Aminet can be a right treasure trove full or obscure and not so well-known pieces of software for the Amiga. For those unfamiliar with the Amiga scene in general, Aminet can be considered the original free software repository and was for many years it was also the World’s largest before being replaced by the Apple app store. Launched back in the 1992, the repository holds all sorts of programs to from word processors, spreadsheets and internet browsers, to emulation software all of which are available to download free of charge. If you find that are missing a specific file or library in order to make a program work, the chances are it would have been uploaded here and at the latest count a grand total of 82381 files can found on Aminet.
Game players are also well served by Aminet. In fact many classic Amiga titles are available to download either in segments or as a whole file for you to play and this is applicable not just for the Classic Amiga range, but also the Next Generation models and operating systems like AmigaOS 4, AROS and MorphOS.
I stumbled across quite a find this week with the MorphOS version of Virtual Grand Prix 2, which is a follow-up to a game which started out as a Public Domain title Alien Grand Prix for AGA based Amigas. Some of you may remember that this game was later expanded on and then released by Epic Interactive as Virtual Grand Prix back in 1999 in CD-ROM format. The original Virtual Grand Prix was about the closest thing we had to the 3D Formula One racing games that were appearing on the Playstation and Sega Saturn at the time and on the Amiga it certainly looked and played the part, providing of course you had the specs to run the game as they were quite high requiring a 68030 processor running at least 50MHz in order to get a decent frame rate.
I certainly wasn’t aware that there had been a sequel released for this great game and it turns out that MorphOS owners were the lucky recipients back in 2005 when the programmer Paolo Cattani released this for the MorphOS community free of charge.
Taking advantage of the additional power of that comes with using a machine capable of running a Next Generation Amiga operating system like MorphOS, Virtual Grand Prix 2, at least visually, is a bit of a step up from the lower resolutions found on the original A1200 game and will require the use of a 3D hardware accelerated graphics card. Fortunately as I am now using a Radeon X1650 Pro, I am able to take advantage, but for those who are trying out MorphOS on their X5000 machines with say a Radeon HD4000-6000 series card, you will find that your cards are currently missing 3D support under MorphOS and so you will not be able to run this game properly.
Installation of the game is quite an easy process, however it is important to know that the version on Aminet comes in two different files. The first is a 395K file called VGP2mos1.06.lha and is the game executable. This will need to be downloaded along with archive VGP2baseArc.zip which is 94MB and unpacked into the same folder for the game to run correctly.
Once you have unpacked all the files in the same folder, your game folder should look like the screenshot above and to start the game it is a case of clicking on the rather nice looking VirtualGP2 Icon.
Running the game opens up quite a nice opening video sequence of Formula One cars and is quite reminiscent of watching the opening titles to a Formula One Grand Prix meeting on television. Sadly I have not been able to take a screen grab of the in-game footage on this occasion so I have had to rely on my phone to provide screenshots here.
As you can see from the title menu screen, you have the option to either run a single race or take part in a season championship. I did try the network race settings which then opens up a sub-menu asking you to connect to a server, but sadly this would not connect which would suggest that the servers are no longer active.
Selecting the video settings on in the options menu will allow you to select a different resolution along with a number of different effects. Personally, I found the game looked really good in a 1280×960 resolution in 24-bit colour mode. I also switched off the translucent polygons, real-time shadows and reflecting polygons as they caused some issues with graphic corruption on my Radeon 1650 card. No doubt the optimum settings will vary from machine to machine and from graphics card to graphics card.
You also have the option to amend the game settings from a realistic mode which is the default to an easier and much more manageable arcade setting. I would recommend starting with the arcade settings as the realistic setting can be difficult to control and you can often find yourself over steering.
Talking of controls, you have the option of either using a Joystick, keyboard or a mouse. For those used to the classic Amiga game, Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix you may find you are at home in using a mouse, but I would recommend the use of a Joystick with this game. I tried the game out with the following joypads: Xeox Speedlink 6556 and 8Bitdo SFC Pro 30 and found the 8Bitdo SFC Pro 30 had the advantage out of the two joypads due to its superior analogue stick. However I found the controls much more manageable with the use of a Speedlink Competition Pro Joystick as it was much easier to accelerate and brake around corners.
When using an analogue stick things were far too sensitive for my liking and the car tended to oversteer a little too much whilst it was on the track . Another problem you may encounter with an analogue stick is that it can be a little difficult to accelerate out of a corner which is the key to playing most Formula One car games as you often have to follow the racing line, slow down into the turn and accelerate out. For my own personal taste the joystick control is far more responsive in this instance and does not feel so much like you are trying to physically drag the car around the corner which is the sensation you can get when playing with the analogue stick.
Gameplay is pretty much the standard Formula One racing fare, if you commence a season, you get to play all the tracks as you go through the season and you will need to undergo a few practice and qualifying sessions where you can make adjustments to your car in the pits in order to make your car more competitive and shave a few tenths of a second off the previous lap record. You can if you wish proceed straight to the race itself, but be warned you will find yourself at the back of the grid if you have bypassed the qualifying rounds
As you can see from the two videos, you have the option of playing the game from a number of angles and pressing the relevant key on the keyboard will toggle in between the various view points. Personally I tend to prefer pressing 2 on the keyboard to get a good in cockpit view, however if you prefer a slightly easier game then go for a slightly raised 3D view from the rear of the vehicle and press 3 on the keyboard.
From an Amiga user’s point of view the quality of the graphics both of the cars and in-game tracks is certainly impressive. It is worth remembering that this game is now 13 years old, but despite its age, I think it still olds up incredibly well both in terms of how it looks and actual gameplay which is quite realistic and is on a par with the type of racing games found on say a Sony Playstation 2 or Sega Dreamcast. If I had to pick fault with the game I guess it would have to be with the way the steering wheel moves in cockpit mode which has this clipped like effect and can prove a little distracting.
Put up against other Next Generation Amiga racing games like TORCS and Speed Dreams, the racing action in Virtual Grand Prix 2 is streets ahead of its competition and feels a lot more realistic and also handles a lot better. As you can appreciate from the videos above, the game also moves at a decent speed too on the X5000 and this adds to the realism of the game.
As previously mentioned at the start of this post, I was quite surprised to find game for free on Aminet as I would have quite happily paid for a game of this quality had it been released commercially. A big thanks should go out to the programmer Paolo Cattani for his efforts as this is sterling stuff and you should go and check this great game out if you havent done so already!
Until next time have fun with your Amigas!