Wah hige rides again

Grand Prix Circuit logo Amiga Computing Value Award

STRANGE fact number 4.061: Major companies pay massive sums to advertise on the siding of racing cars which flash past the intended audience at speed averaging more than 150mph. It is a funny old world.

Accolade's Grand Prix Circuit has taken these high-speed advertising hoardings and built a game around them. Not that there was much design involved because Grand Prix Circuit follows the real Formula 1 championship almost to the letter.
As far as presentation is concerned, the view from the cockpit is similar to Accolade's recent Test Drive II. The cockpit has very few working controls - you have got exactly what you need, a rev counter, steering wheel, gear lever and damage indicator.
This display remains relatively constant across the three cars on offer - a Ferrari, a Williams and an all-conquering MacLaren. The Ferrari is a good beginner's car, cornering well but losing a little power on the straights. The Maclaren, on the other hand, is a bitch to handle but travels faster than a speeding bullet. The Williams is a good compromise, taking corners well and performing admirably in a straight line.

In itself, working your way through these three would be enough variation, but GPC also offers five skill levels. The first takes care of the gear chancing and endows the car with near total invulnerability from crashes.
From level two upwards the going gets tougher, with even the relatively user-friendly Ferrari proving quite a handful in the top flight.

There are eight circuits in all, taking in Brazil, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan plus the two street circuits of Detroit and Monaco. Any can be used for practice purposes before entering either a single contest or a full eight-race championship.
Points are scored in the usual way - nine points for a race winner falling to a single point for sixth place. A save and load option allows you to take a rest at any stage, with up to nine separate games accommodated.
So much for the options, how does the racing feel? Well, I have never taken a car around Hockenheim or Silverstone - but I know a man who has and he is completely over the moon with GPC's recreations of some of his favourite circuits. The achievable lap times are accurate to tenths of a second, as are the default lap records and opponent's times.

There are a couple of little faults to rain on the parade. In fact, a lack of rain is one of the most serious. Imagine an entire Formula 1 season played out in blazing sunshine with the wet tyres staying in their packing crates throughout. Very unlikely.
On a similar note, the opposition may vary in ability, but one thing remains constant - they all drive impeccably safely. There is no need for track marshals or a system of warning flags because if there is a prang you can bet your exhaust pipe that you will be involved.
The only other real problem is the flatness of the tracks. A few hills and bumps would not have gone amiss, especially in Monaco, which is notorious for the steepness of its hairpin bend.
Otherwise realism prevails. Even at the lowest level, the car steers accurately - it is all too easy to let the tail end slide out when cornering, and it is easier still to overcompensate. The backgrounds vary from circuit to circuit to generate some sort of character. Even a three-lapper needs super-human concentration.

Add a couple of little features such as the speedy wheel changes and the ever so polished presentation of Grand Prix Circuit amounts to the most complete simulation yet of high speed car racing.


Grand Prix Circuit logo

ACCOLADE £24.95 Joystick

Ferrari, McLaren, Williams. Big names in the world of Formula One motor racing and deservedly so. Not many of us will ever have the chance to drive one of these examples of high-performance machinery: the closest we'll probably come is watching them as they hurtle round Brands Hatch or Silverstone. Unless you own an Amiga. Thanks to Accolade, of Test Drive fame, Amiga owners can now drive all these cars around up to eight Grand Prix circuits.

Your view of the track is from the car's cockpit as you thunder round at speeds of over 200 mph. Traveling that fast with a 960 hp V6 engine propelling you is not easy, so you are well advised to select the novice level for the first few attempts. In this mode the competitors treat you nicely, the gearbox is automatic, and you can't spin out or blow the engine up. Once you become more familiar with the game, you can up the reality level until you're changing gear yourself and running the risk of losing control or destroying the mechanicals through overwork.

The game allows you to either practice, take part in a single race or compete in a championship in which you race on each circuit in turn. Every race allows for one qualifying lap to determine grid position, after which you're straight into the competitive action. The length of each race is determined by the player, up to a max of 99 laps. During the race there's a small map of the entire circuit in the top left corner that shows your position on the track and where the other cars are, but in a long race your position will probably be affected by the need to make at least one pit stop to change all the tyres, or just those on one side.

The computer-controlled drivers all have different driving styles, and it doesn't take long to work out who not to overtake on corners. The cars also handle very differently. The McLaren, for example, is the fastest on the straight while the Ferrari has terrific cornering and acceleration. Once familiar with the cars, you can choose which make of car best suits your driving style; but remember, you can't switch teams halfway through a season.

Grand Prix Circuit is a good driving game. One criticism is that the graphics don't give as great an impression of speed as some games, but the cars handle well and the various kinds of cars and circuits you can choose add some lasting interest.


GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Nicely animated, but a bit of extra speed would have helped. The sound effects are just like the ones from Test Drive (surprise, surprise), but are fine for the game.
Mouse control would have been better, because the joystick seems awkward until you get used to it. Once you do, you'll find it enjoyable and challenging, especially at pro level.

Grand Prix Circuit logo

Accolade, Amiga £24.95

The sun is shining; the tarmac is hot and sticky. Yes, it's the Grand Prix season once again and is Nigel ever getting his Ferrari working properly? Probably not, but why don't you give it a whirl in Accolade's 16-bit conversion of the C64 motor racing sim.

McLaren, Ferrari or Williams Formula One cars are at your disposal, each vehicle having various strengths and weaknesses. Once you're satisfied with your selection, you are greeted with the race statistics menu. Here, you can select either a Practice lap, Single Race (qualifying lap and the race proper on whichever course you desire) or the Championship Circuit (a mini world championship on eight tracks). Other choices include amount of laps per race and skill level.


Phil King I totally disagree with Randy. Being a big fan of Ferrari Formula One, I found Grand Prix Circuit over-simple. Furthermore, I prefer the actual racing section of FF1 to this as the cars move and corner more realistically and the atmospheric engine noises are far superior. Admittedly if you can't be bothered with a complex simulation, this is a playable alternative but motor-racing fans would be better off getting FF1.
Paul Rand While the general look of Grand Prix Circuit comes close to that of Ferrari Formula One, the two should not be compared. FF1 was an out and out simulator, whereas Grand Prix Circuit offers much more in the way of arcade-style road action. Vehicles move in a generally realistic manner and track movement is smooth. Engine roar is on the wimpy side, sounding more as though the driver has just eaten bad curry! Ignoring this, Grand Prix Circuit is an excellent introduction to computer motor-racing.