Open-wheel mayhem... the pavement flying scant inches beneath the bottom of your seat.. V12 engines screaming for mercy at 11,000 RPM's.. Grand Prix Legends takes you back to the earliest days of Grand Prix racing. Days when drivers had to carve their path to victory without the benefits of computerized suspension, fuel-injection monitors and anti-lock braking systems. Come with me on a cruise down memory lane to a time when it was just man vs. machine, no corporate sponsors and no 5 point racing harnesses to hold you back.
The boys at Papyrus went to the wall with this title. Firstly, I must confess I am a bit of a classic racing freak, so I appreciated the opportunity to dig into this long delayed product from the Sierra-Motorsports division. GPL takes you back to 1967 in, what I feel, could be the racing sim game of the year. The researchers at Papyrus seemed to have left few stones unturned in gathering infinite amounts of data to bring this title to life. True physics and track-detail all swiftly drag you into a game that, for the racing enthusiast, brings it all home. Initially promised for first quarter '98, Grand Prix Legends is a title I feel was worth the wait.
If you looked up 'unbelievable' in ye-old-dictionary it would have to say `see Grand-Prix Legends'. Sporting an all new 3D engine from Papyrus, the textures, shading and detail levels achieved in GPL will set a benchmark for future racing sims. Needless to say 3DFX is both supported and utilized fully. Everything from the spinning wheels to the bouncing suspension has been animated almost to perfection. A fully functional and interactive 3D dashboard gives you all the information available for your car as you blaze your way down the track through tight corners and fast straightaways. Smoking your tires around the corners, skid markings recorded to perfection (allowing you to repeat your more spectacular crashes to a frame) the detail included is just ... well .. just staggering. The smooth textures of both car and track are so well done that I can safely say I have yet to see a game of this graphical quality to date.
With all that said though I could not give this game a 20/20 for 2 nagging (and blatantly nagging at that) shortcomings which really baffle me. Firstly: what where they thinking putting 2 dimensional spectators into a game of such unsurpassed realism? A seriously big faux-pas. Maybe I was just not supposed to be driving slow enough to notice. But with the number of crashes I perpetrated I got plenty of close-ups of the 2D inanimate spectators; a painful reminder of gaming history. Secondly: Will someone please tell game developers that dirt does get chewed up by spinning tires. A fact very few, if any, seem able to acknowledge.
A great video options menu allows you to tone down the display options for those of you without FX (or for those who don't meet the P166 / 32MB ram min. requirements) but I wouldn't recommend it. Do yourself a favor and get an FX card to enjoy this game. Direct X 6 is also required and must be installed before playing the game.
Intense engine samples are really effective in this game as your selected beastie winds out its 12-cylinders to the threshold of 12,000 RPMs. Once again attention to detail keep the sound response glued to your throttle level allowing you maximum control over your vehicle. Once again for those trying to beat the system using an under powered PC you can turn down the sounds of approaching vehicles but that's kind of like taking the whistle away from a speeding freight-train isn't it?
Before you play Grand Prix Legends for the first time, promise yourself you will not turn it off for at least 15 minutes. Because that is what it takes to actually make it around the track for the first time as you adjust your '90s driving habits to the wild physics of a 1960's racer. GPL is more of an actual simulator than a game. The unbelievable amount of detail in the physics model coupled with a rather ominous page of mechanical adjustments and car settings give you a virtual endless number of possible racing configurations. Trust me, get to know your setup info because you are going to need to adjust it well to beat the pros. Driver configurations include name, country, helmet colour, car chases. The chases selections are from one of the 7 teams from the 1967 racing year each with it's own unique horsepower, weight and torque configurations. All the actual tracks from the `67 racing season are drawn out in painstaking detail, taking you back to what the actual racers had to navigate. You can plan any one of the 11 tracks as a single race or as part of your championship season with a range of 6 difficulty and damage settings to make each race a little tougher or easier as you adjust. The keyword here is 'simulation'. If you want an arcade 'racer' Grand Prix Legends is not it (almost to a fault) but if you want a feel for what Grand Prix is all about don't pass it up.
Fun Factor: 14/20
I have to be realistic and say that this game isn't so much fun as it is challenging. I spent hours just learning to keep the car on the track and adjusting my settings for each race. The most entertaining part of the game was just the pure enjoyment of such great graphics, oh ya and the brutal detail displayed as my car disintegrated after coming out on the losing end of an argument with a stubborn barrier.
Internet capable multi for a killer racing sim like this was just icing on the cake. Unfortunately only IPX and serial (ie. modem) is supported, but it works fine over most of your Internet IPX gaming services. I don't know how much fun multiplayer will be because you never get to see your opponent until you are both unbelievably good and can stay with the pack, but still the ability to chase your best friend at grand prix speeds over the net is a welcome addition to the game.
Overall Impression: 10/10
Top notch, well done, pat on the back etc. The marriage of detail, fact, history and Papyrus' incredible new racing engine make a perfect package in this game. I can't stress this enough, Grand Prix Legends isn't an arcade type of game that you load up to spin around a few laps. The intense attention to detail and super physics engine provide you with the perfect tool for experiencing racing history. Without a doubt Grand Prix Legends gets my vote for `Racing-Simulation' of the year.
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