Grand Prix Legends HD

A superbly realistic vintage F1 simulator.

10_1From their early days crafting the superlative ‘Indianapolis 500: The Simulation’ through ‘IndyCar’ and the more modern NASCAR series of games, Sierra’s Papyrus division has consistently set the standard for racing simulations. With Grand Prix Legends they have topped themselves once again, delivering what may be the purest simulation ever created for the PC, a swaggering, chest-thumping game, one without equal in any other genre. Eschewing anything resembling a simple mode for beginners, it caters exclusively to the hardcore.

A number of new rules were introduced in the 1968 Formula 1 season to make the sport safer. Unfortunately for you, Grand Prix Legends models 1967, the year before the drivers saw racing sanitized for their protection. As you’re sliding around in one of these wingless wonder cars, it’s hard not to get high on the romanticism of that racing era, the thought of drivers risking their lives by driving on the edge in a vehicle that was a 400 horsepower deathtrap on wheels.

The Most Gorgeous Racing Sim Ever

The very first thing that will strike you are the superb graphics. Although it’s customary here to cover games in their original, unaltered format, the version featured herein sports an updated high-resolution makeover courtesy of, whereas the original used significantly lower texture resolutions and poly-counts (being powered by a modified version of the NASCAR 3 engine). Thus Grand Prix Legends won’t be judged completely by its own merits, but boy is the trade-off worth it!

Speeding through lovely Monaco.

Speeding through lovely Monaco.

The car and environmental graphics produce one of the most magnificently beautiful racing sims I have ever seen! The circuits are hyper-realistic in their presentation, draw distances seem infinite (background textures and foreground terrain blend in perfectly) and the car dashboards, combined with the gripping engine sounds and solid controls, produce a wonderfully authentic sense of speed and danger. The first time you power up your racercar and speed down the road, listening to what could be one of the loudest grabs-you-by-the-balls engine roars, will make you truly appreciate Grand Prix for its no-nonsense approach to simulating the driving experience.

On top of the graphics being excellent the game is also wonderfully realistic, which is really where all the meat is. It’s all about the physics of driving, of weight transfer, of friction, of torque and horsepower. The resultant concoction is a wild beast of a car, one that reacts horribly at the limit of adhesion and is somewhere beyond twitchy and tail-happy. The great difficulty in handling these cars is painfully realistic, as the original vehicles were also notorious for their unpredictable nature at high speeds. It requires the patience of a saint and the focus of a surgeon to pilot your Brabham or Eagle through the streets of Monaco or on the straights of Monza.

Few games make you this nervous behind the wheel, with the feeling that you’re on the brink of a crash. If you think the cars get airborne more than they should when they hit curbing or trackside objects, it’s probably because the drivers of the era weren’t quite as stupid as we are, or more accurately they knew the limits of their machines and didn’t fly into the turns with the same reckless abandon a modern race car allows. You can’t mash the brakes or stamp on the throttle when you don’t have all of those aerodynamic aids pushing your car toward the ground. You will need to completely re-learn everything you know about driving a race car.

No Rookies Allowed

The dashboard looks superbly authentic, featuring fully working gauges and reflective mirrors.

The dashboards look stunning, featuring fully functional gauges and reflective mirrors.

The game cuts little slack for beginners, with not so much as an AI slider to adjust the seemingly godlike driving skills of your computer-controlled opponents (who almost never seem to crash). On the upside we get an included practice mode that lets you drive around the many wonderfully rendered circuits with no strings attached, and the added option of disabling damage really lets you learn from your mistakes. Or you can even kick back and watch individual races, using numerous onboard and external cameras. But there is no such thing as an ‘arcade’ mode or even a tolerable learning curve here, so only die-hards need apply.

In the end, you may end up respecting Grand Prix Legends more than you’ll ever enjoy it. UbiSoft’s superlative F1 Racing Simulation, for example, is satisfying as both a simulation and an arcade game, allowing the game to be tailored to your mood. Grand Prix Legends, on the other hand, is the type of simulation the hardcore fringe wishes every game could be, one that screams “screw the masses, this is as real as it gets”.

Although extremely challenging as a game, the ultra-realistic driving physics coupled with the superb high-resolution graphics give this game excellent value to those willing to go that extra mile. It isn’t easy, but once in control you’ll find it a superb driving sim.

System Requirements: Pentium 166 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, SVGA, Windows 95

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