Ahhh, Geoff Crammond. Those two words alone are enough to make Amiga owners weak at the knees. A man whose name became so famous it was plastered in front of his games much like novels by Stephen King and supposedly faithful movie adaptations of classic literature. Yes â€˜Geoff Crammondâ€™s Formula One Grand Prixâ€™ was a racing simulation which took the genre to places we had never seen before.
Certainly Papyrusâ€™ Indycar 500 had set our hearts a flutter in 1989 but nothing quite prepared us for the blockbusting 3D and incredible real world physics of Grand Prix in 1992 or its three successors. Crammond himself had cut his teeth on a little known title called REVS which he released on the BBC Micro in 1984, but it was its degree in physics which was most likely the reason for his phenomenal success.
Formula One Grand Prix, or â€˜F1GPâ€™ as it became known, was â€“ Indycar aside â€“ the first serious 3D polygon based racing sim on the market. Everything could be customised: gear ratios, wing settings, tyre types and whatâ€™s more it actually mattered. Pick the wrong set up on the wrong track in the wrong conditions and not only would you be off the pace but youâ€™d slip and slide all over the place too.
Tracks too were modelled beautifully on their real world counterparts and suddenly you could spot the famous straights of Hockenheim and the classic chicanes of Silverstone. It was all a million miles from the random glorified circles we had all been used to.
Despite its complexity, F1GP was also massively customisable. In fact, so many driving aids were available that with them all on you had to do little more than steer. Breaking, assisted cornering, auto spin correction, a literal â€˜racing lineâ€™ and even invulnerability were provided and let me tell you â€“ for all the work Geoff did â€“ it was this last setting from which I had the most fun.
Ask any F1GPer what they remember most about the game and youâ€™ll get the same answer: the crashes! So starved of genuine 3D carnage were we during these days that all the best times were had spinning your car around, racing the wrong way and piling into the oncoming field of cars as fast as possible. It was glorious. Cars had dedicated crumple zones and nose cones would shatter, wings snap off the front and rear and wheels roll across the track.
Crammond himself was at first reluctant to recognise the craze which had emerged from his serious simulator but the fact that one of the most hyped features of GP2 was that cars could now â€˜flip into the airâ€™ was clearly a nod in our direction.
Other classics like The Sentinel and Stunt Car Racer had appeared from Crammond before the F1GPs, but the fact he has yet to make another title outside this series is proof enough of its all consuming, revolutionising and serious yet simultaneously maniacal appeal.
TOCA, Need For Speed and the Lotus games have since made heartfelt appeals to the frustrated racer inside me, but none has come remotely close to my sloppy romance with F1GP.