Imagine mounting a camera on the helmet of a racing driver and filming him driving round sixteen race tracks. Now imagine being able to take over and control the car at any time. F1GP allows you to have a driver’s eye view of virtually all aspects of a race, from initial practice through qualification and into the race proper. You have the ability to alter your car setup, changing the tyre compounds, gear ratios, brake balance and wing settings. The first thing to do is to replace the default drivers and teams with the real drivers/teams, since for some odd reason the default data is entirely fictional. For those of you without an encyclopedic knowledge of drivers and teams, a full list of the 1991 drivers/teams is provided, and it is simply a matter of typing in the data yourself. Once this is out of the way, you can select which driver you would like to be and then go burn some rubber. There are five difficulty levels, with the computer controlled cars becoming progressively faster as the level increases. There are also five driver aids that are made unselectable as you increase the difficulty. Once you have selected a difficulty level and driver identity, it is time to go racing. There are three options. The first is to practice on any circuit without any other cars being present. This is probably the best mode to begin in, since it allows you to get the hang of the controls. Once basic control is established, it then allows for as much altering of the car setup as you like, as well as getting used to the circuit layout. After practising, you’ll probably head for the single race option, which sets you up with a full race scenario, but which is totally independent of any race season you may be running. This option allows you to race against the other 25 cars and it provides a useful introduction to such important aspects as qualifying, grid starts, overtaking etc., none of which can be practised in the practice option.
The final option is to begin a full, 16-race, championship season. This is the ultimate option, since you must race on every circuit, not just the ones you happen to like. Points are awarded as in the real sport, and a running tally is made of all driver points and finishing positions. Championships can be saved to disk for continuation at any time, and it is possible to run multiple seasons simply by having multiple season data files. One final “difficulty” option I should mention is the race length option. You have the ability to select any race length from 10% to 100% of the real distance; so if you just want a quick race, you could go for a 10% race, which on most tracks would be about 6-7 laps. A point to note, though, is that race lap records will be recognised only when set in a 100% length race, although qualifying lap records will be recognised regardless of the length of race qualified for. An interesting point is that you may skip any of the pre-race options, such as the two practice sessions and even the qualifying session. If you skip qualifying, you are placed in 26th place, which is not exactly realistic, but at least you can jump straight into a race, even if it means starting at the back of the grid. Control of the car is handled by either a digital or analogue joystick, or the keyboard. Personally, I prefer the keyboard, since changing gears is a bit difficult to achieve smoothly on a stick. Changing up requires the stick to be pressed forward and the fire button pressed, and changing down requires the joystick to be centred and the fire button pressed. If your stick has a long throw between centre and forward/back, the time taken to move the stick to the required position for gear changing can be critical. At least with the keyboard, you can change up or down very quickly. I also think that the analogue stick code does not decode the stick position entirely correctly. Even though there is a stick calibrate option, once calibrated, the motion of the car does not feel right, especially steering. Note that the key controls are non-definable, but the preset keys are not too bad at all.
For multisync users, the menu screens are promotable but the 3D display is not, so you will still need a 15KHz display to play the game. Note that the menu screens are system friendly and can be flipped with the Amiga-N and Amiga-M commands. If you have Workbench 3, the screens can also be dragged around with the mouse if you have Screen Drag enabled in Prefs/IControl. Whilst the menu screens are displayed, the game multitasks, although it seems to do a busy wait, since Workbench is far too sluggish for the program to be multitasking perfectly. Having said that, this entire review was written with F1GP sitting in the background. It makes review writing so much easier being able to flick between review text and reviewed program without having to reload the programs all the time. All I’m saying is that you probably should stop any graphics rendering or MPEG encoding before running F1GP (unless you have a very accelerated machine). If you are running on a slow machine, like a 7MHz 68000, you’d probably want to reduce the graphics detail. There are three settings which progressively remove background detail without affecting the track detail. Unfortunately, on the Monaco circuit, reducing the detail means removing the tunnel roof, which looks really sad, especially when the tunnel is possibly the most famous single section of any circuit (and certainly the most inspiring section to drive towards). The graphics themselves are rather good considering the age of the game. Although there is no texture mapping, bitmapped graphics are used to good effect on things like the trackside marshals and corner countdown markers. The polygons are used well, with the cars looking quite detailed, and they don’t turn into undefined blobs as they recede into the distance either. If you have the processing power to run in full detail, the trackside detail is rather well done too, with grandstands, camera positions, trees and bushes and background buildings, especially on the street circuits like Monaco. The manual states that the circuits were modelled partly by examining in-car video footage from races, and it shows. If your TV stations show Formula One races, you should try racing the circuit in F1GP before you see it on TV and compare the in-car footage from the TV. It is quite pleasing to know almost instantly where the real car is on the circuit simply by looking at the circuit ahead and the trackside objects.