Grand Prix Legends

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Rating: Excellent!

Review:

 

Introduction

Grand Prix Legends (GPL) is the most realistic racing sim on the market. It takes you back to the time when racing did not have all the fancy computer gadgets that are present today. This game puts you in a Formula 1 car in 1967. The tracks are as they were in that year.

Features:

  • Windows 95/98
  • Lets you compete in the 1967 Formula 1 season
  • Supports 16 bit resolutions up to 1600×1200 (of course I do not know if there is a card that would run the sim at this resolution)
  • Officially supports only 3dfx video cards and rendition cards, dynamic lighting, specular highlights, and unofficially supports OpenGL and now Direct3D with a patch
  • VCR feature to save, import, or export replays
  • Advanced physics model
  • 7 cars, 5 modeled after the originals
  • Multiplayer modem to modem, LAN, IPX, and TCP/IP
  • Aggressive artificial intelligence that learns where you are slow on the track so it can over take you, global AI that gets faster as you get faster
  • Animated flaggers to warn drivers of accidents
  • Engine wear modeled
  • 2D sound
  • 11 historic racing circuits, including the 14 mile Nuernburg ring
  • Driver aids and two trainer cars
  • 100+ page strategy book by Steve Smith (former editor of Car and Driver)

Here is the PC that I am using. It allows me to get a constant framerate of 36fps which is the highest the game allows. The only time the framerate drops for me is at the start of a race where there is many AI cars.

  • Celeron 300a running at 450MHz
  • Windows 98
  • 128 MB Samsung GH RAM
  • Voodoo 2 12MB video card
  • Riva TNT 16MB video card
  • Soundblaster Live! Value
  • 18.5 Gig Western Digital hard drive
  • @home cable modem
  • 40x IDE CD-ROM drive
  • HP CD rewriter
  • LS-120 floppy drive
  • 1.44 MB floppy drive
  • CTX 19″ monitor

Here is what Papyrus says are the recommended specs:

  • 266MHz Pentium II
  • Rendition or 3dfx video card
  • 64 MB of RAM
  • Windows 95/98
  • Steering wheel and pedals
  • 100% Hayes compatible modem, 28.8k or faster

After running GPL for over a year I believe the minimum requirements so that one can turn all the graphics on to be a 375mhz computer and a Voodoo 1 or 2 video card. The Voodoo 1 will allow resolutions of 640×480 and the Voodoo 2 will allow resolutions of 800×600. GPL really needs 36fps to run well. Users with slower computers will have to turn some of the graphics off or turn down the sound quality.

Graphics

The graphics of GPL are good. The realism of speed is achieved very well. The view of the driver from the cockpit even lurches when the car is under full acceleration to give the feeling of the head being whipped back from the acceleration of the car. The items on the side of the road were done with great care to be historic. Papyrus has tried to make this a historic game. They did a fine job in that category. The cockpits are done in 8 bit colors, but there are many updates done by racers on the internet for download. These user created cockpits are made in 16 bit colors and look much better. While in the cockpit view you will notice that the gauges of the car actually work! The tachometer and oil pressure gauges give feedback to the driver so that the engine can be monitored while racing. Hitting the F10 button gives the user the choice of cockpit view or behind the car (arcade) view. The game also supports dynamic skid marks. If you lock up the tires and skid, when you come around to that part of the track again the skid marks will be there. You can see cars catch on fire when their engine blows too. They will leave a trail of smoke behind them. The major graphical disadvantage to the graphics is the fact that GPL is 3dfx and rendition only. Most users use 3dfx cards such as voodoo 1, 2, and 3 models. There is a patch that allows the users to play GPL in OpenGL mode. Unfortunately this mode is not supported by Papyrus. The frame rates are much slower. For instance my computer with the Riva TNT could not get only about 22fps while the voodoo 2 on my computer gets a constant 36fps. The problem has to do with the highly detailed rear view mirrors while in cockpit mode. The Riva TNT is not optimized for this type of rendering. It is possible to edit the frame rate of the mirrors and is very easy to do in the core.ini folder. The frame rate will jump up to 36fps, but then the action in the mirrors is very choppy. This is not good when someone is right behind you trying to pass. Also, the quality of the graphics seem to be a lot better with the voodoo cards. The game supposedly supports anti-aliasing, but the voodoo cards do not. If you want to play this game you almost have to have a voodoo card to enjoy the game.

Sound

The sound in GPL is excellent. Each car has its own unique sound. The historic cars have sounds that are very close to the sounds that the original cars had. When cars come up behind you right away you know what kind of car it is by the sound. There are sounds for crashes, sliding on the grass, gear shifting, and skids. Unfortunately there is no 3d directional sound. In GPL you can hear a maximum of 16 sounds at once. When all of the sounds are turned on you can hear many cars revving at the start. It is a real thrill! Many users have updated the sounds of the game and put them on their web sites. This is a great feature to have and it adds to the variety of the simulation.

AI

The AI in GPL is very aggressive. The AI cars will try to pass you if you make the slightest mistake. The AI also gets faster on the track as you get faster. During a race an AI car will analyze where you are the slowest on the track and try to pass you in that area on the next lap. I think the AI in GPL is the best I have ever seen, but it is not perfect. Some times cars will cut over into your path or hit you from behind. The cars are very aggressive and require you to be very careful. If an AI car thinks it has the pass, it will pass them move over. You have to let the AI car have the line just as real racers would do. This means you have to slow down and give the AI car the pass. This is the same courtesy that real racers would use but many people do not know this. They will just end up being run off the road and blame the computer for it. There is one disadvantage with the AI cars. They are so good that beginners will not have a chance. Nascar 3 has a feature that allows users to adjust the speed of the AI cars. In GPL that is not an option. There is a free program you can download to adjust the speed of the AI. It is just a shame that Papyrus did not put that option into the game.

Interface

The interface in GPL is very simple to use. Essentially boxes are checked or left blank depending on what options you want to enable. Graphics can be turned on and off to help with the frame rate. There is a slider bar for how many sounds are enabled in the game. There is a slider bar for linearity of the steering too. One feature that is really useful is the slider bar for the draw ahead of the graphics. This option has a dramatic effect on the frame rate. Each section of the options such as sound, graphics, and controls has its own page in the game. Any option can be changed while you are in the game too. The only exception to this is the video card. If you change the video card the new setting will take effect when the GPL is restarted.

Driving

I am sure this is the section you have been waiting to read. Its nice that GPL has all those above options, but what is it like to drive? After all this is a driving game or should I say simulation? In this case simulation is the only word that would be appropriate to describe GPL. This game is for people who want ultimate realism. When I first started to drive the cars in the game, I noticed that there were categories of cars available. There is a trainer, advanced trainer and Grand Prix. Which do you think I went for? Well, if you guessed Grand Prix you would be correct. After pulling out of the pits I gave the car a healthy amount of gas. That is when I realized this simulation was different. The back end of the car broke loose and I did a 360. I realized this is no arcade game. As a matter of fact there are no arcade settings. You drive like the big boys or not at all. Even after going down the straight and getting into third gear I realized that I could still spin the back tires. I had to SQUEEZE the throttle. Upon coming into the first turn, I hit the brakes. That was a mistake. The brakes locked up and I went into a violent spin. The car hit the embankment and flipped over the fence. The grand Grand Prix cars have 400 horse power and weigh only 1200 pounds. Not to mention the fact that tires back in 1967 were hard as rocks. I am not trying to scare you or dissuade you from getting this game. That was over a year ago and now I only wreck occasionally. I just want to impress upon you that Papyrus’s ultimate goal for this simulation was realism. This game is hard, but heck, racing cars is hard. I truly believe GPL to be the most realistic driving game you can buy period. If you have the patience and the time, GPL is also the most satisfying to drive. You have to have true driving skills to keep the cars on the road and turn fast lap times. This is where GPL falls short. There is not enough driving aids for the beginner. I think Papyrus really limited their market buy not putting more aids to help the beginner in the game. The casual gamer will get too frustrated and give up.

Multiplayer

So you have learned the tracks. You did well against the AI cars. Now you want some real competition. GPL can be played over a LAN. You could call up your best buddy and play modem to modem or you could go on the Internet. If you choose the Internet, finding someone to race is easy. Well, it should be easy You see Papyrus does not have any servers running races. There is however, a small program that you can download. The program is called winvroc. This program allows you to see current races that are on the Internet and chat with others who want to race. You can read more about it in detail in the add-ons section. It is a shame though that a program such as this did not come with the game. Many people do not know about it.

GPL does require a large amount of bandwidth to play on the Internet. It uses approximately 24k per car. This means that a person with a 56k modem will only be able to host a race with two other racers on a good day. People with cable and DSL modems can host races of 10-19 if their connection is very good. I have found that for me GPL does not like my 56k US Robotics modem unless I turn the speed down to 28k. This gives me a more robust connection and a better ping to most races that I join with less disconnections. The string that I use to accomplish this is ats32.6=1s32.5=1. I also turn error correction off and set the fifo sliders one click from the left. If you can run races at 56k go for it. If you find your latency to high or you disconnects too frequent try these settings.

Force Feedback

GPL does not support force feedback out of the box. You have to download the most current patch for the game to enable it . Then you have to make a core.ini file with the following lines of information in it:

[ Joy ] allow_force_feedback = 1 ;
force_feedback_damping = 100.000000
force_feedback_latency = 0.0250000
max_steering_torque = 65.000000

The number values can be changed to suit each player. Changing the numbers changes the amount of feedback, damping, or torque the player experiences in the game. The latency is unique to each computer. GPL is able to predict when force feedback is needed in the game. The latency is different for each player because the speed of each person’s computer is different. These are the settings that I use and you are welcome to try them. Each person has his/her own preferences.

The force feedback in GPL is the most advanced that I have ever experienced in a racing game. If the rear tires are given too much gas and they begin to spin, it will kick the steering wheel. In corners the torque of the wheel can be felt as the car moves through the corner. The torque value changes when the car starts to loose grip. The only thing that is not modeled is the vibration of the engine. It would be nice to have that in addition to the rest especially if you could turn it on and off.

Conclusion

Let’s wrap this thing up so we can get back on the track.

Pros:
Physics, realism, excellent force feedback, sense of speed, detail to historic racing, sound

Cons:
Enormous learning curve, lack of beginner aides or arcade mode, only supports rendition and 3dfx (glide) video cards, high CPU requirements

Submitted by: Brian Bowles

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