I've already played a game by Geoff Crammond for this blog (the quite wonderful 'The Sentinel'), but if you know your gaming history, you'll know that Geoff's heart was in racing games. Hopefully it still is - nobody seems to know what he's doing now, but it would be great if he was beavering away on a new project.
Microprose Formula One Grand Prix seems to be the natural successor to his excellent Revs game. And as the Formula One season has just started, I thought now would be an apt time to have a look at it.
The first thing I noticed is that this has a lot of depth for a game that's not far off twenty years old. There are a lot of driver aids, for example, to help get you into the game. My son plays F1 '06 on his PS2, and I've played it with him and thought a lot of the driver aids there were helpful. I didn't realise that some of them have been used for so long! It was a big surprise to see a suggested racing line in this game... I don't know if this was the first game to feature this, but it's a great tool for learning the tracks and I was amazed to see it here.
The game feels good to drive, for its age. I started off with a Quick Game and set off around Silverstone, and it seems fairly accurate when compared to modern games. The speed is not quite there... but it's good enough and quite impressive when you're tucked up behind a car with its entire back end filling your screen.
I picked Monaco for a race, and that track does suffer a bit due to the graphical limitations of the Amiga. It feels a little bit like you're driving around a multi-storey car park, with big, grey, featureless walls the order of the day.
Once you plough into the main game, there's all sorts of tweaking that can be done. This is where Geoff Crammond's racers really come into their own... they're simulations rather than arcade racers, and it's much more satisfying to play if you're prepared to dig in and play with all the settings and options.
It's a shame that Geoff's disappeared for now... his talent shone through for years and every title he released was acknowledged by pretty much everyone with a reverential nod. If the long-discussed rumours that he's working on a new Stunt Car Racer game are true, we'll all be much the happier.