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Grand Prix Legends Review

Grand Prix Legends title screen
My first experience of Grand Prix Legends for the PC was of a demo that came on the cover disc of a Magazine. Having never heard of the title at that time I didn't expect anything special. Once loaded and running on my then Voodoo2 200 mhz computer It gradually dawned on me that what I was experiencing was not a game but a driving simulation without equal. I'm what many would call a petrol head (fast car, plane, bike, boat etc mad) so suffice it to say that it was not long before the full retail version was getting heavy use on my computer.
GPL is in my view a landmark piece of computer software. No title before or so far since (2002) has captured the raw essence of car handling. The price you pay for this is a high level of difficulty, but you cannot have it both ways.
The simulation covers the 67 season. This was an age of no downforce 400 BHP plus cars, drivers with guts, and a very high fatality rate (half of the 67 drivers would end up getting killed at the wheel in the subsequent years). The cars actually performed overtaking manouvers back then as well !
The following authentic cars are included in Grand Prix Legends: the Lotus-Ford 49, Gurney Eagle, Ferrari, BRM and Brabham. Also included are a couple of fictitious cars (legal issue) the Coventry and the Murasama they are equivilent to a famous British car and an equally famous Japanese car.
The fastest in the line up is without a doubt the Lotus-Ford 49. This car goes like a rat down a drainpipe. The Lotus will give you the fastest lap times if you can master it's demanding handling. If you want to win a race you will need to drive the Lotus.
My overall favourite car is the Ferrari. While not as fast as the Lotus, the handling is balanced and it comes a joint second in overall pace alongside the Eagle. The sound of the simulated 12 cylinder Ferrari is enough to curdle blood.

On the grid at Monza in the Ferrari.
Right view on the Monaco grid in a Lotus-Ford 49
Right view on the Monaco grid in a Lotus-Ford 49
The Gurney Eagle as mentioned above is beaten for pace only by the Lotus. This car handles well and is great fun to drive, the real world Eagle was also a fast and competitive racing car but unfortunately was let down by poor reliability.
The Brabham was a succesful car in real life. It was extremely reliable and did a reasonable lap time considering it was down on power compared to it's rivals. The car is physically small which helps a bit on some circuits, notably Monaco. The Brabham doesn't rev very high and suffers in straight line speed compared to most others.
The BRM is a rather peculiar beast. Extremely powerful at high rpm but heavy and seriously lacking in low end torque. This car has a six speed box while all the others have a 5 speed. The real car's engine was in reality two spliced together. In Grand Prix Legends the BRM is the slowest in lap times by a large margin, two seconds upwards on most tracks will be lost each lap compared to a Ferrari for example. It's still a great fun car to drive all the same.
In a Ferrari at eau-rouge, Spa

The Coventry and Murasama are both middling cars, the Murasama tends to be a little unstable under braking and generally loose at the back.
Tracks included are all authentic renditions of their real world counterparts. The only change trackwise is the inclusion of an alternative French track to that used in the 67 season (Rouen instead of Lemans). Monza is the easiest to learn and then race on. The computer rendition of this classic circuit is very good. This is Monza before the chicanes and all the other speed bleeding safety changes were introduced. Curve-Grand is still there as is the Parabolica.
Silverstone in it's original form is reproduced well. This track started life as an airfield perimetre road so is relatively flat. The circuit used to be very fast without chicanes.
Replay of a Brabham at Watkin Glen

Monaco is a seriously difficult track to perform well on. The close proximity to the barriers, buildings and Kerbs make busted up suspension a constant risk. Some parts of the circuit are immensely difficult at speed, getting a car through the chicane after exiting the tunnel demands terrific skill, the car always gets twitchy and unbalanced at this part of the track & tends to bottom out on a bump.
Another of the tracks which has to be mentioned is the Nurburgring. This collosal German track still exists but has not been a Grand Prix track for years due to safety considerations. The track has so many twists and turns that learning it fully would take a seriously long time. When at racing speed you will be airborne in three places around this track.
The other tracks in Grand Prix Legends are the US Watkin Glen (great small track to drive and race on), the classic Spa Francochamps in Belgium complete with the blind bend Masta and the awesome Eau Rouge, Mosport in Canada, Mexico, and Kylama in South Africa.
Artificial intelligence for the computer drivers in Grand Prix Legends is good for the most part. They vary in performance from Ferrari fodder to super fast like Jimmy Clark. They make mistakes and crash all by themselves at times as well as suffering mechanical problems. There are some occasions where problems show up with the AI though. For example when braking for the Parabolica in Monza if you have a car behind you especially a Coventry there's a very high chance he will bash you up the rear and send you spinning into the gravel. The computer controlled cars often seem to have shorter braking distances as well.
rear view of a computer controller Coventry

Grand Prix Legends SCORECARD

Graphics 8/10
Sound 8/10
Gameplay 9/10
Originality 8/10

Overall rating 9/10

Unbeatable so far and Recommended.

Overall Grand Prix Legends is the best pure driving experience you can currently get on a desktop computer or console of any kind. The simulation processes the movement from your controller almost instantly, this is vitally important in a simulation (many otherwise great driving and flight sims perform poorly in this regard). It's admittedly very tough with a near vertical learning curve, but nobody ever said driving a late 60s grand prix car was easy.
One other note should be made regarding GPL, the original required a Voodoo or Rendition graphics card if you wanted 3D accerated graphics. They produced a patch however that lets you use a Direct 3D graphics card like the Geforce for example. Patch seems to work fine as I now run Grand Prix Legends with a Geforce 2MX and Detonator 3 drivers.
The original GPL didn't support Force Feedback controllers but this was also taken care of in a patch.