Grand Prix II

Ferrari F-310BOne of my favorite sims is Grand Prix II, from Microprose/Spectrum Holobyte. GP2 goes beyond Indycar Racing II in some respects, although its vehicle dynamics model is cheapened somewhat due to such things as canned spin routines.

Hardware Requirements

With no support for 3D cards, GP2 places great demands on CPU performance, and really runs well only on very fast machines. I have a Pentium 166 with 32 mb of SDRAM and find it barely acceptable on that. Ironically, a fast video card makes very little difference in this video-intensive sim.

I recently ran GP2 on a machine which had been upgraded from a Pentium 133 to an AMD K6/200. The fast AMD completely transformed the game. The difference is almost as dramatic as the difference between the original, non-3D version ICR2 and the Rendition-ready version of ICR2. With the AMD, frame rates above 22 fps are easily maintainable, with almost all forward graphics details turned on (except, of course, at Monaco).

More importantly, the "feel" of the car takes a quantum leap. Now the car responds instantly to steering, brake, and throttle inputs. Instead of feeling slightly sluggish and unpredictable, the car feels incredibly nimble and responsive. This makes it much easier to find and drive near the limit. I now find this sim to be immensely rewarding to drive. Finally I understand why some people have such a fanatic devotion to GP2!

Vehicle Dynamics

As I mentioned, the vehicle dynamics engine is in the same league as that of ICR2. It goes beyond ICR2 in having a vertical component, which allows hopping over curbs and even leaping into the air if you touch wheels with another car or get snagged in the gravel. Also, car setups and behavior take into account this vertical component; you can set up the car so low that its underbody scrapes on the ground at high speed and slows the car down.

However, the excellence of this model is compromised somewhat by canned routines that take over when you do such things as hit a curb too hard, or get out of shape and start to spin. This is only mildly annoying when you hit a curb at 5 mph and the nose of the car leaps 5 feet into the air, but its effect when driving at the limit is much more detrimental. Canned spin routines make it impossible to recover from a spin once it goes beyond a certain point. The control options do include an option called "Opposite Lock Help" which offsets this behavior to some extent, but I'd still prefer a vehicle dynamics model that keeps on calculating forces and inertial components even when I've gotten out of shape, as in ICR2.

Frame Rate

Frame rate is managed by a graphics detail screen. Unfortunately, in the interest of maximum performance, the developers chose to deal with the moments when the CPU demands exceed the CPU's performance in an awkward fashion. Instead of dropping frames, as in ICR2 and N2, GP2 slows down the action. In other words, when you exceed your CPU's capacity, the sim drops out of real time. As a result, it could take a minute and a half to complete a lap which shows the sim records as 1:10. Very annoying.

You can monitor the CPU "occupancy" by holding down the O key as you drive. If you find it routinely exceeding 100%, it's best to go back to the graphics screen and reduce graphics detail being displayed.


The sim makes a good attempt at reproducing the ambience of a real Grand Prix. The excellent track and car graphics, authentic-sounding engines, race weekends incorporating practice, qualifying and race sessions, pit crew that jack up your car and put a lap-time monitor in your face during pit stops all add to the feel of being there.

I did find, when I carefully reviewed videotapes of the Canadian GP at Montreal, as well as Monza and other tracks, that some barriers and sand traps were not quite accurately located. I'm a bit chagrined to admit that the Psygnosis F1 arcade game for Sony Playstation was more accurate in this regard. Still, GP2 is quite acceptable.


GP2 supports 2-player modem play, but the implementation of modem play is not very good. The faster machine slows down to the frame rate being achieved by the slower machine. Also, patches to the sim, such as the No CD patch, render the sim unplayable in multiplayer mode.


I find the tracks and cars are rendered very well, and the vehicle dynamics engine second only to Papyrus' ICR2 vehicle dynamics engine.

I still find Grand Prix cars, as represented here, a bit less satisfying to drive than Indycars as represented in ICR2, due to the GP cars' razor-edge limit and relative lack of tossability. On the other hand, implementation of 3D vehicle motion (the cars bump up and down over curbs, and fly into the air if you hit another competitor or run over a curb hard) is great fun, even if much of it is implemented with canned routines instead of accurately modeled in real time.

See Eric Cote's SPY GP2 Menu Web Page and Pieter's Gad Prix 2 Page for more information about GP2, as well as setups and utilities.

Unfortunately, Microprose recently announced that GP2 will be withdrawn from shelves at the end of 1997 (probably due to licensing reasons), so get your copy while you can.