Let's be honest right up front. Any racing game released from now on is going to have to withstand immediate comparison to MicroProse's Formula One Grand Prix before it even gets off the starting line. But Vroom is a different sort of racing game altogether (cue chorus in the background: "Vroom is a different sort..."). While it's not nearly as simplistic as, say, Cisco Heat, it certainly doesn't pretend to be definitely realistic.
Under your control is a very fast car indeed. This car is controllable either with the joystick (the wimp's option) or the mouse. In a previous incarnation the game forced you to use either the mouse or joystick for particular modes - enough to put you off the game completely at first. The Amiga version removes this restriction (at the request of many frustrated players) and it makes the game much more approachable.
At first you shy away completely from mouse control, because it's so damn difficult: you need to push forward to accelerate, pull back to brake, use the left and right buttons to change gear, and steer at the same time. Once you get used to its subtleties, however, you realise it's by far the best control method, offering you far more precision than a joystick can. Automatic and manual gears are available in both modes - again, manual is the best option once you're used to the car.
The game offers three very different modes to race in. Training allows you to pick the number of laps and the circuit to race on, from the six included (Anderstop, Castellet, Zeltweg, Silverstone, Watkins Glen or Mount Fuji). It's basically a chance to whiz round each circuit and try to beat your best lap time without any other competitors getting in your way.
Even better is the 'Help' key that bails you out at any time by putting you back parallel to the track edge. In Arcade mode you need to pass a certain number of cars on each lap to qualify, and of course this number increases the farther you get.
A day at the races
There's also a somewhat informative Demo mode, which shows you all the best places to crash. Actually, having a quick shufty at the demo before you attempt a lap is a good idea. There's nothing worse than coming cold to a course, screaming around what looks like an easy bend and rapidly making the acquaintance of a hoarding by the side of the track.
But the real biggie is the Competition mode. This is a full championship, with names (authentically humorous ones like Latreze and Mainsail being provided by the game) and times are recorded after each race. You need to race a qualifying lap before each circuit to place yourself on the grid, and since you have to work your way through each and every circuit in turn it's best to make use of the Save and Load Game facilities.
One fairly minor point to note here: you save names and times direct onto the game disk, which means a) you can't keep different sets of stats and b) there is always the possibility of something going horribly wrong with the drive while you are saving, which would leave you with a completely useless game disk.
One of the most enjoyable options is the modem link. Connecting up two Amigas with a null modem cable allows you and a friend to race each other one-on-one. This, of course, leads to much verbal abuse as one player crashes and has the humiliation of watching the other sail briskly by.
Vroom is a top class game with tons of careful programming behind it.
Days of Thunder
Vroom is fast, much faster than F1 Grand Prix. The graphics crack along at a phenomenal rate, and although this is partly because of their simplicity (relatively speaking), you can't help being impressed. Hills and hollows are incredibly realistic, so much so you find yourself swaing with the car as it rounds a bend or crests a hill. Accompanying this to perfection is the meaty growl of your engine and the Doppler-effect enhanced sound of all the other cars screaming past you. Whack the volume up and you can become completely lost. The intro music is suitably tacky too.
As you might expect, it's not all wonderfulness, though you really have to grope to find anything seriously wrong. The game's instructions are pretty poorly translated and are probably worth reading through two or three times. There's a Zoom function available during racing which is supposed to alter your view but seems to do hardly anything at all, certainly nothing useful.
The indicator-lights are situated right under your driver's hands, so they're completely obscured unless you're turning a corner. Someone ought, perhaps, to have pointed out that screeching around a corner at 190mph perhaps isn't the best time to check if your tyres are OK. And as usual, none of the other competitors ever crash - though they do stop at the pits. In fact, they usually do this just then you want to, and naturally you don't actually see them until you're approximately three feet away from their rear tyres in what you thought was an easy swerve-into-the-pits-for-a-gas-fill-up manoeuvre.
Yes indeed, it's straw-clutching on a major scale when it comes to criticism, because, to put it bluntly, Vroom is most excellent. It's got the graphics, it's got the speed, it's got the sound (which is so often a disappointment in race games), and most of all it's massive fun to play.
You really can see an improvement in your driving after many hours of practice, and there's always the hope that eventually you may crack the championship. There's no doubt about it, Vroom is a top-class game with tons of careful programming behind it and gameplay which grabs you where it hurts. (Pity about the title though).