Now you can squeeze yourself into the driving seat of a formula one racing car and get ready to race around the world's most tortuous tracks in a bid to become world champion. There are eight other drivers in the running, all computer-controlled and you'll need to drive fast and efficiently to beat them.
The screen is split into two areas: a control panel and a 3D view of the track that you're currently on. The control panel is considerably more enhanced than you normally get in a racing game. Gone is the steering wheel that usually occupies the majority of the screen and, in its place are many extra instruments. In the centre of the panel is a rev counter that goes up to 12,000 RPM; after that, it goes into the red and you put excess strain on the engine. On either side of the rev counter are gauges that show how much fuel you have left, oil temperature and pressure, water temperature, turbo temperature and turbo boost.
A grand prix race is done on one tank of fuel and so you have to take care that you don't run out. The turbo boost makes your car travel considerably faster, but it also eats up the fuel rapidly and you have to watch that the turbo doesn't overheat. A gear stick is represented to the lower right and this goes from first to sixth gear. If you're over revving then your gearbox could fail and that's you out of the race.
There's also an on-board computer that's linked to the pit crew. It shows speed, last lap time, average speed on the last lap, best lap time, fuel level, fuel consumption, range on fuel and distance to the finish line. the ones to watch are those concerned with the fuel consumption. If you use turbo too much then you won't have enough fuel to reach the finish live.
Messages from the pits are also displayed in a small window on the display. The messages are things like recommendations for tyre changes, information about your position in the race and whether or not anyone else has pulled into the pits. On either side of the control panel are wing mirrors that show you if there are any cars behind you.
Before you begin a grand prix season of 15 races, you choose whether to do 5, 10, 20 or the real life number of laps in each of the grand prix's - anything from 43 to 82 laps. The first track is then loaded in and you have a choice of practice or racing. Practice is a good idea to get you used to the track and then you can go for the race itself. Before the race begins you need to qualify for it. You first have a warm up lap and then three qualifying laps in which you must beat the qualifying time. The faster your qualifying time, the further up the field you'll be at the start of the race. A really fast time and you'll get pole position.
The race duration depends on how many laps you chose, a five lap race takes under ten minutes but a full grand prix takes over an hour. After every race you get an option to save the game and if you're doing full length races this is going to be essential.
Sound is little more than an engine hum and sometimes even that disappears for no apparent reason. The control panel is clear and easy to read. The 3D scrolling graphics are done simply, but do give the illusion of speed.
Take away all the frills and this is just another racing game. The difference is that rather than going full speed around the track in order to get to the end of the stage, you've got a long term objective to finish a race and keep the car in one piece. Pit stops are also important - do you go in and change the tyres, losing valuable seconds, or risk it and carry on racing to keep that lead? A reasonably realistic and flexible game that provides plenty of long-term challenge.
At first I wasn't very impressed but, as soon as you stop trying to take every bend at full tilt, it becomes much more enjoyable. Learning the tracks and getting into the rhythm of driving is the initial task. Then, as familiarity grows, you can take on longer races and really get to grips with the computer opponents. Not that great on the graphics side but makes up for it in long term challenge.
Win a five lap race.
Playing in green is just as easy as it is in colour.
P. Detailed control panel is easy to read.
P. Smooth 3D graphics give an illusion of speed.
N. An engine hum and an occasional crash sound.
Grab Factor 68%
P. Five lap races introduce you to the game.
N. Initially driving seems lacking in skill and unrealistic.
Staying Power 78%
P. After playing for a while you'll realise that there is a large amount of skill needed to do well in a race.
P. 15 tracks and varying race lengths make for a long term objective.
P. A fun racing game that mixes well the elements of strategy and racing.