Hands up those who remember the first F1GP? What about the Second? Well if you didn't put your hand up, you missed a good thing. The First F1GP was so cool, one of the first 3D racing sims I played on my trusty Amiga and it worked quite well, hooked from the word go! The Second one was yet another breakthrough, with some great graphics, but alas I didn't get to play it, dunno why, I regret that really. Now we arrive at No. 3, with better physics, improved graphics and more stats than you can throw a stick at we are here to test it to the limits, or until our hair falls out!
The aim of the game is simple, race all of the available tracks getting as high a place as possible to get points to hopefully win the F1 championship. Now while this may sound easy, it actually is very easy. F1GP has a set of handy driving aids that will help you get to grips with the game, you get Auto Braking, Auto Gears, Auto Straight, Invulnerability and a few others all designed to let you just press accelerate then turn when necessary. By using this method your automatically reduced to the rookie skill and you win so easy you can crash 10 times and still come first by over 20 seconds.
Now while this may be easy and sound fun, it's really boring. Imagine actually driving down the road and only having to press accelerate then turn while the car chose the gear and the speed, boring! What you really need is to take off some of these driving aids and learn to drive like a man! ... or woman!
The manual takes you through a short tutorial on how to start a practice lap and to play the game. It then tells you to take off Auto Braking once you are confident enough and to keep practising until you are even more confident to take off Auto Gears. Each time you take off another driving aid you go up a skill level. There is a handy chart in the manual and the game lets you choose your skill if you think its too easy and by choosing a skill, the game will automatically remove the required aids leaving you to race using your driving skill alone.
Learning to drive without the aids takes a lot of practice and hard work but once you learn how to do the gears and braking your nearly ready to take on the world for real and win the F1 championship. Taking off Invulnerability and Auto Straight means that if you crash it could mean the end of the game depending on how you have setup the reality of the game. The reality lets you choose whether your car can just break down. On rookie mode none of the real world problems exist but you can set them up if you want, these go from Clutch Failure, Punctures, engine Blowouts and many other problems you will notice happen to F1 drivers on a seemingly regular basis.
To start racing you will first have to setup the car for the track, since each track has different conditions, different corners and speeds you will spend absolutely hours just practising and squeezing everything you can out of your chosen car. You can practise as much as you want and thanks to the data logger you can see how well you are doing on a certain part of the track. This allows you to see if you need to adjust your downforce and breaking amongst other things. Once you have changed some setting you will need to do a few more laps and once you arrive back in the pits you can check how well the adjustments performed against the old settings and adjust them again to get some more performance.
The whole game is such a credit to the actual technologies that real F1drivers use, as I said, you have to use the data logger to test your car set-ups and adjust the set-ups accordingly. This does take time to get used to and will take hours of adjustments to get the right performance, but when you do so, you'll be breaking lap records everywhere.
The controls are by default the keyboard but if you have a steering wheel or joystick you can use them instead. The joystick is a good options, I was never a fan of the Wheel and therefore never ever used one and keyboard is usually the PC gamers choice but just try doing a 100% race on keyboard or anything else for that matter. Thank god for the handy mid race save option. The game has quite a few other options, you can set the type of game you want, choose your driver and even replace their name with your name, all the 1998 drivers are there so your favourite one is within a few mouse clicks.
You can even play the game over a network, which means that the old style hotlap option, where each player takes it in turns to race their car before the computer takes over and hands the controls to the other player, can be put aside for a bit for some proper head to head racing action.
Stats aside the game handles and looks really great, the graphics have been improved a ton over GP2 and they really add to the game immensely if you have an FSAA card such as the Voodoo 5, you will be amazed at how well the game can look. The track detail is great but some of the tracks do not look quite right compared to the pictures and a number of fixes have been released by fans which fix minor things like the chicanes and cameras. The in game sound has been captured from real cars so they sound as realistic as possible and most people don't really know how well an F1 car sounds like from a cockpit, it really shows they have paid attention to everything.
The detail on the game is automatically selected when you first load the game. This checks the game speed in different resolutions to see how much detail you really can go with but if you feel that its ripping you off you can set them manually. I found that the auto detect featured worked fine but it chose 640x480 as a default res. which I soon changed.
If you have played F1GP 1 or 2 then you really need to get F1GP 3, although it does only have the 1998 season stats, Microprose promise a 1999 version which will be released as F1GP 4 but hopefully come as a patch for the GP3 owners. However if you can't wait there are tons of F1GP fan sites out there with new car sets and car set-ups ready for download so you can keep upto date with the goings on in the F1 world.
Overall F1GP rocks, I was thinking of getting one of the other F1 games, but when this baby landed on my doorstep all those thoughts flew out of the window, this game rocks big style and deserves to be the best F1 racing game around. The other contenders should give up now, Mr Crammond stole the show once more.