, the difficulty level, the performance of the different makes of car, the weather, set-ups and even the length of the race can be tailored to suit your present skill level and time limits. Not everybody wants to race for two hours solid, so the race can be cut down by either laps or time. Then, as you progress, these aids can be gradually be dispensed with, allowing the frightening fragility of an Formula 1 car to dawn on both the driver and the game.

The manual helps you through those testing times when you try to get more out of the game. Well presented and clearly indexed, it offers a novice guide to a lap of Monza, a breakdown of all the tracks, set up tutorials and a trouble-shooting guide to what went wrong. It's reassuring, furthering the feeling of the game's structural and coding integrity. Changes to the car or driving technique shows a difference and make the manual essential reading - even to the non-Amiga owner who wants to know more about modern motor racing.

Long live the King!
Indianapolis 500 was king of the oval ring, but it has been dethroned by F1. The chance to race on 16 different tracks - Indy only had the one - with the overall bigger prize of a Championship not just a single race victory draws you further into the game. In terms of tweaking your car both have much the same to offer, although F1 is presented in a more friendly fashion.

What really sets the two apart though, is the polygon sprite mix achieved in F1. Marshals and pit crew are actually visible, the grandstands are still specks of colour pretending to be folk, but the roadside objects - trees, houses, yachts etc - allow F1 to stand proud. It doesn't run as fast as Indy in this mode but it's equally as pretty and as fast in the stripped down, low detail mode.

Formula One is a tough one to beat. The three implicit aims neatly provide the extra impetus needed during the learning process of how to build and drive your car. It gives you the opportunity to explore and participate in a sport which most of us will only ever watch longingly. Now you can get out there and prove that you could be the next Alain Prost, Ayton Senna or Olivier Grouillard(?).

Formula One Grand Prix: Pit Stop
  1. Five levels of dificulty are on offer to test your skills. These govern what 'cheats' are on offer and how hard to push other drivers. Real drivers go for level five.
  2. Six 'cheat' options are offered for learner drivers, to help them around the first few laps of their GP career.
    Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidAuto brakes - slow you down on bends.
    Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidAuto gears - Chooses the right cogs.
    Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidSpin - Sets cars the right way after spins.
    Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidNo damage - Crash as often as you please!
    Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidRacing line - Displays white line on road.
    Formula One Grand Prix: Driving AidBest gear - Tells the best cogs for bend.
  3. Opponent ability setting - Has three settings even, graduated or random. You choose!
  4. Car info console - Tells speed, position and lap number.
  5. Detail level - Full, medium or low. The lower the faster.
  6. Pit Stop light - Pull over when it flashes for tyres/repairs etc.
  7. Damage indicator - Parts go yellow when damaged. Too much yellow and: game over.
  8. Suggested gear - Tells you the fastest gear for each section of the track. An essential extra!
  9. Current gear - Good gear use can make a car faster and better at holding the road.
  10. Man pushing broken blue car.

Formula One Grand Prix logo Amiga Joker Hit

Sucht Ihr ein flottes Autorennen für eine Runde Gas und Spaß zwischendurch? Dann kauft Euch "Lotus 2" und blättert weiter. Ach so, Ihr wollt endlich eine richtige Rennsimulation mit allem drum und dran - na, dann seid Ihr hier natürlich goldrichtig!

Alleine der Name des Designers läßt Rennspiel-Fans schon das Wasser im Munde zusammenlaufen: Geoff Crammond. Ja, genau jener Geoff Grammond, der bereits am 64-er mit "Revs" begeisterte und dem Amiga den Klassiker "Stunt Car Racer" zu verdanken hat! Diesmal hat der Mann eine komplette Formel 1 Saison simuliert, alle offiziellen Grand Prix-Kurse wie Hockenheim, Silverstone, Monaco usw. sind vorhanden.

Aber Fahren allein ist nicht alles, man kann hier auch Änderungen an Bremsen, Gangschaltung, Spoilern, Bereifung etc. vornehmen. Deshalb werden am Saisonende sogar zwei Trophäen verteilt: eine für den besten Rennfahrer und eine für den besten Konstrukteur.

Dennoch wer Weltmeister werden will, muß ziemlich gut fahren können! Damit dabei auch Einsteiger nicht auf der Strecke bleiben, existieren fünf Schwierigkeitsgrade, wobei man im leichtesten nur selber lenken muß, alles andere funktioniert automatisch (wer will, kann sich sogar die Ideallinie durch einen weißen Streifen auf der Fahrbahn anzeigen lassen).

In verschiedenen Übungsmodi hat man Gelegenheit, sich entweder alleine oder zusammen mit den lieben Kollegen an eine neue Strecke zu gewöhnen; wem die komplette Meisterschaft zu viel ist, für den besteht auch die Möglichkeit, nur an einzelnen Rennen teilzunehmen - dafür gibt's dann halt keine WM-Punkte.

Aber vor den Punkten kommt ohnehin die Qualifikation und danach eine ganze Reihe typischer Probleme, mit denen sich Formel I-Fahrer so herumschlagen müssen: das Wetter wechselt, gelegentlich passieren Unfälle (meist ist man aber selbst daran Schuld...), und oft muß vor der Zielgeraden noch ein Boxenstopp eingelegt werden, um die Feineinstellung der Bremsen, Spoiler etc. zu verbessern.

Solche Änderungen wirken sich auch tatsächlich auf die Handhabung des Fahrzeugs aus, nicht zum Spaß findet man ausführliche technische Hinweise in der Anleitung.

Optisch hat Formula One Grand Prix einiges zu bieten - die 3D-Vektorgrafik ist sehr detailliert und dennoch flott, es gibt eine Replay-Funktion und, ähnlich wie bei einer Flugsimulation, Perspektiven nach Wahl: Blick nach vorne, hinten, rechts oder links, ja, man kann das Geschehen sogar aus der Sicht eines Rivalen betrachten. Der gute Eindruck setzt sich auch beim gelungenen Motorensound fort, der je nach Zustand der Maschine etwas anders klingt.

Überhaupt fällt es schwer, bei dieser Microprose-Simulation ein Haar in der Suppe zu finden - Tempo, Handhabung, Optionsvielfalt, Realismus, hier stimmt einfach alles.

Kurz und (sehr) gut: Ein Muß für jeden Rennsportfan, egal ob er nun ein Anfänger, Fortgeschrittener oder Ayrton Senna persönlich ist! (Kate Dixon)

Formula One Grand Prix logo

From the man behind classics such as The Sentinel and Stunt Car Racer comes what has to be the last word in racing simulations... and possibly the best game ever!

Ahem. I have a confession to make: I don't like racing. Actually, that's not quite true - I don't like watching motor racing very much. I do like driving very fast though, but what with the British national speed limit being so low and being such a sad man and all, that more often than not means resorting to playing computer-based driving simulations. So what a pity it is that almost all of them are pretty crap - and that's on all computers, not just the Amiga.

Wy, you could count the number of decent driving simulations on the fingers of one hand that's had the thumb and little pinky cut off. Let me see... There's Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge, which isn't too bad (the sequel's more of a doozy though), and Geoff Crammond's Stunt Car Racer, which is smarter than Einstein ever was. Ah yes, and there's Electronic Arts' Indianapolis 500, which only has one course but is the best motor racing simulation money can buy.

Was, sorry. Indianapolis 500 was the best motor racing simulation money could buy. I'm not going to beat about the bush: Formula One Grand Prix thrashes the pants off Indianapolis 500 and dumps on everything else from a great height.

The truck-load of options doesn't really come into it. I mean, any dork and his dog can collate buckets of statistics for a technically accurate world championship motor racing system (and given the quality of some of the previous racing simulations, those people have obviously been hard at work doing so). It takes more than a number-crunching nancy to take all the available data in the world and turn it into a simulation as good as this one.

The facility to enter your name or take that of one of the world's leading Grand Prix racers does nothing for me. Nor does being able choose for which of the teams in the World Championship you wish to race. The fact that the car you choose from the 26 available determines the performance of the opposition (with their skills based on statistics from the real 1990 reason) is more appealing - as is the opportunity to fiddle with the car's tyre type, wing angle, brake balance and gear speeds before testing it. (Incidentally, the car's are colour-coded to their respective teams).

I found myself drowning in adrenalin

So those are some of the options, which are all well and good. But to turn me on, so to speak, a driving simulation in any shape or form simply has to 'feel' good. Formula One Grand Prix doesn't feel good, that's fore sure. It feels abso-bloody-lutely bloody brilli-bloody-ant. And that's a fact.

Not ever having driven a Formula One car, let alone in a World Championship Grand Prix, I really wouldn't know if the car's handling and performance is realistic or whether the race tracks are accurately mapped.

Formula One dumps on everything else from a great height

And as far as the vehicle's concerned, I honestly couldn't care less. What I do know is that the car handles like a dream - it feels how I'd expect the reality to feel, so I couldn't ask for more. And as for the courses, they match curve for curve and (where appropriate) bridge for bridge and building for building the circuit diagrams found in books on the subject of motor racing, so I can't argue with that.

The feeling of 'being there' is far stronger than I have experienced in any other simulation, which is probably down to the uncannily high level of detail. There are crowds, buildings, kerbs, track markings, trees, and even pit crews for crying out loud. Sparks fly from the cars just like the ones you see in the racing on TV - so does the spray in the wet! - and the drivers are clearly visible. Every turn and bump and skid had me wiggling in my seat, and the sensation of speed is so convincing I found myself drowning in adrenalin.

It feels abso-bloody-lutely bloody brilli-bloody-ant

Hold on though. Surely there must be something wrong with Formula One Grand Prix. Or am I in the midst of some sycophantic haze? Well, no, there isn't really - and no I'm not. There's nothing remotely irritating about Formula One Grand Prix. It's so slick, there's more chance of finding Lord Lucan than there are faults here.

The best I can do is comment on the lack of camera angle potential. The visuals are so smart that you can't help but yearn for the facility to view the action from every conceivable angle. That said, the track-side camera views are in fact more than adequate.

My only other (very) minor gripe is even though the crashes are as painful-looking as any you are ever likely to see on a 16-bit home computer simulation, I'd still like to have more pieces fly off the cars involved in a pile up.

Formula One Grand Prix succeeds on every possible level. It offers the most comprehensive possible simulation of a motor racing event, but better still there's the sheer exhilaration of an outstanding driving experience. And I can't say "farthntht"


Geoff Crammond is the business. His entertainment track record may not be particularly long, but it's certainly strong. This man just doesn't seem to be able to put a foot wrong, so we just had to ask him why...

"I don't know," he replies. Mr Crammond is a modest man - and it shows. Even though Formula One Grand Prix is quite obviously hotter ten times hotter than July, he doesn't blow his own trumpet any harder than, "I'm pleased with the different look of the tracks, and the mechanics and the number of cars on screen at once." Not one to brag, this Mr Crammond.

Geoff Crammond worked as a systems engineer for eight years before he bought himself a BBCin March of '81, taught himself assembly language and wrote Super Invaders. His interest in motor racing began with his classic simulation Revs. "I didn't follow it before then, but once I became immersed in the project and all aspects of the sport, the technical side became apparent and I realised there was a lot more to it than I thought."

Work on Formula One Grand Prix began in March. "There was no way I was going to redo Revs. I didn't look at Revs at all, although the experience of doing Revs helped. I don't have much time to play games, but I will look at things out of professional interest, and I usually look at reviews - but not in too much detail. I don't want to be influenced."

Geoff's reticent to reveal the source of his technical information which contributes to Formula One Grand Prix being so fine. "A lot of the information was hard to get hold of, but it helps to know something about the maths behind it. Some just takes research though. I've been video taping every Grand Prix I can for the last few years. There's one instance where Senna was shown doing an in-car lap, with a computer readout of his speed, and knowing the layout of the circuit and the characteristics meant I could work backwards to get information."

1981 Super Invaders BBC (Acornsoft)
1982 Aviator BBC (Acornsoft)
1984 Revs BBC (Acornsoft)
Commodore 64 (Firebird)
1985 The Sentinel BBC, Commodore 64, Amstrad, Atari ST (Firebird) *
* Steve Bak did the Amiga conversion
1989 Stunt Car Racer Commodore 64
Atari ST
Amiga (MicroProse)
1991 Formula One GP Atari ST
Amiga (MicroProse)
1992 Formula One GP IBM PC (MicroProse)
An animated introductory sequence sets the scene. It's superfluous, maybe, but at least it doesn't get intrusive...
Formula One Grand Prix: Intro
A lonely car designer sits at his desk, working out his design for a racing car.
Formula One Grand Prix: Intro
And here's that very same car being put together in the pits.
Formula One Grand Prix: Intro
The driver slips carefully into the newly-built cockpit...
Formula One Grand Prix: Intro
...then puts on his helmet in preparation for the big race.
It takes years to learn to race as well as, say, Mr Mansell. I haven't got that kind of time to spare, and I'm sure you haven't either, which is a problem for a simulation as realistic as this - isn't it? Well, no. Not even slightly. Formula One Grand Prix has a tutorial system of sorts which accomodates all levels of driving skill. Depending on the dificulty determined via a selection of 'Realism Modifiers', the computer takes care of certain functions essential for successful racing.
For example, novices can drive a car which requires no more interaction than accelerating and steering. As your skills improve, you can drive with less and less help until ultimately you find yourself racing for real (well, almost - this is a simulation after all). So, you get to learn the courses, but the beauty of this education process is that you can't excel until you master the car and don't have to rely any computer aid.
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving Aid AUTOMATIC BRAKING
The computer's braking is over-cautious, but it works.
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving Aid AUTOMATIC GEAR CHANGE
As with the braking, the computer's gear changes are efficient but not the most effective.
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving Aid INDESTRUCTIBILITY
Guess what?
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving Aid SELF-CORRECTING SPIN CONTROL
If you get in a spin, get out of it slowly but surely with this function.
Formula One Grand Prix: Driving Aid BEST LINE GUIDANCE SYSTEM
Now this is cool. A broken white line runs right round the course - all you have to do is follow it.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
Arizona is the setting for this urban circuit. It has mostly 90 degree bends, and concrete walls create a tunnel effect and demand tight lines. As with on any street circuit, overtaking can be a problem.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
This Brazilian circuit is dusty and hard on the tyres. The only real opportunity to overtake is on the pit straight.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
A fast Italian circuit with some challenging bends and chicanes.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
Portugal's circuit is the most physically demanding on the calendar. There are few places to overtake, and taking tight, accurate lines is essential.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
This French urban circuit has a tunnel and an evil hairpin. Its streets are narrow, making overtaking all the more difficult. A healthy qualifying time is essential to have a chance of succeeding here.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
Canada's circuit is almost like a street circuit. It's fast with plenty of overtaking possibilities.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
The thin air affects the cars' performances, especially around the sharp corners - and there are plenty of them there. It still manages to be a pretty fast circuit though.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
This Spanish circuit is long, dusty and hot, which makes life hard for the engine, brakes and suspension. However, it's being replaced this year by the purpose-built Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
The recent French addition to the World Championships is fast (all those straights) even though it involves almost doubling back on yourself on more than one occasion.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
The United Kingdom's circuit isn't what it used to be - and that's dangerous. The modified version is still very fast though.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
A German circuit with straights punctuated by three chicanes and a whole load of nasty twists and turns, particularly the Agipkurve, Sachskurve and Opelkurve.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
Japan provides the only figures of eight circuit on the current calendar. It combines long straights with tight hairpins and plenty of fast and sweeping bends.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
Hungary's circuit isn't particularly interesting, and it's slow due to the many corners.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
The Belgian circuit's widely regarded as the most exciting track in the world, even though it's very dangerous in the wet. It's fast, and there's little margin for error.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
The second Italian circuit provides plenty of overtaking possibilities and a couple of awkward chicanes which force the driver to abuse his car in order to set a decent time.
Formula One Grand Prix: Racetrack
The final circuit is Australian. It's a tough urban track which generally proves heavy on the brakes and rear tyres.

Formula One Grand Prix logo CU Amiga Superstar

The first division of the motor racing wolrd isn't a place for faint-hearts or lilly-livered Relaint Robin drivers. Today's supercharged Formula One racing cars are capable of racing cars are capable of reaching speeds in excess of 200mph and drivers regularly lose more than a stone in weight during the course of a grueling two-hour race.

Decked out in three-layers of fire-resistant cothing and strapped into a tiny bucket seat in front of an engine capable of 800bhp, drivers regularly pull up to 6G as they hurtle round corners and experience the kind of pressures only test pilots regularly encounter.

Racing in such conditions is a far from pleasant experience and few drivers make the grade. But now YOU can experience the thrills of sitting behind the wheel of a state-of-the-art Formula One racing car, courtesy of sim specialists Microprose.

Enlisting the coding skills of Geoff Crammond, the man behind sich games as Revs and Stunt Car Racer, the firm is confident that their new sim will be the benchmark by which all subsequent racing games are judged.

After a stunning intro sequence which shows a Formula One car being bolted together, the game begins with an animated commentator welcoming you to the start of a new season. From there a point-and-click menu system takes you through the many in-game options. You can choose to take charge of any of the 35 drivers who started the 1990/91 season or create your own driver complete with team name and racing colours.

A Championship season takes place on all 16 official Grand Prix courses, each track being a faithful recreation of the original. Each course is previewed with a detailed map and lap records and other statistics give an indication as to how the circuit performs and what times to aim for. The game's manual also offers a wealth of additional info, such as the recommended gears for most of the corners and straights, as well as valuable hints and tips for each course.

Grand Prix races usually last for just under 200 miles or a maximum time limit of two hours, but Microprose concede it's unlikely that many players will want to carry on for that long. Instead, a player can choose to drive a percentage of a race and reduce the number of laps down to 10 per cent of the original course. To get an idea how a Formula One racing car handles, a player can either take one out for a test spin with no opposition or try a practice race. After that, you can compete in single races or a full season with points going towards the Drivers' and Constructors' Championships.

After having selected your car, it's possible to fine tune it to best serve both your own needs and that of the upcoming course. If you're a complete novice, it's best to plump for automatic brakes and gears as the manual options take some time to master. There's also a spin-correction option which tosses you back onto the track facing the right way and prevents you from careering up the track in the wrong direction - a fate that befell me more than once! A no-crash feature means you're practically indestructible and can emerge from a multiple pile-up without a scratch.

There's even a best line indicator which conveniently places a dotted line on the road to indicate the right path to take when tackling dangerous bends and hairpins. After you've got a few races under your belt and become more proficient at handling the car, the computer will gradually close down the options available until you're driving unaided.

There's also a choice of six tyre compounds for the different driving conditions you'll meet and an option to adjust the down-force on the air by altering the wing angles. This helps the car grip the road more effectively, especially round corners.

Once you've waded through the myriad options, it's time for a race. As in the real thing, drivers have to compete in timed qualifying sessions to establish their position on the starting grid. Obviously, pole position is the one to aim for, but with 25 computer-controlled opponents on the track competition is going to be tough. If you're tempted to skip the qualifying rounds, you'll automatically be placed at the back of the grid. This might kill off any chances of clinching that particular race, but it makes for a brilliant game as you attempt to move up through the field.

The joystick controls are extremely responsive and simple to pick up. Moving the joystick from side to side moves the car to the left or right, hitting the fire button changes the gears and up and down movements cause the car to accelerate or brake respectively.

The game offers a behind-the-wheel view of the race, but it's possible to skip about from car to car to get an idea of exactly where an opponent is at any particular time. While doing this, the computer takes charge of your own car so there's no danger of careering of the track, piling into the main grandstand and mutilating countless hundreds of spectators.

There's also a number of external camera angles from which to view the action - these are especially useful when replaying multiple pile-ups or when you pull of a spectacular passing manoeuvre on a 90 degrees bend. The only thing missing is an overhead view, which would have added yet another dimension to the gameplay.

The graphics are a combination of bitmaps for the dashboard and vectors for the course and scenery and are probably the best you'll see on the Amiga. All 16 tracks have been modeled on their real-life counterparts and the level of detail is quite astonishing, Each tree, billboard, grandstand, bend and straight have been faithfully recreate in their exact location. Videos were shot of each course and extensive notes and diagrams made to aid the graphics artists I replicating the courses in minute detail. The effect is stunning: I've never seen such realistic detail in a vector-based game.

There's an option to decrease the level of detail to make the game run slightly faster, but the game runs incredibly fast already and the extra detail merely adds to the enjoyment and atmosphere. Even the sound is superb, ranging from a snazzy intro tune to sampled sound effects of an actual Formula One engine going through tis paces and a car skidding across the tracks.

There are lots of animation sequences throughout the game (which can be turned off if you get bored with them) and special crash screens which show how much damage you've managed to cause to your multi-million pound car. Look out for skidmarks left behind as a driver takes a corner too fast and the darkened sky when a down pour is about to start.

The car's dashboard is authentic in every detail and the side mirrors actually work and are handy for a quick check on approaching cars. If a multiple pile up or crash occurs and the vehicle is stranded on the track, officials push the car off the course or use a crane to hoist the car to safety. It's little touches like these that put Grand Prix in a class of its own.

If the courses weren't tough enough already, there are also five levels of difficulty to chose from as well as an option to define the realistic driving abilities of all the computer opponents. For instance, all drivers can be given exactly the same abilities or top drivers such as Nigel Mansell or Ayerton Senna made to drive more competitively and make fewer mistakes. There's also a random ability which mixes all the drivers and teams up so that Senna could be behind the wheel of a Minardi sponsored car and would subsequently underperform.

For once, the pre-release hype is certainly justified. So much so, in fact, that Grand Prix is hard to fault. The 3D graphics, simple controls, fast update, superb gameplay and overall 'feel' of the game are, in my opinion, unequalled! As the saying goes, if you buy only one game this month...

INTO GEAR Ever since the rubber-keyed Speccy played host to Psion's Chequered Flag, Formula One race games have been big business. And the Amiga with its vastly superior capabilities has played host to some of the better ones. Although we don't have anything quite as playable as the C64 all-time classic, Pit-Stop II, Electronic Arts' Indy 500, with its multiple viewpoints, easy controls and, best of all, its stunning crash sequences is well worth a look. Conversely, though, the machine's early days saw the usual plethora of crap racers, from such luminaries as Lankhor, and other long-forgotten companies.
CRAMMOND IT ALL IN Geoff Crammond is one of the more private programmers who lets his work do the talking. Geoff has been in the games business for years now, starting on Acorn's BBC Micro and consequently progressing over to the C64 and then the Amiga. All of his games have been billed as 'the most innovative' of their respective genres, and it was Crammond who pioneered detailed flight sims, with his superb wire-framed Beeb epic, Aviator. The fastest flight-sim of the time, it added more complex controls than its many rivals and featured the first ever attempts at acrobatic flying.
Crammond then disappeared for a while, but his next release has since been billed as the most original game ever. The Sentinel was a real oddity, which defies description. As a weird polygon shape, the player had to attack, and eventually absorb, the titular Sentinel creature - I did say it was weird. Once again, Crammond 'vanished' and in between other projects he started work on what eventually evolved into Grand Prix.

Formula One Grand Prix logo Zero Hero

"The invention of the computer came about as a natural step in human evolution. The brain had reached a stage where it needed a different form of processing power, and the only way to get it was to externalise itself". What a load of guff, eh? The reason computers were invented was so that people could play brilliant racing car games like Formula One Grand Prix from MicroProse. Well, Duncan MacDonald thinks so, anyway.

There's nothing in the world like a smart front end, is there? One that's full of things you can tinker with. Well, get ready to piddle about for all you're worth, because, after a rather spiff animated intro sequence, Geoff Crammond's Formula One Grand Prix delivers the goods.

ZERO: Traffic LightFirst of all, you'll want to choose a team to drive for. You may plump for Benneton, Ligier, Williams, Ferrari or McLaren. Or maybe you'll want to be attached to one of the other teams (you know, the ones that are so crap nobody can remember their names - and they're all here too, bless their cotton socks!

Now you need a name. Adolf Thunderbottom's quite a good one, but seeing as he's not a racing driver, you may want one of the others. Ayrton Senna, perhaps, or Nigel Mansell. Then again, if you've picked a crap team, you may as well continue in the same vein and go for the useless Japanese bloke who always either crashes on the starting grid or stays in the race just long enough to collide with the leaders when they're trying to lap him. Alternatively, you may wish to drive under your own - your real one or the one you use in flight Sims. Flight Lieutenant Susan Bader-Hawkins or something. No probs.

Now it's time to pick your race. You can practice on any of the sixteen tracks, either alone (against the clock) or against all 25 of the computer-controlled cars. This single race option should keep you busy for a few aeons in itself, but if you want to get really in-depth (and, of course, you will) then you can enter the World Championships. And you know what world championships are all about, don't you? Points, that's what. Points for you in the drivers' league and points for your team in the manufacturers' league.

If you want points, you need good tyres. For your qualifying lap, you'll need qualifying tyres. With superior grip they should earn you a good grid position, but they wear out after a few miles so don't forget to change them before the actual race. Then do you want hard or soft compounds? Slicks or wets? Depends on the weather, eh?

Now you get to fiddle with your gear ratios and wing angles. Your choice depends on whether the forthcoming race is a bendy 'slow' one (if you can call 150 mph slow) or a straight-ish fast one. Oh, and there's your 'brake bias' too (whatever that is). (It's whether or not the front brakes are more effective than the rear ones. Ed.)

ZERO: Traffic LightThe rules are very complicated - "You have to go as fast as you possibly can without running out of petrol or crashing." Did you get that? Try and remember, bceause it's quite important. Most racing drivers write it in biro on their hands in case they forget.

ZERO: Traffic LightAs you'll have read already, there are 16 courses. And in case you're not familiar with the Grand Prix racing season, you may want to know the names of all the tracks and where they are. (If you don't, then skim read the following list). Pheonix in the USA; Interlago in Brazil; Magny Coeurs in France; Imola and Monza in Italy; Monaco in, er, Monaco; Montreal in Canada; Silverstone in (hoorah) Blighty; Hockenheim in (boo) Germany; Hungaro Ring in Hungary; Spa Francrochamps in Belgium; Estoril in Portugal; Jerez in Spain; Suzuka in Japan and finally - both in the list and in this year's fast-approaching real world championship decider - Adelaide in Australia.

Amiga reviewDunc: This is possibly the shortest Amiga game review of all time, - the Amiga version is identical to the ST version in all respects (Apart from the sound, of course). So read the ST review...

Atari ST reviewDunc: The brilliant thing about games like this is that you get an insight into what the real sport must be like. I know that sounds a bit obvious - Formula One Grand Prix is 'a simulation' after all - but it's easy to assume you've guessed what real Grand Prix driving would be like from watching the camera car on Grandstand. Not so.

Lets take the circuit in Mexico as an example. The first bend - what a nightmare! After the lights have hit green, it's a mad dash down a medium-length straight, jostling for position the whole way. All the cars are spread out, using the whole width of the track and weaving this way and that.

Then, suddenly, everyone in front of you seems to stop. What they've actually done is slam on the brakes and change down through the gearbox from sixth to second, losing about 100 mph in the process (because of the sharp right-hander). Do you have to make sure there'll be a gap to squeeze into once all the cars have moved into single file for the racing line. Cock it up and the drivers who crash into you will be less than ecstatic (and you may even end up in one of those rather poncey roadside kicking and slapping fights).

This feeling of rapid deceleration (which really comes through in the game) is like leaving a motoray at high speed. Seventy mph may take on new proportions when there's a busy roundabout and a queue of stationary traffic about 100 feet in front of you, but imagine it from 180 mph! And imagine it happening again and again and again over a period of two hours. No wonder racing drivers lose so much body fluid - most of ends up in their pants. (I had to change my trousers after three laps).

Something else which is smart about a racing simulation of this calibre is that you get to know not just the layout of all the Grand Prix circuits reproduced here with fanatical precision), but even all the nuances. Again, take Mexico. Quite how the drivers manage to avoid the pit lane on every lap is beyond me - it's on the inside of a long right hooker, directly next to your racing line. I'm a 'pit veteran', with eighteen accidental visits under my belt already. Useless, yes, but think of the value of experiences like this if you ever end up at a party attended by Nigel Mansell. You can pretend you're a real racing driver too...

YOU: (Sidling up to Nigel.) Hello, Nige.
Formula One Grand Prix: Nigel Mansell NIGEL: Who are you?
YOU: Ah, you don't recognise me without helmet...
NIGEL: No. Are you another racing driver?
YOU: Yup, sure am. That pit lane at Mexico, eh? Terrible. I hear the circuit was originally designed by Stevie Wonder.
NIGEL: Ha ha! Yes. I thought it was only me who had trouble with that. You too, eh?
YOU: You're not joking. Had some right old to-do's, I can tell you.
NIGEL: Look, this party's boring. How about you and me going to a club I know where the wine and women flow like jiggery?
YOU:Just try and hold me back, you old bast!
NIGEL: Ha ha ha! There's no denying the fact that Geoff Crammond's Formula One Grand Prix is brilliant stuff, but I suppose there comes a point in every chap's life where he has to compare it to the classic Indy 500 (not that that's available on the ST, but don't foret, there are amiga owners reading this too).

Er, I'll be brief. F1GP's a tad jerkier than Indy, and watching the pile-ups in replay mode isn't half as much fun. So in the instant Appeal stakes, Indy 500 wins. But in the longevity stakes, F1GP wins - hands down, in fact. So stock up on the bottled mineral water, 'cos this is the game you've been waiting for all your life. (Steady on - let's go totally overboard shall we, eh? Ed.) Stop

ZERO: Warning Sign Derek and Mabel Arkwright have decided to go for a Sunday afternoon picnic. Mabel's prepared the hamper, Derek's reversed the Austin Allegro out of the garage (scraping it rather badly in the process) and now they're en-route to the countryside. Oh no - Derek's taken a wrong turn. Stop, Derek, stop...
Formula One Grand Prix: Derek and Mabel go to Silverstone
Mabel: Are you sure this is the right road, dear?
Derek: Yes, dear. Quite sure.
Mabel: Are you sure it's not a motorway?
Derek: I don't know dear. It is rather wide. It must be one of those 'dual cabbageways'.
Formula One Grand Prix: Derek and Mabel go to Silverstone
Mabel: Slow down, Derek - you're doing over 17 mph.
Derek: Sorry, dear. I don't know what came over me.
Mabel: I'm sure this is a motorway, you know...
Derek: I'll ask the RAC if we pass a telephone, dear.
Formula One Grand Prix: Derek and Mabel go to Silverstone
Further down the road...
Mabel: You know, I'm sure this is a motorway.
Derek: Er... some of the road markings have been yellow, actually.
Mabel: (Panicking.) I think you ought to turn round.
Formula One Grand Prix: Derek and Mabel go to Silverstone
Mabel: Careful now, you've already scraped the car once.
Derek: Sorry, dear. The bonnet seems longer than usual.
Mabel: Oh... well, be careful anyway.
Derek: Yes, dear. Once I've found the right gear.
Formula One Grand Prix: Derek and Mabel go to Silverstone
Mabel: That's it. Now find the road we came from...
Derek: I don't like the look of this, Mabel...
Mabel: The look of what, Derek? Don't look like the look of what?
Derek: There are some, er... cars coming towards us, dear.
Formula One Grand Prix: Derek and Mabel go to Silverstone
Mabel: Quickly, Derek, take that road there...
Derek: Er... er... er... er... this road, dear?
Mabel: Yes, yes, that road. Take that road.
Derek: Yes, dear. I think you're right again.
Formula One Grand Prix: Derek and Mabel go to Silverstone
Mabel: Gasp! Now I need to use the how's your father.
Derek: The 'how's your father'?
Mabel: You know Derek, I need to go to the, er, 'water closet'.
Derek: Ah... There should be one of those coming up soon, dear.
Formula One Grand Prix: Derek and Mabel go to Silverstone
Mabel: Look! There's one! Quickly, open my door.
Derek: Er, I think it's a petrol station, dear.
Mabel: They must have one, Derek. It's urgent. Quickly!
Derek: Ahoy there, young man! Do you have a 'water closet'?