World Circuit. (automobile-racing computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
A virtual legend in software design, Geoff Crammond makes only rare appearances but leaves lasting impressions. The elusive wizard of racing simulations weaves magic out of asphalt, rubber, and polished chrome. In his eagerly awaited World Circuit, the results approach perfection.
Crammond's early track record includes Revs Plus, a dazzling Formula One simulation for the 64 and 128 and precursor to his later work. Years later, the British designer attained cult status with Stunt Track Racer for the Amiga, a masterpiece of high-speed-racing fantasy. It remains the most visually stunning work in the racing genre.
World Circuit combines the best aspects of Crammond's earlier simulations to create his most complex and accomplished effort to date. The game strives to be a comprehensive simulation of Grand Prix racing and succeeds brilliantly
Sixteen world circuit racetracks are included in the package, varying greatly in size and difficulty. From the screaming straightaways of Italy's Monza to the relentless curves of Japan's Suzuka, more than 47 miles of challenging courses await.
Unlike previous games that merely copy the shapes of famous tracks, World Circuit re-creates every unique characteristic, from grade to gravity. This exacting detail also applies to the colorful, panoramic view of the surrounding area. For the first time, players are given the illusion of racing in a viable 3-D environment.
The game begins with your choosing among 18 two-man teams, based on the attributes of real-life international Formula One racers. In addition to three types of performance rating--actual, equal, or random--there are five levels of difficulty for both human players and the computer-controlled competition.
Modes of play include practice on any circuit, nonchampionship (exhibition) racing, and the full Grand Prix Championship season. Prerace practice and qualifying laps assure prime placement on the starting grid--an important consideration for several particularly tight tracks. Even veteran drivers will find the computer's artificial intelligence formidable.
Stable, responsive controls are Crammond's hallmark, allowing players to put their driving skills, not joystick mechanics, to the test. Even this aspect of the game offers remarkable fine-tuning. A series of six driving aids can be toggled to assist or handicap players: Auto-Shifting, Auto-Braking, Self-Correcting Spins, Indestructible mode, Ideal Line, and Suggested Gear. The greatest danger, of course, is relying too heavily on computer assistance. Of this list, only Ideal Line and Suggested Gear can be considered learning tools. As an added treat, the game supports analog joysticks, providing improved handling and greater power on demand.
Remote or null-modem play would have been nice, but neither is offered. Instead, Crammond offers an ingenious two-player, time-sharing mode. Basically, each person takes turns racing, using the same joystick. The computer controls the car that's not under human control, switching back and forth at predetermined intervals. It sounds awful in theory, but it executes without a hitch.
Other unique features include full-service pit stops, with your choice of six tire types, front or rear brake balance, front or rear wing adjustments, and gear calibration. Likewise, your Formula One cockpit provides a wealth of information at a glance. Just be careful when you take that glance.
Perhaps most impressive are the lightning fast, full-screen graphics--smoothly animated, even at the highest level of detail, on a stock Amiga 500. Designed with a pleasing mixture of bitmapped backgrounds and solid-fill polygons, the 32-color screens are bright and tastefully drawn.
Kudos to MicroProse for the informative, no-fluff manual. Rookie racers will find the detailed section on driving techniques especially helpful. The game runs well from hard drive and floppy drives, and under AmigaDOS Release 2. World Circuit laps its nearest competition with ease--yet another victory in Geoff Crammond's exceptional career.