There is something thrilling about driving a jet engine on wheels. I
can't put my finger on it, but I believe it comes from a very basic
human instinct. The desire for velocity, the pursuit for quickness, or
as the cliché puts it.. The Need for Speed. To those who feel this
call of the road and rubber I recommend you grab your helmet,
gloves and the nearest analog racing wheel. Monaco Racing
Simulation 2 puts you right in the cockpit (or the wing, tire or
backend) of a world class racing machine. No attention to detail
was spared in the creation of this milestone for the
simulation-racing genre. And it shows. From the moving camera
cranes right down to the yellow flag waving track attendant Ubisoft
captures the thrills and disappointments of racing. Now that we're
revved up and ready to run.. Let's get on with the show.
[Graphics: 20 / 20]
Let's not beat around the bush. Hands down Monaco unleashes
some of the best visuals I have seen in a simulation. And even
nicer is that it does it without any pretense or bloated
requirements. You don't need a Pentium II to see the cockpit.
Multiple angles, details and views all ran smoothly on my K6 233
with Voodoo 1. Solar flares and lighting effects are included
tastefully. It is certainly a breath of fresh air to see graphics that do
not upstage gameplay, and still not totally suck. Many times games
with excellent game play lose points in the graphics category. A
recent example of this would be the flight simulator Total Air War,
great gameplay but the graphics were mediocre at best. What
impressed me most about the visual effects in Monaco 2 was that
they weren't "showing off" some hot technology or out shining
game play. Therefore I am giving full points here to graphics
which visually enhance without sacrificing the most important
aspects of the game.
[Sound: 12 / 15]
Pretty good. The variety of tire screeches is very useful in
determining how close to spinning out you are. The engine sounds
were a little weaker than what I wanted. I guess Grand Prix
Legends spoiled me. The lack of an announcer was obvious,
especially at the starting grid assignments. Driving over the grass
produced a strange sound, I wish some game designer would
finally get this right. Driving on the lawn does not sound like
driving on cardboard or plastic, so stop trying to fudge it.. We can
tell the difference. Overall, the sound was effective but could have
been tweaked for many improvements. My guess is that this was
the last area to be designed. Keep trying boys.
[Gameplay: 28 / 30]
Man, I could go on for pages about the gameplay. However, I have
a feeling that my fellow reviewer for this game, Pseudo Nim, may
indulge to do so. So I will try to be brief and let the game play
speak for itself, it has earned it. Numerous modes of driving give
you all the racing choices a gamer could need. With over 30
camera angles this game gives you plenty to look at. But let's not
stop there, fine tuning gear ratios and fuel mixtures are your
definition of fun? They're here. Want to see statistics of the
countries that you are racing in? They're also here. Want tips on
how to angle and run over 12 different styles of turns? Even they
are here. Got tired of the F1 class cars? Why not race in retro
mode featuring 4 unique classic racecar designs. All that is here.
True to life car and motion physics let you experience the joys of
spin outs due to traction loss, spin outs due to premature turn
acceleration, and spin outs due to collisions with one or more of
the 21 other professional level computer driven cars. Once again
for the hearing impaired, its all here.
So there you go. Why didn't I give it full score? Excess. We really
don't need camera views from both rear 3/4 5 feet and rear 3/4 8
feet. We don't need an option for the nationality of our driver
profile. (Do we?) The cockpit could have been larger on screen,
and a wheel could have been included. As well there could have
been a truly amateur setting for the computer AI, giving rookies a
bottom rung to cling to for those first dozen races. There are a lot
of extras which really do not add anything meaningful to
gameplay, and I think that certain aspects of Monaco 2 could have
been improved had they been left out.
[Fun Factor: 12 / 20]
I hit this category hard because I think this is where Monaco 2
lacks the most. As I discuss further in my conclusion, Monaco
reaches new levels in regards to the racing simulation genre. But
it comes at a cost. Racing around the tracks in time trials and
practice alone is great for a while, and is practically required if
you want to do anything but over shoot every turn and under run
every straightaway. However racing with other cars is a great
feature of the "racing" genre and it is nigh impossible in this
game. Under amateur skill settings the AI is by no means forgiving
of mistakes a green driver would make. Spin once and you are at
the back of the field before down shifting to first gear. Its
frustrating, its annoying, and it doesn't get any easier. The only
solution is to restart or go back to practice mode for another solo
session. It would have done the casual gamer a great service for
Ubisoft to include a slower and less aggressive level of AI. Despite
all of great accomplishments and features the game quickly
becomes repetitive and boring without an AI level to match the
gamers. I know simulation purists may chastise me, but number
one priority is to entertain the gamer. Monaco 2 quickly loses its
entertainment value with its high level of difficulty and margin of
[Multiplayer Play: 2 / 5]
Monaco 2 supports both retro and F1 racing modes multiplay via
split screen. However in the version reviewed network, dialup and
serial modes were disabled. Hopefully this will be patched and or
enabled by Ubisoft some time in the near future. Without them it
seriously damages the already questionable replay value.
[Overall Impression: 8 / 10]
Definitely raising the bar for the racing genre this game presents a
number of innovative mode of play, excellent graphic
implementation, and unparalleled attention to detail. It gets my
stamp of approval in a number of categories, though it lacked
finish and design in other. With it all said and done this game
impressed me. However, here is where my "reality check" sets in.
The biggest flaw of Monaco is in what I call Reality Overkill. Let's
face it, driving these cars is tough. And to do it competitively is a
near impossibility. A majority of gamers simply do not have the
skill or the patience to learn the fine arts of drifting a shallow 70
and overtaking through a switchback. It is a dilemma which game
designers have struggled with for a long time. How to provide an
optimal balance between realism and fun. Many simulationists
would argue that the fun comes from a game that mirrors its real
life equivalent as closely as possible. And I certainly agree that
path of logic for the most part. A good example of this is Jane's
Combat Simulations. For a number of years Jane's have released
what has become the standard in flight simulators. And these sims
aren't easy, thick manuals, lengthy training and practice are
required before getting up in the air with any reasonable level of
I'm sure you are asking "What the hell does this have to do with
you driving around a track in Brazil at 170 miles per hour?" Well
certain compensations must be made when converting from the
real thing to the little plastic disc at home. And these
compensations vary depending on the title and level of overall
realism the company is attempting to achieve. In terms of Jane's,
the level is very high; and to give every player a fair shot at being
able to fly they provide a large amount of supplemental material
in the form of trainers and manuals. Conversely, in another EA
game recently released, Need for Speed 3 very little
supplementation was given. It basically turns the driver loose on a
high performance automobile that requires very little fundamental
knowledge to operate.
Ubisoft seems to want to go in the other direction. Monaco 2 is a
really hard game. There are plenty of "helpers" such as ABS
braking and anti-skidding that make driving almost manageable.
In all honestly I do not see why they even have an option to turn
them off, without them the game turns into one long spin out. After
making a serious 2-day effort to train, learn and drive on one
specific course I still could not compete with the computer racers.
And that's just the single race. There are so many modes of play
(read: modes to get passed by other racers) its almost depressing.
You have your choice of Grand Prix, Championship, 17 track
Season, Scenario mode and the 50s mode where you race with
old style cars (ala Grand Prix Legends). All of this really pushes the
point: this game is not geared towards the keyboard tapping
weekend racers. Only the die-hard digital Alex Zanardis' need
By: Pseudo Nim
Ubisoft is somewhat of an interesting company. Sort of like
Psygnosis was, anyway. They put out arcade games, then bang, a
relatively realistic game. More arcades, more more more, bang,
another sim (perhaps not in absolute terms, but relative to their
lineup). Such was the case with Formula 1 Racing Simulation,
which was a pretty decent F1 game (especially considering all the
horrendous Psygnosis F1 games that came around at about the
same time). Compared to F1GP2 it was somewhat harder to
control, and the game felt slightly unfinished overall, but it was
still pretty good. Graphically, especially.
Which is where Monaco Grand Prix Racing Simulation 2 comes in.
There's a fine difference with F1RS, though. While F1RS did a fine
job of simulating a Formula 1 car, I'm not precisely sure just what
MGPRS2 simulates. The cars are MUCH more volatile, they go
into uncontrollable wheelspins a lot more often, and they feel like
they have more raw power - but after a few field tests on the
Hockenheim track (my personal favourite), I've come to the
conclusion that on stock settings, with either manual or auto
gearboxes, the MGPRS2 cars top the F1 cars by about 1 to 2 km/h.
That's not much, considering how much less control you have over
them. Incidentally, since I mentioned tracks - the tracks in MGPRS2
(I'll just call it Monaco from now on, easier on the eyes) are exactly
the same as the F1 tracks, with the addition of a European track.
The garage options are pretty extensive. You even have telemetry
data, so that you can tweak a certain part of the car, then take it
on the track, see if it made a difference, and if so, which way. A bit
annoying is the fact that by default you have 120 gals of fuel, even
on training. I mean, after dumping 115 gals I salvaged up to 5 km/h
top speed, which ain't too little. Sure, you have less grip then - but
the point was to find the max speed, and not tune the racing stats.
In a way a very neat test would be to compare laptimes. The thing
is, and I'm chagrined to say that, I can't drive the Monaco cars.
Maybe it would be easier with a steering wheel and pedals, but
I'm cheap, so I play with the keyboard. And normally I expect
games to behave at least a little bit. I noticed NASCAR was
significantly better with a joystick/steering wheel, but in general, I
find games should be playable on the keyboard. (If you don't know
what the difference is, think of it this way: when you use the
keyboard, your gas is either 'On' or 'Off', there's no middle position.
That's like if you sat in a car and floored the pedal right away.
Whereas pedals do a similar job as a real accelerator.) The thing
is, Monaco is completely uncontrollable. Maybe tweaking some
settings could make it a tiny bit better, but I doubt anything would
make me be able to drive that car.
Monaco is very majorly based on the F1RS engine. The graphics
are pretty much the same (which is not to say they're bad - F1RS
had excellent graphics, and Monaco adds a little juice to them).
Smoke effects are slightly more refined and skid marks are
somewhat better. The thing is, since it's visually using the same
engine (even the menu system), I have a strong feeling the
underlying structure might be very similar to F1RS - and there's a
few things I'd like to say about that. And the environmental effects
are just too cool. Rain, drizzle, sunshine, clouds .. like, whoa.
The most major problem I found with F1RS over the time I've been
playing it (yes, I still play it - in fact, I'm on Race 7, at 100% length)
is the tire wear and tire temperature problem. In real life, as you
exit the pits, your tires are cold, and grip is low. As you drive
around the track, your tires warm up and grip increases. Then,
gradually, the tires wear down, and your grip decreases again.
The emphasis is on gradual, though. In F1RS I'd exit the pits, pretty
much float my way through the lap to the start line, then bang!
Feels like I'm glued to ground - grip's like on Jupiter. Then I drive
a few dozen laps, posting lap records (as far as I remember I even
beat Schumacher's record on one of the tracks!), then all of a
sudden the car starts to float. Lap time increases by 10 seconds, I
can't steer properly anymore, time to go to the pits. That happens
over the span of about one lap. I can't possibly see what Ubisoft
was thinking, since in real life, it never happens in under a lap -
unless you drive on grass, gravel, grass again and gravel again -
then you might get such a drastic change. In any case, I'd have
loved to check if this problem is in Monaco, but, considering I
couldn't quite well control the car for a few dozen laps, I wouldn't
be able to say. And though not a major problem, it's slightly
The pits are neat. Only problem is, if you're not fast with the pit
menu, they'll just sit there waiting - the game doesn't get put on
pause while you sit in the pits. So you're best to decide on your pit
strategy well before the race, or at least as fast as you can while
you're being led into the pits.
Which is not to say Monaco is bad - oh, by no means, no. It's a very
solid racer, and it has a pretty nice feel to it. Except, like I said, the
wheelspin - I think it's some mishap on the part of the developers,
because even with a manual gearbox, it stays. Sort of reminds me
of the same thing in NFS3 - when your gears change, you lose grip
and make cool skid marks. WAKE UP! That never happens in real
life! But then again, no one said NFS3 was realistic. So never
mind. And, once you do, it's much too easy! In F1RS, once you
catch where too much gas is too much, you're set - and on
amateur level, if you don't lap your opponents by about 5 laps,
you're plain sad.
The sound score is nothing to drool about, but nothing to complain
about, either. The effects are well-timed, nothing's lagging behind
(like it was on my 486 while playing NASCAR). All the sounds you
expect are there - tires screeching, engine sounds, metal on metal,
This brings me to another neat thing about the game, which I
intentionally left for the end. You can actually drive a retro-style
racer. Yeah, a la GPL. Except you're limited to four cars, on one
track, so I'm sure it gets boring pretty fast - but, albeit short, it's
very well done. And, in a way, I think there shouldn't have been a
modern part to this game - Ubi should've just made it all retro. The
car drives very nicely, it's almost completely uncontrollable (which
is realistic), it doesn't seem to believe a curve is somehow different
from a straight line - but it's fun! And major one, at that.
In either mode, Monaco is a good game. The physics engine is
pretty good, and it has a lot of potential behind it - and had the
modern part of the game been a little bit more controllable, it
would've maybe even made it to the Readers' Choice. As it stands,
you either have to be REALLY good, or have a steering wheel.
And oh, by the way - sorry for the shots not showing all of the 360
camera positions. It's hard to drive and take shots - so I decided to
show off only the most useful angles.
Highs: Good graphics, good physics engine, interesting
idea of a retro-style racing car.
Lows: Some sprites (esp. humans) look really fake, the
cars in the modern mode are pretty uncontrollable.
Graphics: 15 / 20
Sound: 13 / 15
Gameplay: 24 / 30
Fun Factor: 18 / 20
Multiplayer Play: 4 / 5
Overall Impression: 9 / 10