the writings of a mind

Title: Spirit of Speed 1937
Genre: Racing – Simulation / Arcade
Big Word: Pits
Strap: 1937: Before they had invented rollerblades, SuperNoodles, and colour.

1937. Ahhhhh, those were the days. Approximately 3652 of them, give or take a leap year. Cast you minds back and you’ll remember such memorable moments as the invention of the first digital electronic calculator, the production of the first photocopier, and of course nipping out to the local cinema to see Snow White, the first full length animated motion picture. Oh, and something about racing cars as well.

It is alleged (well stated in the manual actually) that these were the days when drivers drove with their hearts, not their financial brains - which must have made steering awkward. Today it is all about money. It’s all about sponsorship, governmental U turns on tobacco advertising, and old infirm commentators who should have retired years ago. Sixty years ago there was no letting your partner through at the end of a race in accordance with your contract, it was all about getting around the track a few times without being blown into about seven thousand separate pieces, scattering yourself and your car generously about the crowd. So step forward Spirit of Speed 1937.

On starting you are presented with a very simple and intuitive options screen, with a neat little window allowing you to watch a fly over of the currently selected track using the in-game engine. This is joined by some nice 30’s style music. Lovely so far. There’s a reasonable choice of cars, thirteen in fact, and nine tracks to drive them on, all of which are accurate to the time, building up an atmosphere of the day.

And such an atmosphere survives right up until you click on the button marked "race". SoS has made the fatal mistake of trying to find a balance between simulation and arcade – and missing horribly. For instance, in a simulation you would expect a crash to be an end to your race, your car left in pieces, and probably your head as well. In an arcade, a crash would involve a small bounce, perhaps a spin, and then you would be right back into the action. Spirit of Speed manages to find the halfway point between the two: you crash, have a small bounce or a spin, and it is the end of your race. You car receives no damage what-so-ever, but it takes so long to reverse back onto the track and get going forward again, that you have no hope of catching any other cars, let alone reclaim a lead.

Okay, fair enough, if you don’t crash this doesn’t become a problem – that’s life baby - you crash, and then you lose. But if this level of realism is to be applied here, then surely it is fair to demand the same in all, or at least some, other areas of the game?

Handling is competent but entirely unrealistic, it is as if you are driving across a generously buttered track with no sense of traction or friction. Steering is vapid and unresponsive, leading to seventeen-point turns when putting yourself back on the track after a spin. And the most damage it seems possible to achieve is a broken wing-mirror. You can quite happily smash your car into an NPC’s, and both come away unscathed.

What you are left with is an average racing game. It is by no means unplayable, and graphics are pretty enough, with a lovely chrome effect on the back of your car. But for a game built up around such a significant period in history, you would expect to have some level of anorak info. There is no feature allowing you to take a closer look at a car, which surely would have been an obvious inclusion for a game that claims to have an accurate recreation of each individual model. Also there is absolutely no room for tweaking you car, making improvements, or even seeing how it works. Each is fixed, as is, and you may not touch.

So all is rather disappointing. SoS could easily have redeemed itself without even touching the dated and laggy engine. By including some historical racing information of the time, perhaps some blueprints of engines, or just the ability to take a closer look at the gorgeous cars, this would have been something worth picking up. But as it is, it cannot compete with games that have been on the shelves for over a year now. Stand up Grand Prix Legends.

Margin Note:

This is yet another racing game that adds weight to the argument for spending your hard-earned pocket-fillings on a shiny new force-feedback wheel. Yes they’re expensive, but the amount that one adds to a game such as this can make the difference between a one-off play, and coming back for more and more. Plus it will leave some tread on your finger tips if you are regular player.

 A very average racing sim, not helped by a lack of relevant information


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Microprose
Developer: Broadsword Interactive
Minimum System: PII 233, 32MB RAM, 8MB 3D card, 250 HD space
Recommended: PII 266, 64MB RAM, Matrox G400 3D card
Multi-player: None
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