It’s been 20 years since Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 4 blew sim racers away with its practical tackle F1. We clarify why it’s nonetheless related
Are you able to imagine it? It’s 20 years to the day since Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 4 entered our lives and confirmed the gaming world how practical a Method 1 racing sim might be.
Launched twenty first June 2002, Grand Prix 4 (GP4) was developed by MicroProse and Crammond’s personal Simergy. The sim was pitched as an correct re-creation of the 2001 Method 1 World Championship, that includes all 17 tracks and each staff and driver.
Sadly, lower than three months after launch, MicroProse was shut down by mother or father firm Infogrames. Geoff Crammond’s sequence of highly-rated Grand Prix video games was at an finish and deliberate patches to repair sport bugs had been halted.
Why then, is Grand Prix 4 nonetheless so fondly remembered by sim followers, 20 years on? And never simply remembered, why is GP4 nonetheless actively performed and modified by a big neighborhood of lovers even right this moment? Was it the final fully-formed simulation of Method 1?
Now’s the right time to replicate on Grand Prix 4’s legacy in sim racing.
The OG GC
The time period ‘legend’ is bandied about far too usually nowadays, however inside the sim racing style, Geoff Crammond is certainly a legend. His racing sport legacy stretches again to 1984 and the discharge of REVS on the BBC Micro and Commodore 64.
Designed as a Method 3 simulator, REVS set the template for Crammond’s future work on F1-based video games, beginning with Microprose Method One Grand Prix for the Amiga, Atari ST and PC. Sequels adopted; Grand Prix 2 in 1996, Grand Prix 3 in 2000 and its growth pack – Grand Prix 3 2000 – in 2001.
Across the similar time as Crammond’s Grand Prix sequence, the F1 license additionally appeared in console video games. There have been F1, F1 ‘97, Method 1 98, and Method One 99 by Psygnosis/Weird Creations and even EA Sports activities from 1999 to 2002.
Apparently, Infogrames obtained a license to supply their very own console F1 sport in 2003 – named Grand Prix Problem – a 12 months after the demise of MicroProse and Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix lineage…
The emphasis of Crammond’s Grand Prix video games was realism. These had been hardcore simulations of F1, so in addition to that includes actual drivers, tracks and vehicles from F1 – or supplying modifying instruments to sneakily let gamers edit them in later – practical car physics, set-up choices and replay cameras had been all current and proper.
Automobile fashions had been as correct as might be, with every staff’s design philosophies enjoying out in-game. The Arrows vehicles have very flat entrance wings with slightly winglet beneath the rear wing for instance, whereas the Ferraris and McLarens have rather more advanced-looking entrance ends.
Due to this, I can’t use the late, nice Murray Walker’s quote: “The lead automobile is exclusive, apart from the one behind it which is equivalent.” Unlucky.
The primary menu additionally featured a ‘GPaedia’ possibility, the place the foundations, rules and sport mechanics had been defined in nice element, with charts and movies too. A number of the entries carried extra credence as they had been narrated by Mark Hemsworth, then staff supervisor of the Arrows F1 staff.
The official FIA F1 intro animation and music had been additionally employed in-game. The spiky guitar riff elicits reminiscences of sitting in entrance of the TV on a Sunday afternoon, prepared to observe one other epic Schumacher vs Hill, Häkkinen vs Schumacher, or Inoue vs physician’s automobile battle.
After Papyrus Design Group’s Indianapolis 500 in 1989, masterminded by Dave Kaemmer of GP Legends fame, Crammond’s Microprose Method One Grand Prix in 1991 was the following sport to maneuver the 3D racing sim world on.
Each titles had been the primary examples of racing simulations as we all know them right this moment, with particulars like automobile set-up offering gamers with an interesting perception into racecar dynamics. Microprose Method One Grand Prix additionally featured practical moist climate – a primary for 3D racing video games.
Loopy Dave C
Subsequent entries within the sequence launched dynamic climate – together with drying racing traces – totally animated pit crews and telemetry information output. This was 2002! Even right this moment, the Codemasters/EA sequence of F1 video games skimp on particulars like these, not even permitting gamers full management within the pitlane.
Warmth haze was a neat characteristic added to GP4, in addition to raindrops on the digital camera lens. Driving by means of the Monte-Carlo tunnel part throughout a rainstorm, with a transparent distinction between the dry tarmac contained in the tunnel and the sodden monitor exterior, was the form of consideration to element the Grand Prix sequence is famend for (the shimmering warmth haze impact has aged fairly badly, nonetheless).
In GP4, gamers might run a completely simulated 2001 season, with practical automobile and driver performances – David Coulthard’s McLaren is extra prone to spontaneously combust than Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari, for instance.
In case your engine did go bang, a useful marshal would seem from nowhere to push your automobile out of the firing line. Neat.
The vehicles nonetheless really feel stable to drive however are additionally difficult, even from the period the place traction management was authorized (the FIA had principally given up making an attempt to police groups’ cleverly circumventing the foundations). Lock-ups are frequent, though there are a variety of useful driving assists to allow you to give attention to the racing expertise.
The exhaust notes had been significantly spectacular too, allegedly being recorded straight from a Ford-engined Arrows F1 automobile. Ah, V10s, how we miss you.
All 17 of 2001’s F1 tracks had been recreated in exact element, outstanding given the dearth of laser scanning know-how so prevalent in sim racing right this moment.
“I used to be given the GPS uncooked information for all of the circuits. I wrote a program (in C) to interpret and convert that to a type that my GP4 sim required. So, all of the gradients, monitor widths and kerb positions and profiles, run-off areas and fence positions are very correct,” defined Crammond in an interview with sim racing web site VirtualR.
The GPS information GP4 utilised could go some method to clarify the low-res Google maps-like monitor map on the left of the display screen throughout gameplay. The tracks seemed nice, nonetheless, and when mixed with GP4’s convincing replay cameras and official F1 graphics overlay, nonetheless look greater than satisfactory right this moment. You realize, should you squint a bit.
Nonetheless, GP4 was removed from excellent at launch. Multiplayer is just accessible within the type of as much as eight-player LAN video games. There isn’t any split-screen or on-line performance, which for 2002 wasn’t too shocking given the fledgling state of the web.
Sizzling seat multiplayer – a GP sequence stalwart – was current, nonetheless, simply not completely handy.
On the time of launch, GP4 was additionally extraordinarily resource-intensive, requiring a superior CPU to get the smoothest expertise. The notorious pitlane freeze bug was completely game-breaking too, remaining unfixed to at the present time.
A sequence of patches had been launched simply after launch day, proper up till MicroProse’s unlucky demise. Extra fixes had been deliberate, however with no builders round they had been by no means launched.
Crashing to the desktop, not simply into limitations, was and remains to be a frequent difficulty for some gamers, and modern-day steering wheel and pedal assist is poor. In case your wheel and pedals are separate inputs, overlook about making an attempt to play this sport as meant. Customers of entry-level Logitech or Thrustmaster peripherals ought to fare higher.
The whole lot in Mod-eration
The GP4 neighborhood has stored the sim alive due to a spread of F1 season mods – there’s even an F1 2022 mod accessible. Bug fixes, new tracks and different utilities have been created to enhance the GP4 expertise, even with the ability to implement the varied F1 rule adjustments over time.
It’s an excellent disgrace that MicroProse was shut down by Infogrames so quickly after GP4’s completion. The sport was a crucial success, not at all times simple for a sim-biased title, however commercially it maybe lacked the identical influence as EA’s F1 sequence.
The writing could have been on the wall all alongside, nonetheless, due to Infogrames’ Grand Prix Problem releasing quickly afterwards. It could additionally clarify why the mooted Xbox model was unexpectedly cancelled regardless of an official announcement earlier than GP4’s PC launch.
Maybe this could have been the industrial fillip the sport wanted to make sure the way forward for MicroProse and Grand Prix 5? Sadly, we’ll by no means know.
Emotions are robust for GP4 among the many sim racing neighborhood, and you may see why. The outcomes of evaluating GP4 to console F1 video games of the time now are stark. GP4 stands head and shoulders above them when it comes to visuals and options, offering the form of immersion Codemasters and EA SPORTS nonetheless attempt for right this moment.
Very similar to GP Legends, GP4 has prolonged its lifespan due to a productive neighborhood of followers and modders. It’s no coincidence that each these sims characteristic physics work by Dave Kaemmer and Geoff Crammond, two legends of sim racing.
The query is, have we seen one other F1 sport with this degree of realism and a focus to element since GP4? Though the likes of Codemasters’ F1 sequence are very good video games, they omit quite a lot of vital sim options to assist cater to a bigger viewers. On that foundation, I feel the reply isn’t any. GP4 was the final true F1 sim.