Leading Lap logo

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

After MicroProse released Formula One Grand Prix its success was absolutely phenomenal, and when they announced that they were working on Formula One Grand Prix 2, it was something to look forward to for racing fans. What they failed to mention, however, was the fact they were developing it exclusively for the PC and an Amiga version would never follow - ever.

I don't know whether Kellion Software knew this at the time, but tey've certainly made the right decision in filling the hole that F1GP left with their new 'virtual' racing game, Leading Lap.

Leading Lap MPV features what's called Moving Point of View which acts like virtual reality. For instance, when you take a corner, the driver's head turns slightly to make it looks more realistic than Formula One GP. It's difficult to notice when you're challenging for first place, but if you sit back and watch someone else, it gives it that little bit extra to look at.

There are three cars to choose from - the Formula One, Rally, and the Endurance, all of which are formed from polygons and look very realistic - right down to the brake lights at the rear. The cars are hugely detailed and unlike many other racing games, they actually look like cars.

The main objective is to illegally race around different courses from around the world and try and win the league championship by beating four other competitors. You can select any of the cartoon-type drivers and any of the three cars. Each car has various attributes that have to be taken into account, for instance, a very bendy track may suit the Formula One car as it's good at taking bends and has a steady top speed.

When Leading Lap first arrived in the office, I noticed the graphics, in particular, were looking very professional. The polygons were shifting at a horrific rate and were generally looking fast and unbelievably smooth. So many times the Amiga's hardware has had to sacrifice speed for graphics and vice versa which, in most cases, usually leaves people disappointed.

Virtual Karting by OTM - reviewed in the November issue - was faster than most racing games, although to compensate, the graphics were truly awful - they don't look in the least bit as professional.


The main objective is to illegally race around different courses from around the world and try and win the league championship by beating four other competitors

The backdrops in Leading Lap are suitably drawn, giving you an instant feel for place and time of day. Incidentally, if you should take too long racing around a track, finding cars lapping you, the sky will become darker and darker until it's virtually impossible to see where the bends will come up.

The tracks are of a good variety and you'll always get a couple of useful tips on them before you even set off. These inform you of tight corners, obstacles to avoid, and places it may be handy to use that brake pedal. This gives you an idea of how to plan out the race - where to overtake and what to look out for.

There's a password option so you can continue the game later and take some of the pressure off the need to finish in first place. Thankfully, the passwords are nice and short and don't require you to type in about 3,000 lines of complete gibberish for you to carry on where you left off.

There's an extra option for those who have got Amiga-owning friends because two-players can link up through a serial cable and race against each other. This is always the best way of sparkling up a bit of friendly rivalry. You can best select the detail and distance level, and switch between internal and external views via the keyboard.

The best View has to be the internal because of the speed and the control. Using the zoomed out external view restricts your control of the car and, even if it does look that little bit better, it doesn't always pay to be fancy. You can also alter the angle of the external view which makes it impossible to control but, again, a good view for a bit of showing off.

There's a circuit map to the right of the screen and instead of the cars moving around the map, the map moves around the cars which looks for more interesting than a standard boring graphic.

There are five drivers to select from, although be careful because they will all try different tactics to beat you. There's Snake Kelly, Wall, Claudia Powers, Bud Nuke and Harry Lucini. They all drive their own specific cars so you will instantly be able to recognise who's in front and behind.


Professional sounds

The sound effects are pretty average, although there isn't much difference in the quality of the engine sound. However, there is the screech of brakes and a bloke that continually shouts things at you while you complete a lap. Unlike many other Amiga games, the music is actually done by a professional working guitarist who's worked with the likes of Tina Turner and Bon Jovi. Having said that, be prepared - it's very Metallica-like. So if you're into anything like Oasis, it's a cue to turn the volume down or, better still, turn it off.

Final word

Overall, Leading Lap looks and feels like a very professional product, featuring aspects that we all know the Amiga can produce. If software like this can continue at such highly quality then not only will Kellion Software undoubtedly find themselves ranking high in the list of leading software developers, they may even find themselves high in the charts so soon after Christmas.



Leading Lap logo

Donning his crash helmet and his driving gloves, Steve McGill takes a test drive in a game that hails itslf as a Formula One Grand Prix beater.

Hailed as a "Formula One Grand Prix beater" by Kellion, Leading Lap very nearly give the claim validity. But not quite. Before we discuss why, let's look at what makes Leading Lap a creditable pretender to the crown.

1) It's got a tremendous multiview 3D polygon based engine driving it.
2) The frame rate is fast enough to ensure a smooth, believable motor racing environment.

3) It makes use of extra memory, faster processors and FPUs.
4) The handling of the various cars is such that if you drive too fast on a long bend the car sins out due to excessive speed - incredibly realistic for a game which is more arcade based than simulation.

5) It looks good considering the severe restriction on the palette - you can switch on extra detail, clouds, and extra distance viewing.
6) The driving has a reasonably good feel to it for a hybrid between an arcade game and a simulation.

In all, a competent, enjoyable romp, but not quite up with F1 for immediacy.

And then there's the but. An unfortunate but, but a 'but' neverthless. There aren't enough competitors taking part in the race - four in all. To maintain a credible sense of conflict throughout a full race, there should always be someone to press for a place, or someone pressing for a place on you.

That doesn't happen with Leading Lap. At first, as familiarity with the handling of the cars take place, you're only likely to keep pace with the fourth placed car if you're lucky. Eventually you'll work your way up until leading the races from start to the finish becomes nothing more than a learned mechanical response rather than skill.

Still, it's fun in a limited kind of a way to reach the giddy heights of being the winner all the time. With twelve tracks to race on it's going to take you a reasonable stretch of extended play before approaching anything like full competency.

In all, a competent, enjoyable romp. Not quite up with F1 for immediacy and out and out pace, but still good enough to convince enough people to part with their cash for a few hours of solid entertainment. If you've got an Amiga friend, try out the serial link option; it's not bad.



Leading Lap logo

Damit ihre Fun-Raserei nicht sang- und klanglos im digitalen Verkehrsgewühl untergeht, gab ihr das Newcomer-Team von Kellion eine Menge Extras mit auf den Weg - und erstaunlich flotte Vektorgrafik!

Spielhöllenpiloten kennen die charakteristische Polygon-Optik von Segas Automaten "Virtua Racing"; am Amiga läßt sich so was in ruckfreier Form aber nur schwer hinkriegen - entsprechend dünn gesät sind die Nachfolger solcher Genre-Klassiker wie "Stunt Car Racer", "Indy 500" oder "Formula 1 Grand Prix". Doch in genau dieser Tradition steht Leading Lap:

Nach dem Motto "Wer bremst, verliert" tragen fünf Fahrer einen illegalen Wettstreit auf insgesamt 15 Strecken aus. Darunter befinden sich normale Rundkurse, aber auch ländliche Bundesstraßen, Trampelpfade duch die Wüste und die chronisch verstopften Verkehrsadern einer Großstadt.

Das Verlassen der vorgesehenen Route, um ganz frech über andere Pisten zu preschen, ist hier übrigens durchaus erlaubt, ja sogar erwünscht. Vier der fünf stets automatisch geschalteten Wägelchen betreut dabei der Rechner, es sei denn, ein zweiter Mensch klinkt sich per (Null-) Modem ins Geschehen ein.

Und im kleinen, aber abwechslungsreichen Fuhrpark stehen ein schneller, jedoch nicht eben wendiger und zudem sehr kollisionsempfindlicher Formel-1-Bolide, ein rundum robuster Jeep sowie ein Tourenwagen als vernünftiger Kompromiß zwischen den beiden zur Wahl.

Keine Wahl hat man allerdings in Sachen Spielmodi, denn hier wird nicht erst lange geübt, sondern gleich voll zur Sache gegangen: Remplen und Schieben sind erlaubt, das Umschlittern von Haarnadelkurven ist die Regel. Nebenbei sucht man nach dem optimalen Blickwinkel für die aktuelle Vekehrssituation, denn es stehen Cockpitansicht, Verfolgerperspektive und drei Heck-Kameras zur Verfügung.

Dazu kann auf Wunsch eine "intelligente" Kamera installiert werden, die bei Kurvenfahrten automatisch in die entsprechende Richtung schwenkt. Besonders gut dürfte dieses Feature in der angekündigten Spezialversion für die i-glasses! (also die neue VR-Brille für den Amiga) rüberkommen, über die wir Euch selbstverständlich Nähres berichten, sobald sie zur "Computer 95" an den Start geht.

Zu den weiteren Leckerbissen des Games gehören geheime Bonusstrecken, eine stets in Fahrtrichtung gepolte Landkarte, umfangreiche Speichermöglichkeiten und regelbare Grafikdetails. Voll in Fahrt kommen die 3D-Polygone nämlich erst auf einem A1200, während sich die gute Soundbegleitung (rockige Titelmusik, passende Effekte) und das prima Handling (kaum Diskwechsel, HD-Unterstützung) auf allen Amigas gleichermaßen einfahren lassen.

An Unterhaltungswert fehlt es Leading Lap somit nicht - höchstens an Feintuning wie Boxenstopps, Aufmotz-Extras und einem wirklich cleveren Verhalten der Gegner. (rl)



Leading Lap logo

Once you've gone round Silverstone 27 times it gets a teeny bit dull. Like this.

There was bound to come a time when we just looked at computer games and said, "Why?" We've already said, "Wow!" a couple of times. And there have been a few occasions upon which we've said, "No..." We've said, "By Jingo," more than once. And I remember asking, "How?" sometime early in 1993.

But now the time has come for "Why?" Why ever on earth do we need another 3D polygon-type motor racing game-thing with a small assortment of cars, drivers and courses? I mean, why? WHY? ANSWER ME.

Actually, I've been wondering "why?" for most of this month as I've looked at game after game that seem, in the great scheme of things, to be a totally unjustified waste of everyne's valuable time. When I started working for AP in issue 16 (just after the Matt Bielby 'Golden Age') there were seemingly countless racing games around. There have been many more since, looking at the motor racing world from every available perspective.

There have been arcade-style games. Full-on simulators. Motorcycle games. We've had sprite-based scrolling background games. Scaling polygon 3D games. Top-down slippy-slidey games. Games involving small, heavily promoted toys. And now there's this. Another polygon 3D arcade racing game. "Welcome to the racing game that will change your life!" says the manual, carelessly ignoring the advice Stuart Campbell once gave me that Exclamation! Marks! Are! For! ("High Street Bankers!" - Ed). You're welcome to it, mate.

The hyperbole continues: "Well, what if we told you that this was the most addictive, most exciting, most playable arcade racing game ever to grace an Amiga, and that it was the most powerful 3D polygon engine yet seen on an Amiga Technologies machine?" Honestly? If you really tried to tell me that to my face, my old lovelies, I'd probably snort. Derisively.

Addictive it certainly isn't. Being an 'arcade racing game' it has neither power-ups nor any options for tactical tweaking of cars. This makes it instantly accessible but leaves it, sadly, with all the depth of the toddler pool at Easton Leisure Centre and the life expectancy of a dormouse at a tabby cat convention. Leaping Lap's JUST ANOTHER RACING GAME.


The middle distance objects

FULL THROTTLE
Ah, but what about exciting? Well, no, I didn't find it very exciting at all. You hold the fire button down for full throttle and steer round a course. You slow down for bends and watch the pretty scenery in the distance while middle distance objects grow and then slip past you.

There are four other cars on the road. If you're any good they're all behind you so you don't see them. If you're bad they're all in front of you so you don't see them. If you're average two of them are in front of you and two of them are behind you and they're quite widely spread out so you rarely, if ever, see them.

And you keep racing until you get to the end. If excitement is in the eye of the beholder I didn't behold any. It's JUST ANOTHER RACING GAME.

What, then, about playable? Well, you choose one of three cars (fast=difficult and fragile, slow=easy and robust, and middling=middling). You choose one of five players (each with their own characteristics and abilities) after reading their not-quite-hilarious biographies. And then you hold the fire button down for full throttle and steer round the twelve courses (but I've already said that).

The (switchable) map of the course takes some getting used to - it turns so that you're always driving up the screen - but other than that it's quite straightforward. So while it's playable enough it's scarcely "the most playable". That seems to imply that it has some appeal beyond being easy to get to grips with. And it doesn't. It's JUST ANOTHER RACING GAME.


Tangible absence of whizz

And then we come on to "the most powerful 3D polygon engine yet seen on an Amiga Technologies machine". Now, I'll confess up front that I'm no techie - I can tell a hard drive form a coffee machine, but I'm not in any way qualified to comment upon the relative merits of polygon scaling routines.

But, I ran Leading Lap on the AP office A1200 - a bog-standard almost-straight-out-of-the-box machine with a hard drive and an external floppy drive. Then I ran it on the other AP office A1200 - an almost identical machine but with a bit more memory. It was certainly quite a competent 3D routine, but there was noticeable jerkiness and a tangible absence of whizz.

I tweaked the display options and set it for minimum detail at all levels. It was certainly less jerky and had about it much of an air of whizz, but the shrewd observer might suggest that this was because there wasn't actually anything for the computer to do except scroll the road.

So, it seems to run at anything between 'quite good and a little jerky but very pretty' to 'quite fast but nothing to look at except the road'. It might well be the "most powerful 3D polygon engine yet seen" for all I know, but it didn't astound me in any way with its brilliance. And technical expertise doesn't really count for anything anyway because it's JUST ANOTHER RACING GAME.

But I don't want to leave this 3D thing yet, because I noticed a few other things. The mid-distance obstacles (the track-side stuff) draw in as you approach them. They don't start very small and then grow and grow until they flash past you. Instead, they appear a little way ahead and then grow a it more before they past you.

This is most noticeable - you're using the external views when it looks as if there are only a limited number of buildings and someone has to pick up the ones you've driven past and run to the other end of the line with them to make it look as if there are more. Worse still (again in the external views) is that the road itself sometimes seems to be being built as you drive along it, giving you very little notice of what's coming up.


You can listen to car-like noises

GHOSTLY MANNER
Some trackside obstacles aren't even solid. You can drive through them and out the other side in an eerie, ghostly manner. This also happens with the other cars. Or does it? Or DOES it? OR... oh, I can't be bothered. There's a pleasing selection of camera angles, including a set which lets you see the race from the point of view of the other cars (although if you choose to race with any of your competitors, your own car just stops, so it's not really of any practical value).

Anyway, I have to confess that I only saw the 'transparent obstacle' phenomenon when I was racing with the other drivers, and it doesn't appear to affect your own car. Still, even if it only happens to the computer-controlled cars, it's not really fair, is it? How come they can drive through walls and each other when I have to avoid hitting anything? Hmm?

So what else is there? Well, a serial link to double the pleasure (if you have a friend who wants to play JUAT ANOTHER RACING GAME with you) and an irritating manual with a desperately funny 'Quickstart' section that tells you how well written the rest of the manual is and how you ought to read it. Laugh? I thought I'd never start.

And there you have it. Compete against four other drivers in a series of twelve ('illegal' - how deliciously naughty) races around the world and see who wins. You get lap records, course records, and a league table. You can change your view of the world but not your car. You can listen to car-like noises and occasional voice samples that tell you how you're doing.

The scenery changes from course to course around the world and is quite entertaining. The weather changes, as does the time of day (though you have no contorl over it). The skies are pretty. The backgrounds are pretty. The courses are varied and each have their own little tricky bits for you to overcome. But so what? Everything else about it is so desperately ordinary that you're really not going to want to come back to it time and again.

A quick glance at the credits shows that they did their own playtesting - if only they'd given it to someone who wasn't in any way involved in the project they'd realised much sooner that it's JUST ANOTHER RACING GAME.

"Play Leading Lap for a couple of minutes and we think you'll agree with everything we said so far," enthuses the manual. No, I think they'll agree with everything I've said so far. It's JUST ANOTHER RACING GAME.


MUG SHOTS

Or the inevitable character box. These are the five ugly characters. Choose one or, race... against... the others...

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Leading Lap logo

Price: £25.99 Publisher: Black Legend 01438 840003

An updated F1 or an excellent new track racing game? Leading Lap takes pole position and crashes through the sound barrier...

Tony Dillon, our ex games editor left CU Amiga Magazine with images of regular hours, good pay and director's perks swirling around his head. In legal partnership with an American man called Kelly, he gave irth to his long planned brainchild: Kellion Software. And they promised some great games.

Two weeks ago a worn out, overworked, impoverished Dillon showed up at our offices, asking the price of a cup of tea in exchange for a couple of disks. He said they would change our lives and hopefully his - forever. The disks contained Leading Lap.

Leading Lap is designed to be an F1 for the mid nineties. As soon as it appears on screen you immediately think: F1! But a quick glance back at the original is sufficient to show just how far things have come - at a price though.

The price is speed. Although Leading Lap looks fab, on an A1200 without acceleration it's still marginally slower than the original. Mind you, F1 was designed to run fast on an A500, so the A1200 is a bit of a luxury. But F1 looks dated by comparison, and the speed difference is not enough to really effect gameplay, especially when you take into account the realism offered by the graphics.

Ridge what?
The PR banter compare this game to Ridge Racer. This is stretching the truth somewhat. If comparison are made then yes, this is a smooth polygon racing game and you can view the car from a number of angles, including an outside fly-by position. Taking the comparison a bit further though, its resolution and smoothness just doesn't compare nor does its detail. At all.

But we are talking a 2Mb Amiga here, and Leading Lap is being designed to run on ECS machines too, though we haven't actually seen this version yet.

The cars have realistic up-down nose movements as they accelerate, though sideways movement is limited, i.e. the cars stick to the ground as befits vehicles shod with racing tyres. The spins and skids are spectacular. Especially so if you are using one of the three outside views.

These outside views give you a much broader look at the tracks and surroundings, and the game is actually playable in the fly-by mode. Difficult, but playable. Personally though I prefer the cockpit view because the steering wheel accurately emulates your directions and this makes it a more thrilling driving experience.

Checking out the backgrounds is rewarding too, because as you enter each race and go through it the broad daylight you start out in changes to twilight, slowly but surely.

Serial killer
Happily a serial link up is possible and two player grudge matches are good fun. Unfortunately it's just you against the other person, the computer players don't join in. This means that the fun of serial play peters out quickly, but it's always good to return to this mode.

One other area where Leading Lap really excels is in the music department. Although the engine sound is a bit bumble bee-like, the brakes are great and the metal guitar sound track is as good if not better than the one in Mark Sibly's Gloom. It's just such a change from the monotonous housey or semi-cabaret rubbish in most games its almost worth a Super Star award for this alone.

But I'm not gong to give it an award. Why? The reason is simple: depth. As a racing game it is very good. Full marks to the graphics, the difficulty level, and the modem link.

The speed is acceptable on an A1200 too and on an accelerated one or an A4000 it's very good. You can turn down various graphics options to enhance performance too. But in terms of lastability, there just isn't enough long term depth. I asked Tony Dillon why there was no manual gear option and why there were no upgrades to cars etc. He replied that in his experience they weren't necessary. But I think a game needs more than just race after race to keep you busy.

I like Leading Lap. Technically, it's great, music wise it's fab (although the engine sound does irritate) and the tracks are fun, especially when you're racing in a crowd. With a track designer promised in the coming months it's a good game if you want to race and you want realism as well.


The Tracks:

There are 15 tracks in all. Here's a variety of them. The landscapes vary and the complexity of the tracks means that they don't get dull.

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The Drivers

Like all good arcade gamers you have the option of choosing which driver you want to play with. The choice will influence your driving style, though apart from slight blips in stability and traction it's difficult to tell the difference. Still it's nice to have the choice.

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