When you see other reviews from "gamers" who say "terrible controls, terrible graphics, way too hard", what that really means is "realistic controls, realistic graphics, realistic damage".
This is not a game for a "gamer" who is used to flashy arcade-style racers like a Need for Speed or a Gran Turismo. Driving requires finesse, as it should. The first thing you should do is go to the Options and turn off the braking assistance, steering assistance and acceleration assistance (what's the point of a driving game if the game drives it for you?).
When you begin, you're only able to drive Jack Brabham's Cooper-Climax in the 1961 race (and the track is modeled with the bricks all the down the front straight like it was in reality through that year, though there's no rumble effect through your controller -- only a slight visual vibration). You must beat a few challenges, in order, before unlocking more cars (for 1961, these are the machines of Eddie Sachs and eventual winner A.J. Foyt). Their roadsters indeed don't turn nearly as well as the rear-engined Cooper, though have more power.
Eventually, you will unlock 1962, then 1963, and so on through 1971. As you progress, you will begin to unlock new years and cars before you have completed all the previous year's challenges and cars, giving you some freedom of selection. Also, you unlock more and more historic photographs that you can view -- more than 100, I think.
The challenges (or "missions" as they're called) range from simply qualifying above a certain speed, to avoiding crashes, to beating a rival, to performing pit-stop actions (where you use the Wii remote to hammer and turn the nut, change the wheel, etc., and hold the fuel hose steady, and even use a fire extinguisher if you spill too much fuel and start a fire).
Whenever you unlock a new car, it is possible to drive that car in an actual race (called Classic Mode). The races can be between 10 and the full 200 laps. The game auto-saves after each lap, so you can stop at any time (in case, for example, your remote's batteries aren't capable of lasting the four hours needed to run the full distance, or your thumb hurts from holding down the "2" button used as the accelerator). It will not save the last five laps, however, to avoid exploitation.
Every time you begin driving, you have to press up on the D-pad to change the driving view. For some reason the default view is a "kite cam" above and behind your car, which I find impossible to drive. Other views are in-cockpit (the first one you get with a single press of the D-pad), behind the driver's right shoulder, and nose cam. This is a minor nuisance, as you have plenty of time to change the view before you have to begin controlling the car.
No rear-view mirrors. The Wii's processing power I'm sure wasn't up to the task. However, you can press down on the D-pad to get a rear view. Likewise, you can look side to side, which is very nice in fact.
You don't have to use the brakes in the corners. A slight lift off the gas seems to be enough to keep you from sliding too much. And yet, a 1962 mission specifically mentions how Parnelli Jones struggled to finish the race off the pace because he'd lost his brakes. Maybe I'm just not quite quick enough yet, though.
Gamey "slingshot" effect can NOT be turned off. This is the biggest problem with the game. When you are in another car's draft, first there's just a minor "visual air" effect as your car picks up speed. As you get closer, however, the screen begins to distort, which is quite a nuisance. You can then press a button for a magical boost of revs. I really, really hate that you can't turn off this gamey element. Slipstreaming should be a natural occurrence (actually it is up until the point you press the "slingshot" button, which you almost have to in order to see where you're going because of the weird distorted screen effect).
Strangely, qualifying is only three laps instead of four (and you're not even fully up to speed when you take the green), and the starting field is in staggered rows of two (European style) instead of even rows of three.
The cars and the track are well designed -- even the flag man on the left side -- and look as realistic as the Wii can muster. However, there is a catch fence all the way around the track, which is not how it was in reality during those earlier years (where there were no grandstands in the turns, there was only the wall), but that's minor. The pit entry is the realistic narrow gap in the wall like it was in those days, and the number of grandstands and such is adjusted each year to match the real growth of the venue.
The challenges can be quite difficult, making for a good dose of determination as you get closer and closer to clearing them.
A nice video overview of each year is provided, complete with voiceover by the late Tom Carnegie (this game was made before his passing). Also plenty of facts about the cars and drivers shows a love of the sport.
And as mentioned before, the controls are very nice and require the amount of finesse that a "simmer" would expect, rather than the wild motions that a "gamer" would expect.
It has several real drivers and cars spanning the eleven years from 1961 through 1971 -- from the Offenhauser-powered roadsters to the Whooshmobile!
Definitely recommended for anyone interested in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, or racing history in general. If only there were an updated version for the Wii U...
yes: I recommend this product