far we have determined that Grand Prix mode bares many
similarities to the original game. So how does it play? Let's find
Selection of Grand Prix mode will send you into the first of many
Circuit Select allows you to choose your race type from: Training
- a practice session over the circuit of your choice. Single Race
- a one off race from the 18 circuits that make up the 1997 F1
season. Championship - a full F1 season of 18 races.
Driver Select allows you to scroll through the 11 teams and 22
drivers. Edit Driver lets you change the name of your selected
driver to... your own. Hey, cool.
The Game Mode and Car Set Up is where most of your pre-race time
will be spent. Here you can make extensive and detailed
adjustments to the car and race conditions. Each circuit is
different in demands therefore your chosen car will need to be
adjusted for every race. The following adjustments are now
Race Length - short (3), medium (5), long (10), half and full
Skill Setting - Novice, Amateur, Rookie, Professional and Expert.
When the skill is set at Novice you will only be able to make a
few minor adjustments to your car set up whereas Expert level
opens up all race options.
Steer Assist, Brake Assist, Damage, Tyre Wear, Fuel and Sessions
remain as the original Formula 1 except that fuel load will affect
the weight of the car and cause understeer.
Failures, however, is one of the new options. All of the cars are
subject to mechanical failure. Some from bad car set ups, some
from bad driving technique, others are plain bad luck. Engines
will blow up, pistons will burst and there's nothing you can do
Weather options include Sunny, Rain, Variable or Random. Variable
is the one we all wanted as this allows the weather to change
during the course of a race.
Two of the best new ideas are the inclusion of Marshal Flags and
Tear Offs. Yellow flags are waved when danger is imminent. Slow
down and do not overtake. Green flags signify the all clear. Red
flags indicate that the race has been stopped. Black and white
flags informs the driver that he has been issued a warning and a
Black flag disqualifies the driver. During a race, if you select
cockpit view, your vision will become impaired by dirt, debris and
insects. A press of the triangle button will remove a tear-off and
clear your vision but they are limited so use sparingly.
Car Set Ups will win or lose your race. There are no right or
wrong decisions, just experiments.
Tyres are chosen from slicks, wets or monsoons (for storm
conditions). Soft or hard compounds must also be chosen.
Suspension may be set from 0 - 100%. Brake discs can be adjusted
as can Brake bias. Front and rear downforce must be set
individually with a scale available for each.
All of the above setting may be saved into one of the twenty
available Set Up slots and transferred onto your memory card. This
allows you to pre-set twenty different car set ups and then try
each one out on a test drive. Now it's time to race. At last.
The reason I have explained the set ups in so much depth is
because this is the major difference from the original game. Each
cars handling is so different to the last game that you will be
thankful that you do not have to also learn the circuits. I felt
confident, having triumphed at hard mode on last years game, so I
selected Damon Hill for the Arrows team, clicked on Expert mode,
set up my car and trudged off to Melbourne for my first race of
After a couple of practice laps I began my first qualifying
session. I crossed the line after a cracking first lap in pole
position. This is too easy. Expert mode, in an Arrows? By lap five
I had fallen to third position, so I settled for that and quit the
Lining up on the staring grid I knew there was something wrong. I
was in 22nd position. What the hell is going on? Learn from my
mistake fellow racers. We asked for an accurate game and we got
one. Qualifying takes place over a one hour session with a limited
number of laps. In the last few minutes of the allowed time all of
the drivers pile onto the track with their cars readjusted and
clock up their best times. Did we want this to be so realistic? I
suppose we did.
The red lights turn to green and I tore off down the opening
straight - right into a pile up on the first corner and because I
ran straight up the arse of the car in front, I received my first
black and white flag as a warning. I scrambled through the debris,
yellow flags waving, and came out of the smash in 16th position. I
nearly jumped out of my skin when a voice boomed out of the left
speaker "you've got quite a lot of damage there. Do you want
to come in for repairs?" It was the pit crew and they were
right. My car handled like a pile of scrap metal so I crawled
around the circuit and took my first of many pit stops.
Pit stops have a new procedure, they are more automatic. As soon
as your vehicle grinds to a halt, tyres are changed, repairs are
carried out and the only action you need to concern yourself with
is stopping the intake of fuel or changing your tyres when the
weather takes a turn for the worse.
Back on the track I had learned my lesson the hard way as the race
leaders were lapping me on only my second circuit. I was so far
behind the leaders that I almost gave up. Suddenly, up ahead,
there was a trail of cars crawling around the circuit. On closer
inspection I spotted the cause, one of the drivers engines had
blown up and he was staggering back to the pits. I carefully eased
my way past the line and the race was back on. A couple of laps
later I was beginning to make time up on the leaders so I began to
relax and take note of the scenery. Bad move, I didn't notice the
yellow flag and collided with a stationary car that had not been
removed from the track. Both cars flew up into the air before
smashing into the barriers, debris flying everywhere. I only just
made it back to the pits but this time I was so far behind I had
nothing to lose so I tried out a few manoeuvres of my own. Heavy
braking had Murray warning me that the break discs were really
glowing. Wet and Monsoon tyres do not mix with a dry track,
uncontrollable. Deliberate collisions result in an immediate black
flag, as does driving the wrong way around the circuit.
Do not listen to the commentators weather warnings as I was moving
through the pack at Interlagos when Murray claimed that the skies
were darkening and clouds were gathering. Ah ha, I thought, it's
going to rain. Out of the pits I came, wet tyres at the ready. The
first thing he said was "the clouds have blown away and the
sun is coming out". Twat!
Drivers appear to have their own personalities, far more than just
the 'team orders' of the first game. For instance Michael
Schumacher will attack on the inside at corners where other
drivers will back off or drive less defensively. All the cars are
completely free to drive on (and off!) the track rather than just
certain lines, and will avoid crashed cars or obstacles on the
track and can even make mistakes themselves.
The brand new split-screen mode that will allows two players to
race against each other on one console was a little disappointing
after experiencing the tremendous two player link-up mode from the
original. There is also the option of horizontal or vertical
splits depending on the user preference.