Remembering classic games: Grand Prix 2 (1996) | Top Gear
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Remembering classic games: Grand Prix 2 (1996)

Unmatched as a simulation when it was released, GP2 now serves as a distinct milestone in the history of racing games

Published: 28 Apr 2023

While the original Grand Prix was undoubtedly a groundbreaking leap forward in racing simulation technology, there’s no denying that, with its flat, polygonal graphics, it looked a bit like the entire thing had been fashioned from children’s construction paper. The sequel, 1996’s Grand Prix 2, took advantage of a technique called texture mapping, which ensured the cars and circuits were exactly as festooned with garish sponsors as on the telly. The only thing missing was Murray Walker rapidly approaching supernova in the commentary box.

At the time of its release, Grand Prix 2 was unmatched as a simulation, recreating the sport in all its complexity using a sophisticated physics engine written by ace programmer Geoff Crammond. Every car and track from the 1994 season was represented and the handling was a true test of driving skill, which was not what you wanted to hear when you accidentally launched your car over the top of Ukyo Katayama for the third race in a row.

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As with the previous game in the series, there were a selection of optional driving assists, such as traction control and braking help. Given that the majority of players were attempting to control an 800 horsepower F1 car by pecking at a PC keyboard, though, you can probably delete the word ‘optional’ there. In a rare inclusion, and in keeping with the brutal realism, the masochists amongst you could also activate an entire page full of potential random failures including engine blowouts and suspension collapses. Exactly what you want on lap 71 of a 72 lap race.

This commitment to accuracy produced real world results when, having practised the circuit on Grand Prix 2, then-rookie Jacques Villeneuve slapped his Williams on pole position for the 1996 Spa Grand Prix. It does make you wonder what he’d been playing when he rolled his car into a ball there in 1999, though...

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