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Caprice Bourret


Grand Prix 3

Let's clarify something right off the top--Grand Prix 3, the latest Formula 1 simulation from the legendary Geoff Crammond (World Circuit, Grand Prix 2), will disappoint some people. It is not the wholly reinvented F1 experience most have been anticipating during the five years that have passed since GP2. But minor shortcomings aside, it is the finest modern-day F1 sim to date, sure to quench the thirst of anyone who values the pure joy of open-wheeled racing.

Some might refer to Grand Prix 3 as Grand Prix 2 1/2, and that sentiment is not without some justification. Damage modeling, for instance, is confined to the usual assortment of lost parts and continues to exclude engine smoke and mangled frames, which activate only in the event of extraordinarily heavy contact. Other irritating GP2 holdovers include the incredibly brief 20-second replay, the look-Ma-no-hands steering wheel, and the curious continuing omissions of formation laps, jumpstarts, a "quick restart" command, and career mode. Your high-revving opponents, meanwhile, remain just as eerily mute as they've been since the primeval days of World Circuit--a particularly appalling oversight given the aural magic of a real-life F1 event.

But with these minor annoyances come all the innovation that made GP3's prequel superior. Hot Seat mode, wherein two players compete in turn-based form on one computer, is one such perk. As is the inherent skill of the AI drivers, who realistically jockey back and forth and get into an accident or two even when you're not an active participant. Fortunately, they'll collide with you only when you've braked inordinately early or pulled some other all-too-human gaffe. And as always, Grand Prix lets you jump from car-to-car in any racing session and shift with an optional manual clutch.

Grand Prix 3 is enjoyable because it provides a magnificent ride and thoroughly memorable racing. Sporting the best lineup of driving aids in the business, it will have rookies up and racing, albeit slowly, in minutes. And with driving aids off, it offers the hard-core sim fan the perfect blend of difficulty and accessibility, not to mention the most comprehensive and complex garage facility of any PC racing game. And believe me, that garage offers much in the way of required learning if you ever hope to mix it up with the Schumachers and Hakkinens of the world. The program continually demonstrates that it is you, not some preset coding, controlling every nuance of your vehicle's nervous movement--and it takes awhile to master.


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