Grand Prix 3
F1 racing just isn't what it used to be. Over the last few years, just about every race has deteriorated into the type of procession you'd expect to see on a Sunday afternoon along a quiet country lane, as convoys of elderly folk make their way back home for tea and cake after a day at the seaside. It's all become a little too predictable. Let me give you just a couple of examples. When he's not nursing any broken limbs, Michael Schumacher inevitably throws away his chances of a third world title by trying to ram his nearest rival off the track during the final race. David Coulthard always claims that it's his year, only to finish third, and Mika Hakkinen consistently displays the charisma of a catatonic newt in his post-victory press conferences. As for watching the races, it's always worrying when you actually start looking forward to the adverts. Yes, Grand Prix racing has lost some of its excitement and unpredictability, some of the magic that once made it so appealing. Which ironically brings us perfectly onto the subject of GP3.
Here We Go Again
Perhaps they all knew something I didn't, but when a copy of GP3 finally, several members of the team reacted with the kind of excitement they usually reserve for knitting magazines. Crowding round my monitor, they claimed that it looked just like GP2, before walking back to their desks with a sense of smug satisfaction. To an extent, they weren't too far off the mark. Basically, and unfortunately somewhat predictably, GP3 is GP2 with a few extra bells, but to write the game off as nothing other than a souped-up rerun is somewhat unfair. To its credit, the game does manage to recreate the sport more accurately than any other FI game currently on the market, and even more faithfully than either of the previous two titles.
Let's start with the graphics ' shall we? As you can see for yourselves from the screen shots, the visuals are somewhat of a mixed bag. It's clear that a great deal of attention has been paid to the accurate recreation of the circuits, with each one actually looking like the real thing in just about every detail. The cars are also beautifully rendered, moving fluidly and realistically, and you can even see their reflections in the water during wet races. However, this apparent attention to detail doesn't apply to everything. The tyre walls are blocky, the pit crews mannequin-like and the crowds look like rows of cardboard cutouts. All of which leads you to think that it's hardly ground-breaking stuff.
And They're Off
The handling of your car has also been modified. Rather than taking corners casually, you now have to really fight with the wheel, as your vehicle threatens to spin off the circuit at any moment. Although it's initially frustrating, it does make proceedings far more challenging, and if you're playing with a game wheel, hugely realistic. The more you tweak the settings of your car to individual circuit requirements, the easier it is to drive around corners, but getting the right balance requires many laps of testing first. Down force, brake balance, gear ratios, fuel load, tyre choices, pit-stop strategies, they're all there, and getting these right can make the difference between finishing first or sixth. It really is that marginal. It's also incredibly anal. If you're not into dribbling spoddily onto your keyboard while weighing up the advantages of lowering your rear wing by one centimetre, then a huge portion of the game's just going to pass you by.
Once you've found your ideal setup, sorted out your race strategy and had a go at qualifying, it's time to start racing for real. It's only now that you realise just how close to the real thing GP3 actually is, although a certain amount of licence has been allowed in terms of collisions and damage and, thankfully, races aren't as procession-like as they've become in real life. Just playing on the Rookie setting is enough to display the quality of the opposition Al, while on more difficult levels, computer-controlled drivers are easily the most realistic we've ever seen in a driving game. They move to block you off if you try a daring overtaking manoeuvre, they all have different race strategies and if you make even the smallest mistake, they'll rarely fail to capitalise on your ineptitude. As if your life wasn't difficult enough though, you have to contend with varying weather conditions, which can not only change midrace, but affect the handling of your car beyond all recognition.
If there's heavy rain, the cars in front of you will throw up a curtain of spray, reducing your visibility to just a couple of metres. Driving in the wet is like riding blindfolded on a unicycle, over a frozen oil-covered lake. Fortunately, you're provided with a host of driving aids to help you get to grips with the controls, which can be turned on and off at will during any part of a race.
Realism Vs Entertainment
So we've established that GP3 is realistic, but is it any fun to play? The answer to this question really depends on what you're looking for. If you're a GP anorak who can't wait to start tweaking car settings, painstakingly learning circuit layouts and braking distances, while not minding the fact that the cars and drivers are (and we had a real problem with this) from two seasons ago, then this is probably the game for you. However, if you're not too concerned with the above, and you just want a fun FI simulation, then you should think hard before parting with your cash.
See, the problem with GP3 is that it just becomes too clinical. The realism and over-emphasis on detail has to a certain extent taken away some of the excitement of just racing, and overall, the game lacks any type of atmosphere. For starters, there's no commentary option, but I suppose you'd expect that from a simulation. However, there's no pit communication either. Entire races are spent listening to nothing other than the engine of your car, which sounds more like a fly in a jam jar than a 600 hp engine. The lack of team communication also leads to a sense that you're a one (wo)man team, rather than a member of a competitive collective. Races would be so much more entertaining if you could get information from your pit crew over a radio, rather than having to squint at the display on your steering wheel, to find out how far ahead of you the car in front is. Then there's the problem that there are no team orders or tactics whatsoever. If you need to win the last race of the season to take the championship, your team-mate will make no effort at all to help you out. Little things like this would have made GP3 so much more fun to play.
GP3 is undoubtedly excellent, but it could have been so much better. In terms of realism and accuracy, it has no equal, but it's not the huge leap forward from GP2 that we were all hoping for. The series has become too familiar, and although it's well worth buying this third instalment, it's hard to call it an essential purchase. The most amount of fun you'll have with it is if you've got access to a decent LAN connection, as playing with humans adds a random element, as well as rectifying the problem of a lack of team work in the single-player races. (When we asked Hasbro about the game's Internet options, we received a cagey reply. There were no servers for the game as we went to press - watch our Online section for updates). Just like real-life FI though, the series has become too predictable, but if you're a GP enthusiast, then this is the perfect game for you.
Once you've mastered ttie driving basics and managed to qualify somewhere other than last, it's important you learn the intricacies of each track. Here's our guide on how to succeed on the world's most famous circuit, Monaco
You've qualified fourth, which Is hardly a disaster. However, overtaking opportunities at Monaco are scarce, so It's not going to be easy to move up the field. A fast start Is essential, so revving your engine like crazy and wheel-spinning is not the way to go. Instead, accelerate away firmly but smoothly.
Time for some gentle persuasion. The first comer is a slow right-hander, so when you're level with the car to your right, start to subtly edge towards it. If you can get your nose in front before this first comer, then the other driver should back off and let you through. That's one place gained already.
Staying tight left up the hill, cruise round the long bend in fourth gear moving slowly to the middle of the track as the bend ends, then come down to first for the tight right-hand comer. Accelerate down the small straight, and leave braking as late as possible to close up on the car In front.
This next section Is the most infamous part of the circuit. If you mess It up, you'll get stuck against the wall, or wind up off the track. Either way, you'll end up looking like a total nonce, so stay tucked behind the car In front and hold the racing line.
The sudden distance that appears between you and the in front through the tunnel is pretty deceptive. This Is only because the comer before It is so slow. Start wide and move gradually right. If you're close enough, slipstream the car in front and use the extra speed to outbrake him at the comer.
If you're not near enough to use the slipstream trick, as demonstrated in the picture, then you're going to have to bide your time again. Brake late, and stay tucked right under the rear wing of the car In front, as you go left then right. Don't try anything clever, as you'll only end up spinning or something.
Hit the throttle round the long left, navigate through the s-bend and then the righthander. Make sure you stay just behind the car In front, but be careful you don't collide with it, as you'll break your car's nose, and the driver who you Just rammed will probably try to break yours in the pits later on.
The final bend before the home straight offers the opening you've been waiting for. Brake late, and as your opponent stringently sticks to the racing line, cut inside and accelerate diagonally in front of him. He'll have to slow up to let you through (well hopefully), allowing you to pull away on the straight.
Download Grand Prix 3
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP