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Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 4 (PC CD)
- Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 4 is the latest instalment in a hugely successful PC racing series
- Multiplayer options
- Improved audio
- Motion-captured pit crew
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Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 4 for PC boasts an all new graphics engine, new 2001 season car physics, plus ultra-realistic track layouts based on actual GPS data, which produce even greater player involvement and immersion than ever before. A whole host of other new additions are promised, including multi-player options, improved audio and a motion-captured pit crew, all combining to offer the player the most intense F1 racing experience available.
In the world of F1 racing games, Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix series has long been the benchmark by which other games are measured. Grand Prix 4 is an evolution, rather than revolution of the series, but still has plenty to offer.
If you are unfamiliar to the phenomenon of the Grand Prix series, then you are in for a treat. This simulation provides all you could hope for as an F1 fan, with a game engine legendary for combining a realistic driving experience with an enjoyable and accessible game. The most notable addition to the series since GP3 has been an overhaul of the graphics, which are truly sumptuous, but also incredibly demanding.
The game will run on a PII 400 Mhz with options turned down, but even on a PIII 800 MHz, with a GeForce 3 graphics card it limped along at 8fps with all the settings on. However, once you have struck a balance between frame rates and graphic detail, you are in for a racing treat. The cars drive superbly and all the tracks have been mapped using GPS data for supreme accuracy.
The pit crews are now fully 3-D modelled and the opposition cars are smart, looking to block your overtaking moves, without risking accidents. All this takes place in a world where dynamic weather conditions are in place, so you can find yourself having to stop half way through a race and switch from dry to wet tyres, in order to compete. The in-game menus have also been radically improved.
There are still some flaws, which regulars of the series will be disappointed to find haven't been addressed. No safety cars, no proper stop/go penalties, no restarts and opposition cars making poor use of qualifying windows. The season data is also still a year out, with 2001 drivers and cars included in the game. This is compounded by the likes of EA's F1 2002 having made great strides forward and now being a worthy rival to the king of racing sims.
Grand Prix 4 hasn't made enough advances for GP3 owners to find this an obvious upgrade, especially those who already opted for the GP3 2000 add-on. However, if your PC has the power, it is worth it for the updated graphics, which give you an absolutely stunning ride around the streets of Monaco. If you are new to the F1 racing genre, then a copy of Grand Prix 4 plus a copy of EA's F1 2002, will provide ultimate satisfaction. If you're budget will only stretch to one of these titles, it's now a very close call. --Jason Weston
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Even so this game continually crashes to the desktop. I can't even get any help from the website as it is now more or less defunct. It still caters for GP3 but not GP4. I have tried turning down the graphic settings but it still crashes to the desktop time after time after time.
The game I purchased came with a patch which I loaded but that did not help either. What I saw of the game I liked. Having to save the game after every lap is a tad frustrating, cos if I don't I lose my progress through the season etc. There has to be a major flaw in this software for a modern high end machine not to be able to run something that came out in 2002!
Total waste of my money.
As is the case with many older games, it does require a bit of tinkering to start it up and to keep it from crashing to the desktop which can be frustrating, but if you can get it going, you'll be rewarded with the motorsporting nostalgia that only Geoff Crammond can provide.
Overtaking has always been a contentious point in previous incarnations. People have complained about the way the AI reacts under pressure. Well it's not perfect but the computer does a reasonable job. Computer cars will sometimes move to the inside to defend the line and do a half decent job of making life tricky. When in a pursuing role they will attack you with vigour in a bid to get past and when you are in a slower car you really seem to feel them breathing under your collar. It is really quite tricky trying to keep a faster car behind especially at some tracks. Backmarkers do a good job of getting out of your way and letting you past too, occasionally they slow you down and frustrate but that is quite realistic. There are just some places on a track where it is not viable for them to allow you past so you will always lose time. Perhaps the main problem with the overtaking is that the slipstream effect is magnified too greatly. On tracks with lots of long straights like Hockenheim it is not uncommon for a couple of cars to trade places 2 or 3 times on the same lap due to high speed increases gained from slipstreaming. It is a tough balancing act I acknowledge because if it is toned down too much then at other tracks like Hungary and Monaco passing would be nigh on impossible to do. However it is something that should have been looked into in more detail. Despite all this the game does a terrific job of simulating Formula One and looks fantastic doing it. The main criticisms are that there are no jump starts or stop go penalties, the computer ai cars are a bit dodgy on starts and seem somehow to most of the time avoid accidents with eachother off the line (everyone knows the start of a grand prix is always the most fraught and cars often trip over eachother here) - any accidents that do occur at this stage of the race are mostly human player induced! Also the slipstreaming model needs to be tweaked but these are minor quibbles and for me do not detract from a great gaming experience.
I have heard about the various system issues surrounding the game. On Windows Xp users have complained about random crashes back to the desktop. I actually suffered from this problem initially myself but by downloading GPXpatch and within this program disabling hyper threading on my Pentium 4 it fixed the issue. The patch also offers up a few gaming enhancements like better time/standings data in race among other things. Graphics performance has also been a much talked about issue with very steep system requirements at the time of it's release. Admittedly they were steep and my old Pentium 3 600 mhz could not handle the game at all well (approx 10 fps at 800*600 medium details) but my current machine (by no means state of the art) which is a Pentium 4 3.0 ghz, 1 gig ram & 256mb ATI Radeon 9800XT runs the game just fine. I run at 1024*768 resolution with all the details cranked up to the max and game estimates I can set the frame rate at approx 45 fps. Even at higher resolutions the fps doesn't drop a great deal. I tend to manually change this to about 35 fps to ensure my processor occupancy doesn't ever go above about 75% and as a result get absolutely no slowdown. I'd say as long your cranking out about 25 fps in game without the occupancy going over 100% then you'll be fine (after all when we watch TV that is always 25 fps).
My dream is to see a Grand Prix 5 in which you can choose to play in a variety of different seasons. I would love to say race in a 1990 season with relevant car liveries and tracks to that era with the likes of Prost and Senna going at it (and no pesky fuel stops - this was a time when drivers had to fight it on the track apart from occasional tyre stops and not rely and fuel strategies to get ahead of a rival!!!). I guess with the complex and irritating business surrounding licensing laws this will never happen though!
So, onto GP4. The graphics are a big improvement over GP3's, with a smoother and more realistic look, rather than the mixture of blockiness and crispness seen in GP3. The cars, in particular, are awesomely detailed. The simulation aspect of the game is as excellent as it was in the previous instalments, with the tracks being exactly reproduced and warm-ups, qualifying and race all as one would expect in the real thing. However, everything is out of date (simulating the 2001 season).
The "simulation over gameplay" issue still exists in GP4, but less so than in GP3. In vanilla GP4 it is recommended that you play with a steering wheel, because using the keyboard, steering help is stuck on and the car feels as if it is on rails.
However, I recommend that buyers of this game take a look at the GPxPatch and GP4Tweaker utilities. These enable much more customisation of the game, many tweaks to the gameplay, the opportunity to add recent rule changes and more. You can even turn keyboard steering help off (although that makes the cars very difficult to keep on the road- be warned!) Put GP4 together with these, and what was initially a fairly good game becomes a great one.
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