I was having this argument down the pub the other day with a couple of mates about which of today's many and varied sporting activities requires the most bottle.
After going through the more obvious candidates (bullfighting, women's football, being English in Glasgow), we found ourselves debating whether Indycar or motorcycle racing took the most guts. The argument for the former ran that despite the circular tracks, the presence of a thick, unyielding concrete wall around the outside edge meant that death was merely a tiny shunt away.
Poppycock, came the response. Indycars are so solidly built and the cockpit is so rigidly designed that there's very little danger to the driver at all.
Now with motorbikes, one nudge and you're propelled 50 feet into the air with only gravity for company. You have no control over your descent to the Tarmac or the trajectory of the somersaulting two-wheeler bearing down on your hapless frame. You're at God's mercy and you'd better pray he's not feeling vengeful.
Anyhow, this is all a convoluted way of introducing a brand new team to the world of motorised bicycle racing simulators and making the point of how realistic GP500 is aiming to be.
What Geoff Crammond did for Formula One (ie bog you down in so l much realism that you had to be k David Coulthard to win a race), Infogrames Melbourne are Uk hoping to do for bikes. And what Kingpin did for mutilating human bodies using lead pipes, GP500 is doing for dismembering racers who fly off their seats.
The first step is to make sure it all looks and sounds as authentic as possible, so publishers Hasbro have been quick to snap up the official FIM licence, meaning you'll get all the teams and tracks from the just-completed 1998 season recreated in nauseatingly good detail. Less than a year ago, the kind of graphical detail seen in GP500 wouldn't have been out of place in an intro sequence. Admittedly, the majority of the screenshots on these pages were taken at 1024x768 using a TNT-based accelerator card, but if that wasn't an argument to upgrade your hardware tout suite then I'm sorry, but you might as well go and play with an Amiga, because you're never going to be convinced.
But the details! Ah, the details. The bikes have every kind of graphical enhancement you can think of, right down to shiny exhaust pipes and windshields that reflect your instruments. The riders themselves are also fully animated, their bodies bending as they take corners, their heads moving from side to side as they track other competitors and their limbs flailing as they hurtle through the air with the grace of a tap-dancing elephant.
Silver Dream Machine
But gorgeous graphics aren't much of a rallying cry in these technologically aware times (yeah, right). Luckily, GP500 packs a hefty wallop under the hood (or wherever it is these things keep their engines) by creating what the developers are claiming is the most realistic engine modelling ever seen for a game of this type. Enlisting the likes of Kenny Roberts Jr, a professional US GP500 racer (be impressed), to oversee the authenticity of it all, the game certainly feels realistic enough. A lot of motorbike games tend to miss that 'weighty' feeling that massive engines give you, but GP500 appears to have got it bang-on. You can spend as much time tinkering about in the garage, changing suspension settings, engine configurations and so on, as you can on the actual track, crashing into tyre barriers.
As you race around each course, you have to be aware of downshifts, leaning tactics, tyre temperatures, smoke and dust debris emanating from the bikes in front, weather conditions - practically everything a real-life rider has to worry about (with the exception of which of the pit lane girls to go home with after the race). Of course, those of you without a civil engineering degree can switch most of these options to automatic if all you want to do is ride.
And what of the riding? There are several options open to you, from the usual arcade versus simulation modes (determining how many times you end up with a camshaft sticking through your spleen when you first start) to individual levels of opponent AI. The aim is apparently to give them all different 'racing styles', modelled on their real-life counterparts, but they can all be adjusted by 10 per cent increments to bring them more into line with your own personal racing style of hanging on to the handlebars for dear life and praying there aren't any comers coming up.
Likewise, the length of each race can be taken right down to a bare handful of laps (more than enough to puncture a kidney or two) or shoved right up to a full-on, 60-plus lap race, ending in triumph or heartache (or, more likely, a heart bypass as the doctors struggle to restore what's left of your internal organs). Other options include full practice and qualifying sessions, 16-player network and Internet options, and even the ability to transfer 'ghost' riders - representing your best lap times - with other players.
EA's recent Superbike World Championship almost captured our attention a few months ago, but was ultimately let down by poor AI in the other riders, consequently breaking the realistic feel it might otherwise have had. Since there aren't very many other motorbike racing sims on the way right now, providing GP500 delivers on its promises, it should be the defining word in a largely overlooked genre.
Download GP 500
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP