Detachable steering wheels, fireproof suits, split lap times, slip-streaming and champagne wasted by the bucket-load. Welcome to the world of Formula One racing, and with Microprose’s latest heavyweight F1 sim, you can almost smell the burning rubber… or petrol as the case may be.
This isn’t the developer’s first foray into the world of Grand Prix racing. In fact it’s the third, and as such the game engine (so to speak) has been overhauled considerably. That said, many lines of the song remain the same. You still have to pick a team to manage, and this gauges the difficulty level of the game, but expectations from the team’s board are laid out in stone. Pick McLaren and you’ll be expected to win… on the other hand the Minardi team just want a point scraped at some stage of the season. A challenge in itself some might say!
Once into the season the plethora of differing management options is quite staggering. This isn’t a sim for the faint-hearted, but purist motor sport fans are going to absolutely love this detail. You have to deal with everything, from hiring and firing drivers – even test drivers – who are all rated in different skills, to negotiating contracts, sponsorships, engine deals, car testing and maintenance, supplies (tyres, etc.), product licensing, even hospitality arrangements at the races. It’s so detailed it’s mind-boggling.
Race tactics have to be specified too, with overtaking orders within your team, pit strategies and suchlike. All this preparation led to something of a let-down in the viewing of the actual race in the previous versions of this game, but fortunately matters have been improved somewhat here. Not only do you get the standard graphical overview of the race, with full commentary, but you also get full 3-D camera views of your two cars. The visuals, while not brilliant, are good enough to add considerably to the atmosphere of race day.
The only problem with GPM is you can spend an hour tuning and preparing for a race, only to watch as one of your idiot drivers plunges off the course recklessly at the third corner, while the other ignores the ensuing yellow flag, and gets pitted for a 10 second penalty leaving him stone last. Makes you want to scream, but it just goes to show how accurate this simulation really is.