Grand Prix Unlimited. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Clayton Walnum
If Accolade is conspiring to put together the most impressive collection of high-quality sports simulations on the planet, it's well on its way to achieving that goal. One thing's for sure: With titles like Mike Ditka Ultimate Foot ball, Winter Challenge, and Hard Ball 11 already under its belt, the quality of Grand Prix Unlimited will be no surprise to Accolade's fans.
As with most of Accolade's sports simulations, Grand Prix Unlimited offers virtually complete control over the sporting experience, which in this case is Formula One racing. On the macro scale, you can choose a practice session or a single race, or you can take to the road in a battle for the World Championship. As you dig deeper into the game, however, you'll discover a plethora of options, including the ability to modify your car's attributes, the track's weather conditions, and your skill level. There's even a built-in track architect program for constructing your dream racing environment, piece by piece.
Because Grand Prix Unlimited is a fairly complicated simulation, you'll need to spend time in the practice or single-race mode before joining the circuit for the World Championship. In these modes, you start by selecting your car and track, and then move to the starting line for your first-person-perspective race. For each race, you can set the number of laps, the weather conditions, and the number of opponents.
During a race, the game controls are sensitive and quick to react. It takes skill on the joystick or keyboard to keep your car screaming down the blacktop. Luckily, novice drivers have a number of helpful options from which to choose, including automatic shifting and steering. You can also set the skill level to one of five levels, which determine the speed and aggressiveness of the other drivers. On the Novice level, just keeping your car on the road is all that's required to take first place, whereas at the Pro level only awesome joystick wizards have a chance of making it to the World Championship.
After you get the hang of driving, you'll want to experiment with your car's attributes. By accessing the Car Adjustments screen, you can change the height of your view, the sensitivity of your brakes and steering, tire types, and more. These options allow you to fine-tune your car's performance to a specific track, a skill that must be mastered by any Grand Prix champion.
If Grand Prix Unlimited has a failing, it's the program's cheesy sound effects. Even on a Sound Blaster card, the car's engine sounds more like someone tuning a shortwave radio than it does the roar of screaming steel. Worse, the screeching-tire sound effect is not unlike the squealing of a distressed hamster. The music, too, is so intrusive that you'll turn it off before you even finish your first race.
Bad sound effects aside, Grand Prix Unlimited is a solid--albeit not groundbreaking--racing simulation. With its fully configurable cars, tracks, and racing circuits, it certainly has more features than can be described in a short review. (I didn't even mention the wonderful, VCR-like instant-replay feature.) If nothing else, all those options will keep race fans happily burning up the track. IBM PC or compatible; 640K RAM; MCGA or VGA; hard disk; joystick recommended; supports Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, and Roland sound--$59.95 ACCOLADE 5300 Stevens Creek Blvd. San Jose, CA 95129 (408) 985-1700 Circle Reader Service Number 349