If you were to make a sports game and had free reign to take your pick, it's unlikely that you'd pick horse racing. For most people horse racing is probably considered gambling, with little attention being given to the skill of the jockey or the thought behind breeding horses. To say G1 Jockey 4 is a niche title, then, is perhaps making the G1 Jockey series seem less obscure than it actually is. This hasn't stopped the game appearing on UK shores, and it even includes a novel controller attachment that helps create a more realistic racing experience.
Most people will probably dive straight into racing, enticed by the strange piece of plastic that fixes to both analogue sticks of the Dual Shock 2 controller. Once you've managed to attach it and begin a race, things won't be as exciting as you might have hoped. While other racing titles require the use of tactics to some extent, in G1 Jockey 4 how you perform is really all about the decisions you make while on the track. The control system is simple, yet undeniably tricky to master, and winning races isn't easy.
There's a fairly comprehensive training section that eases you into things, but when you get on the course there's still a lot to remember and keep note of. If you fancy breeding your own horse you can do that too, with tiny details available if you're into that kind of thing - it is effectively as complex as you want it to be. Creating a horse and then training it through to its first victory is a rewarding experience, but it certainly won't appeal to the mod-crazy, Pimp My Ride crowd.
Presentation is rather basic, but horses and jockeys are well modelled and move well. There's nothing flashy about things, but it's more than serviceable. The one real disappointment is in the number of horses that can appear in races, which is less than the maximum that can race in many of the big real-life events. The controller add-on is worthy of another mention as it really adds to the experience, but existing fans of the series may well prefer to opt for the original control method.
Like all good sports games, G1 Jockey is easy to get into, but will take a long time to master. It also has an addictive quality, despite its less than thrilling premise and presentation. Online functionality could have resulted in quite a strong community growing up around the game, with players competing in racing leagues and trading horses, but that wasn't to be this time around.
A horse racing game is a hard sell, and if you aren't mad keen on the sport there's really no point investing in G1 Jockey 4. If you do have an interest in horse racing you'll probably already be aware of the series and picked this up already, but if you haven't, it's probably the best game horse racing sim you're going to get over here in the UK.