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60 laps of the same track - the best F1 games of all time

Nigel Mansell's Grand Prix (DJL Software Ltd, ZX Spectrum 1987)
Before we get onto this brilliant game, check out this vintage footage of Nigel Mansell overtaking Nelson Piquet with a feint to the left down the Hangar Straight (and just listen to commentator Murray Walker shouting "Yeeees!" in the background) to win the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1987. Why are we showing you this? Because this is the car you drive in the ZX Spectrum title Nigel Mansell's Grand Prix. And it's this romantic era that the game is reproducing. When men were real men, women were real women and racing cars had massive tyres and meltdown-inducing turbo boosts. Way cool.




In all seriousness, it took almost a decade for Formula One games to equal the depth of this seminal title. Look past the six-colour graphics and close your ears to the horrible sound. Instead, see how the car drifts slightly out of corners and the way the AI behaves as it tries to overtake you. Underneath the shocking aesthetics, this game is a superb simulation.

You have to qualify for each race, then wait thirty seconds on the grid while the tension mounts. You have to stop for tyres. And, as with that beautiful Williams Honda of 1987, there's a turbo boost, here assigned to the number keys. Jam it on '4' and you'll rocket down the straight. You can easily overtake your rival like this, but you're burning more fuel that can't be replenished (that was the rule back then) and also dangerously overheating your engine. Switch back to '1' and try to keep him behind.

The subsequent tactical calculations the game demands from use of the turbo during each race elevate this beyond most Formula One games before or since. But you'll need arcade reactions too - if you start to spin, you can catch it by taking your finger off the accelerator key and steering into the slide - preventing it altogether if you're quick enough.

With tyre blowouts (text only, sadly), all the races from the F1 season and a full championship to take on, this is one of the best F1 games ever made. A monument to the sport's golden age and still as playable as it was back then. Now watch the game in action and try not to laugh in its face.


2 comments

  • gribb85 - February 14, 2010 9:10 a.m.

    RyanBurntFuel it really wasn't. If you had ever played Grand Prix 4 or even 2, you'd know how delusional your comments are. Just wanted to say how fantastic this article is and how much it has brought back memories of playing some fantastic games. Geoff Crammond wherever you are, I salute you!
  • RyanBurntFuel - February 12, 2010 10:11 a.m.

    What??? No mention of EA's pc game F1 Challenge '99-2002??? I am. . . I have no words. That was surely the greatest Formula 1 game ever made, in all aspects. I registered specifically to make noise about this :P

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