Formula One Grand Prix
Jason Compton

Another entry in the Guildhall Leisure republication line of old Microprose titles, this is the game that has created a lasting legend among Amiga users.

Formula One Grand Prix, or F1GP as its fans refer to it, was originally produced in 1991 by Geoff Crammond of Stunt Car Racer fame. Race games always scare me. I've got a lot of arcade game experience under my belt, and usually impress friends at how quickly I can learn the rules and gameplay of just about anything I find. A big exception is race games. Typically, the more realism a game offers, the worse off I am. I could fling around the courses of Pitstop and Pitstop 2 on the 64 fairly well, but Pole Position and up had me stumped. Virtual Karting was a particular low point for me--I couldn't get anywhere to save my life in that game. Anything more taxing than XTR usually is too much.

So imagine my intimidation level when the F1GP manual tells me how it is more of a simulation than a game. Great, that's all I need, the realistic implementation of high-speed cigars of death on supersmooth roads. You'll forgive me for saying so, but that seems to me what Formula One racing is.

F1GP puts you in the cockpit of a race car with the authentic spread of 1991 F1 circuits at your beck and call, for individual racing or a championship season. Qualifying, practice runs, pit stops, they're all here, right down to technical issues of tire...excuse me, tYre types and wing adjustments. A great deal of attention has been paid to detail--much of the manual is a primer on the F1 circuit, racing strategy, and the cars and their history. For a die-hard F1 fan most of this will be old hat--for an American, where F1 in particular and auto racing in general is not the most popular of sports (particularly since I'm not in the American South), it made some interesting reading.

The game lets you control your car using digital joystick, keyboard, or analog joystick. Using digital joystick can be difficult for a precision driving game, but I found it workable. It's a small shame that multi-button Amiga joysticks were not in use at the time since it could have made things a bit easier.

Fortunately for weaklings like me, Crammond made the game very playable for mere mortals. A number of "driving aids" are supplied. When all enabled, driving the F1 car is pretty much just a matter of steering along a dotted line in the road--the computer handles speed and gear for you. You can progressively enable or disable these as you see fit, even on the fly during the course of the race. To get the full respect and admiration of the game and your peers, you'll need to race without any help whatsoever--very difficult until you get familiar with the game and know the tracks intimately, which is what the manual keeps insisting you do, just like the real life F1 drivers.

The game aims for accuracy and tries to give you the real-life cockpit view, which means you get rear-view mirrors and your dead-ahead perspective--although you can get a trackside view and the view from other pilot's perspectives.

Once I got the hang of the game I was pretty happy with it--but I'm still not ready to really drive well without any help from the computer.

1991 means ECS, a game styled for pretty stripped down machines. 4 floppies which are HD installable (although the installer is a pretty silly one which insists on putting the game in your SYS: directory). Runs with little to no coaxing on modern hardware. Interestingly enough, the game was designed to run in NTSC. It runs fine on 060s--the only bad part is that looking at the graphics and detail you know that the 060 (and even some lower processors) feel like they have both hands tied behind their backs.

I actually enjoy F1GP, which surprised me somewhat. I do think that the thrill can and will wear down, particularly for those F1 fans who don't want to play with the heroes of yesteryear. This is the neat part of F1GP--Oliver Roberts' F1GPEd. This little piece of shareware digs into the F1GP executable (or your copy running in memory) and lets you customize virtually everything about the game, as well as making improvements to the game's logic and its overall challenge (for those who find it a breeze after some practice.) Highly recommended as a companion piece. With F1GP's budget price, the US$15 Roberts asks isn't that much more. Roberts also presides over an ongoing competition of other F1GP addicts--it's things like this that keep a game interesting 6 years later.

I don't know that F1GP has made me get over my problem with racing games, but I do know a solid, enjoyable effort when I see one.

Budget re-released by:

Guildhall Leisure (Acid Software)
Unit 15
Guildhall Industrial Estate
Kirk Sandall
South Yorkshire

++44 1302 890000 voice
++44 1302 890010 fax e-mail

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