“Grand Prix 4″ – game review

Grand Prix 4 comes from a truly grand dynasty of Formula One computer games. Geoff Crammond’s original Grand Prix, developed for the PC and Commodore Amiga, featured the 1991 season rendered in simple solid-colour blocks. But even in these early days it developed a reputation for attention to detail and quality that has become a hallmark of the franchise.

The most recent incarnation – Grand Prix 4, released in 2002 – models the 2001 season and even though the quality of the graphics and sound are immeasurably advanced over the original, the core qualities of game play and even some of its most essential characteristics are unchanged. You still have five skill levels from rookie to ace to choose from, and can configure the input system (on the PC version) for keyboard, joypad, joystick, wheel or anything.

The Grand Prix series has never been at the cutting edge of graphic technologies, but although the 2002-spec 3D engine looks rusty by modern standards it still shows up very well against PlayStation 2 games – in GP4 you get a 20-car field compared to Gran Turismo 4′s paltry six. Water and heat haze effects are present, and video walls dotted around the circuits that work in real-time are an excellent touch. Each chassis is individually modelled, which even today most recent F1 games do not stretch to.

The circuit layouts are derived from satellite imagery and as such are breathtakingly accurate. No other F1 games gives a truer impression of the daunting confines of Monaco, or conversely the vast expanses of Sepang. Of course, modelling the ‘tobacco’-specification car liveries and track adverts is out of the question – you have to look to the Internet for that. Being now four years out of date, the modding community is at work striving to produce updated and new circuits, but the unfriendly and poorly supported editing tools aren’t helping.

The artificial intelligence of your computer-controlled rivals is a bit wooden. They stick rigidly to their pre-determined racing lines, but they do defend position well, making worthy opponents out of them. Drivers can even spin off through error, but the difficulties they often have rejoining the circuit show up flaws in the programming. Similarly car failures are modelled, but occasionally computer opponents can have maladies as terminal as engine failure repaired in a short pit stop!

The plethora of driving aids can make things a bit easy though, so do turn them off at the first opportunity. Race stoppages and safety car situations are not modelled – nor are they in every other F1 game, but you always expect more from this franchise.

But as ever, what sets GP4 apart from the opposition is its stunningly convincing physics and sense of speed. This is no mere arcade game where you can cruise around on autopilot: GP4 demands, grabs and holds your attention. The greater effort you put in can be measured by improvements in your lap times, which is immensely satisfying.

Still the game is not perfect – in the main its detractors crave an even more accurate simulation and decry GP4′s few, Xbox-inspired arcade leanings. At three yews old, it is also beginning to show its age. These limitations aside, GP4 is the best Formula One game available for the PC – or any format, for that matter.

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6 comments on “Grand Prix 4″ – game review

  1. mohammed said on 22nd March 2007, 6:19

    good

  2. Tommy B said on 10th July 2007, 14:23

    Good review, Yes the game is dated but you didnt mention a lot of people make updates for the game to replace the season with an up to date one or even a classic season such as 1979 or 1991 :D

  3. keiserwill=> said on 10th July 2007, 16:08

    Grand Prix 4 is the best computer F1 sim ever. to the extent that only real GP fans have the patience to pick it up& learn how to drive the car properly. others find it too realistic and don’t find fun in picking themselves out of the gravel 13 times a lap, spinning again under wheelspin when they get back on the track, followed by terminal damage when the next car round punts them at a ton! especially when i jump on and show them how a veteran does it!

    even when you think you’ve mastered it and enter the final lap leading, your machinery gives way in a cloud of smoke, thats not fun, thats frustrating, but thats racing, and it makes you even more determined to win.

    I’ve been racing Crammond’s GP for 10 years and i still push so hard in qualifying that i rarely get round a lap, step into the race and feel the difference a full tank of gas makes to your cars weight transfer (or look at the difference using the masses of data telemetry). I have learnt masses about driving technique, racing lines, set up and where to gain a 1/1000th. its been an education…. watching the masters on the box, driving persistantly till i’m pulling hair out with GP4,

    the physics of the program and its detailed accurate tracks really are its major strength. as it really does put you right in the seat of a realistically handling F1 car on the circuit. If you want

    For the GP fan, GP4 isn’t about having fun… its about succeeding . whether that means finishing a race to start with, a top ten, a podium, or a pole position, you’ll improve progressively over time, but hitting your goals is always a real challenge and its taken me years of driving and plenty of trips to the pitlane to really start exploiting all those 1/1000′s that are hideing in the car or on the track. For many people GP4 is about living the F1 career that didn’t quite materialise.

  4. Surfrider said on 28th August 2007, 19:40

    Maybe not the place to ask, but someone may be able to redirect me.
    “Played” GP4 for a number of years and thought it a real buzz. Leading on the last lap and sweating with tension seeing Schumi in my mirrors
    Wheel gave up and I bought a Momo FF. I have never been able to get this to work with GP4, though is fantastic with Toca RD2 etc.
    Anyone got any suggestions? A site I could visit??

  5. Where or from who can I order the GP4 F1 pc game. Trying to get hold of the pc game for a long time now!

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