As everyone has been busy looking back fondly on "the best season of F1" (I call it the championship no one dared to win), I've been busy going back to some games that introduced me to racing... My first computer that came into my house was the ZX Spectrum +3. This baby, as shown below, is still to date the most expensive home gaming system that my family has ever bought. It cost £300. Just to put that in perspective, that's almost £3 per kilobyte. I feel so dirty now but when I was toddler, and for the many years that followed this was the only gaming system I had. Games would be on floppy discs or cassette tapes and I still have a cupboard dedicated to my ZX Spectrum now. If you think waiting to join a server takes a long time, or installing a game onto your PC/console takes forever - then welcome my friends to loading a ZX Spectrum game. If you sat through that, go grab yourself a cookie and pat yourselves on the back! There is something special about hearing a speccy game load for me however, the little picture that would slowly appear over time and the dread of the lines turning red as that usually meant it had gone wrong... and go wrong it would! Tapes warp, tapes snap, discs get dusty. Sometimes it just wouldn't pick up the last sound after five minutes arghhh!!! For other games, such as one of my all time fav's Run the Gauntlet (based off the TV show - anyone remember that?) you would have to play the tape for different rounds but sometimes the rounds would be out of order. Cue Simon sitting there fast forwarding and rewinding the tape to find the right point to press play, by which time I'd be so annoyed I'd go and bin my powerboat at turn 1 and that would be that! So having just mucked about with a relative new game Zombie Driver (good fun by the way, must review it at some point), I took it upon myself to inflict the pain of getting out my Spectrum +3 again for a tour de force of some of my favourite racing games. Here's a quick run down of a few that I had the chance to play. Nigel Mansell's Grand Prix One of the first racing games I remember spending literally days on was Nigel Mansell's Grand Prix. All 16 rounds of the 1988 season were present and you were thrown against 8 other absurdly named drivers as you took the role of ole Nigel himself. The graphics are typically motorway styled but at least the tracks actually followed the correct right/left bend patterns and you even had to brake sometimes, which was a bit of a shock in those days. The biggest thing I remember about this game was just how damn hard it was. Not only was Ivan de Fasteste (I kid you not) just insanely quick but you had to manage your turbo settings, engine temps and your fuel. Fuel would always be the killer for me as I'd always try to chase down the car ahead and forget to save any fuel for the end - especially when doing 100% race distances. The game was ahead of its time in many respects in that you had all these attributes you could change in car and it's only something a few racing games are still doing these days. I kicked the game into action earlier this week and still found myself struggling for a podium and I still ended up playing it for hours. Of course everything is very dated these days but it still evokes such nostalgia and immediate playability, I consider it a real classic. Chequered Flag This game came out in 1983 and was one of the first to really try to emulate 3D driving in more than a motorway look and by placing you inside the cockpit to make it more realistic. It also was the first game I remember that actually tried to show gradient changes in racing too. Only a handful of tracks were available including Monaco, Paul Ricard and Silverstone and the engine noise is well... a bobbling beep. Red tyres and trees didn't help things graphically and the gameplay is really hotlapping only but it really stakes its claim as a precursor to simracing to come. Watch out for the oil slicks on track too - now that what I call physics!!! Super Monaco GP Now this game came quite late on in the Speccy's development and was better on other consoles (I had Super Monaco GP 2 for the Master System) but this game showed rear view mirrors, coloured tyres and the most operatic 128k tyre squeals I've ever heard in my life. Seriously, its like a little mouse singing "Cheeeeese". It's also strange to note how narrow the tracks are and how wide the cars are not just in this game, but in almost all games in this era. No wonder you ended up actually driving over the top of them and hearing the *crunch* sound! Grand Prix Simulator So, it is maybe to many's great shock, F1 2010 wasn't Codemaster's first foray into F1 games. Codies entered it back in 1987 and endorsed by Johnny Dumfries (I can hear the chants of "who?" from here), this game is like Super Sprint but with evil handling. There are only two cars on track as well. This style of top down gaming was all the rage (and with GeneRally still going strong now, its still great for immediate fun gameplay) in the late 80's, not so much with this game but with Super Sprint and Ironman Off-Road. Here though, I found this game first before I discovered the afforementioned which were both far more superior in my humble Chindian eating opinion. I do love this style of music at the beginning though! Stunt Car Racer Oh Geoff Crammand has a lot to answer for! This game not only took far too many hours of my life away (and I didn't know til years later that he had done the Grand Prix games too) but my mother hated this game as it came in the most almighty massive lard eating box possible. That in truth just gave me the excuse to keep playing it as it didn't fit on the shelf! This game was as hard as nails. The tracks are all raised with no barriers and so if you go wide, you will drop to the depths below. If you land a jump like an elephant doing ballet it will hurt you like hell. Every tap and scrape is registered in a squiggly line that goes across the top of the screen and once its gone from one side to the other, your toast. I was toast so many times I could have opened my own cafe. The AI was tough, the tracks were insane and I never ever have completed it some 20 years later. Sito Pons 500cc As gaming was pushing the boundaries, games found new and improved ways of giving us some of the most awkard camera angles to race with possible. Enter Sito Pons 500cc which not only confuses the hell out of you for having remember which way your facing but in being a motorbike, the steering is such a guess work depending on which sprite its giving you, you might as well button mash like Track N Field! However, seeing so many bikes on screen all at once was a thrill and it had great competitive spirit. Some games can add up to more than the sum of their ingredients and this is a testiment to that. Grand National Now stay with me here, I adored this racing game. Yes I know its on four legged friends (ooh.. dog racing sim - I want!) but this game was fantastic for using strategy. Much like how the G1 Jockey series is today, this 33 horse race was about timing and using your stamina when needed. It's a bit like a precusor to putting in hotlaps when it matters. The horses also have a tendancy to try and run you off the road and if you hit them, you'll get a stewards enquiry (a horsey version of a stop and go penalty but without the nosebag) so I think its one of the first games that teaches clean racing! So that was a nice jaunt down memory lane. Do any of you have really early memories of racing games that you just can't shake? Thanks for reading, I'll be back to my usual weekly babble - I thought having 6 hours of me on RDTV was more than enough for anyone not in some kind of mental torture chamber!