AS the Formula 1 season gets into full swing, Electronic Arts has released its latest attack on the Amiga games player in the shape of Ferrari Formula 1.
Designed to bring the thrills and spills of a Formula One racing game to your screen, the game revolves closely around the 1986 Ferrari team of Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson - even though Johansson has since been booted out in favour of the faster Gerhard Berger, who in this game is racing for Benetton!
Apart from Acornsoft's Revs, most software houses have been too terrified to release a game which actually involved the technicalities of driving a racing car. Games such as Pole Position and Super Sprint are simply arcade games with a car as the theme, as opposed to a fish or a banana.
Ferrari Formula 1 sets out to rectify this situation, not only giving you control of the machine as it hurtles around the various world championship tracks, but also allowing you t act as a team manager.
Holding this post for a high profile car manufacturer like Ferrari must be a terrifying proposition, and thankfully the game does not stretch to the reality of being fired although after losing a few races resignation feels close at hand.
You must not only get your car to and from each race - allowing enough time for testing, modifications and travel - but you must be able to set your car up correctly for each different track.
A variety of alterations can be done to your car - the F186 model, a 1.5 litre turbocharged job producing more than 800 bhp. These range from turbo and engine adjustments, with the help of a dyno at Fiorano, right through to choosing different tyres for different wheels at Detroit.
In order to make the game not too difficult to get into, a friendly mechanic will help you with advice when necessary.
The first few hours are spent at the test track trying to learn how to control the car. Thankfully, you can choose whether or not to operate the gears manually, something which makes driving a little simpler.
Using the mouse, the right button accelerates, the left button brakes and pressing both down engages the clutch for drag starts.
Moving the mouse from left to right steers the car and it is this which presents the most difficulty. Unlike every other driving game I have played, instead of the front of the car pointing wherever you steer, the screen scrolls left to right and you control the driver's head.
This means that in hard corners you can be turning full lock and yet the car is in the corner of the screen. Although it is not too difficult to get used to, this small point is sufficiently annoying to make the first few attempts at driving around the track both frustrating and very slow.
After a bout 20 laps of the test track, you will find that cornering is not too big a problem. The real worry is keeping up with everyone else. On average, I was running about 15 seconds slower per lap than the seven computer-
This is when you should take the plunge and choose the Formula 1 car, with its gears, turbo boost and massive oversteer.
Changing from a supposedly Formula 3 car where the gears are automatically selected to a Formula 1 car with manual gears is not quite as easy as I had imagined. Even with the turbo-
Thankfully, unless you are actually in mid-race, these crashes do not affect you too adversely - apart from the seconds lost.
In race, however, you can lose up to a couple of months if you crash badly - and two months can, at worst, mean four races - 36 possible points.
The graphics are good, but by no means exceptional. Attention to detail - track dimensions, and so on - were obviously considered more important than artistic graphics.
On the other hand, the instrument panel is small and lacks an accurate rev counter, which is a pity. The animation too, is good. But as the game is written in C rather than assembly language, it is still not as smooth as perhaps it should be.
On the other hand, the sound - both music and effects - is excellent. A natty little tune plays while the game is loading. The sounds during the game are excellent ranging from the roar of a turbo
Ferrari Formula 1 is, when compared to everything else available for the Amiga, an excellent driving simulation. It combines an emotive subject with enough substance to provide many days of satisfaction that shoot-'em-ups or flight simulations could never give.
That is not to say the game is not flawed - it is. The most unfortunate thing about Ferrari Formula 1 is that it could have been THE definitive Amiga game. Unfortunately that accolade will have to go elsewhere.