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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: October 15, 2002
Although racing titles are not nearly as popular on the personal computer today as they were a few years ago, a few diehard simulations persevere. As the fastest car racing circuit on the planet, Formula One competition has become increasingly popular in recent years. For Formula One gaming fans, there are now just two competitors: Electronic Arts’ F1 series, the latest of which is F1 2002, and Infogrames’ ten-year-old Grand Prix series, with Grand Prix 4 just released. Under the guidance of the famous Geoff Crammond and his development studio Simergy, this new offering for the PC attempts to solidify its lead on the opposition.
Unlike F1 2002‘s more current coverage, Grand Prix 4 encompasses the 2001 Formula One season, reproduced accurately as licensed by the sport’s governing body, the Formula One Administration. The offering contains all of the official drivers, crews and teams involved as well as all 17 tracks in the Formula One world championship. In contrast to Grand Prix 3, this new game utilizes global positioning data to model the tracks, resulting in accurate renditions of each bend, bump, crest, curb and dip. In place of the sparse backdrops common in other racing simulations, Grand Prix 4‘s tracks are surrounded by environments that look like snapshots of the real world. The tracks are sufficiently different in design as to require a diverse range of driving skills to win consistently.
In terms of racing options, there are more opportunities than ever for people to merely get a taste of Formula One racing rather than complete an entire championship season. Perhaps the most exciting innovation over Grand Prix 3 is the introduction of a Quicklaps mode, where you attempt to achieve the fastest lap time from a flying start with no qualifying or practice laps. In addition, the Quickrace option allows you to choose your track and drive a few laps as a warm-up for the real thing. For players in for the long haul, these opportunities can provide excellent training for the rigors of the grueling and intense championship competition.
Despite the publisher’s claim of improved physics for Grand Prix 4, the physics model does not seem to have changed much from Grand Prix 3. That’s not a major problem, as the driving physics have been satisfying, displaying consistent and predictable performance with wonderfully responsive car handling during both normal driving on the tracks and accidental driving on the grass. However, when on the track, the vehicles appear to grip the asphalt a bit too relentlessly, and the suspension modeling could use some improvement, leaving Grand Prix 4 slightly behind F1 2002 in overall physics quality.
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