Grand Prix 4
One Of The trickiest jobs in this business must surely be PR manager on a new Formula One title. What in the name of Henry Kelly's arse can you say about them?
"We've got a stunning new graphics engine!" So have they all, mate. With every passing racer we get slightly better tree quality, more realistic dust clouds or a marginally shinier paint job on the chassis.
"Our tracks are all modelled to within nano-millimetres of the real thing! You'll feel every bump and dip!" Every F1 game that arrives seems to have had a team of graphic artists treading over every blade of grass, every rock and pebble at every circuit in the world just so they can boast the most realistic tracks ever.
"Our Al is unparalleled! You'll swear they were real drivers!" By which you mean that they'll hug the racing line like brain-dead automatons, occasionally acknowledging that you overtaking the slower cars but never once actually exist in their world as they happily slam right into the back of you on an empty straight. Truth is, every Formula One game is pretty much the same as every other Formula One game. There may be massive differences going on under each development team's bonnet in the way the physics are coded and the package is put together. But to you, Johnny Punter, it's all realistic looking cars driving around realistic looking tracks. The only way to tell them apart is the packaging.
Which is why it was all the more refreshing to see something other than all of the above being peddled at the recent Grand Prix 4 launch. Yes, all the shiny trees and things were being touted about, but there was also something new in Geoff Crammond's latest assault on the genre. Something called the GPedia.
OK, it's little more than an interactive F1 encyclopaedia but it does have the very handy function of acting as an idiot's guide to tuning your car. Finally. Admit it, like me you've often felt like trying an ultra-realistic race in one of the other F1 titles only to find that as soon as you're faced with the dozens of screens detailing suspension dampening, camber realigning and rear-wing lift ratios you've given up and gone straight back to the Reverse Racing First Corner Pile Up Challenge. Well, the GPedia is designed to take you through it all. Step-by-step guides, tips from the experts (the Arrows team in this case), detailed breakdowns - everything.
Sepangs Of Doubt
OK, it's not as though GP4 redefines the genre, but it's a start. Otherwise it's F1 business as usual. The latest graphics, the latest teams (well, last season's thanks to the FIA's stupidly restrictive licensing deals), the latest track detail (GPS modelled this time for ultra-ultra realism), the latest Al routines, etc, etc. True, a hands-on with the game at the launch gave a pretty impressive ride, but we'll soon be able to tell you in a detailed review whether or not it has enough gas in the tank to really stand out.
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