Ferrari Formula One logo

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-controlled cars - those of Mansell, Piquet, Senna, Prost, Berger and Alboreto.

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-boost set at its lowest, the car still goes into corners far too fast, and unless you have been methodic enough to learn the track, excursions into the undergrowth are all too frequent.

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 turbocharged Ferrari engine to the whirr of an air-powered spanner.

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.

Ferrari Formula One logo

Electronic Arts
Price: £24.95

No name is more famous in the world of classic sports cars than Ferrari. The Italian constructors have produced a line of cars unparalleled in speed, design and handling and nowhere is this better exemplified than in the frontline of motor racing: Formula 1. This simulation gives you the opportunity to test, adapt, drive and compete for the laurels of the formula 1 Championship in the car that has won more Grand Prix than that of any other constructor.

That sounds like a helluva lot to squeeze into a game but in true EA style they have succeeded to a great extent. FF1 allows you to do all the things described above and more, like adapt the car in a wind tunnel, test the engine under laboratory conditions, work on it in the pits and in the garage at the test track in Fiorano, practice, qualify, warm up and race. What is best about it though, is that it allows you to get as involved as much or as little as you want. You do not have to spend hours working your way through a season painfully qualifying, practising and resetting the car's specifications if you do not want to. You can, as I found myself doing eventually, just compete in the various grand prix.

The game comes with a typically huge and detailed guidebook to playing the game and this tells you all you need to know. It even tells you how to get at the wheel of your car. What it does not tell you as clearly is how to go straight into a race that, let us face it, everyone's going to want to do. Follow the Murray Pattenden way and you will be on the starting grid in no time.

Firstly stop laughing at the pathetic title screen music - it is not indicative of the quality of the rest of the game. Let the game run through to the Fiorano test track and elect to race by going to the race control tower. This takes you back to the loading screen but also puts up a panel with a pointer. Move the pointer to Practice and click it on the plus sign through to Race. It is also worth adjusting the distance. It is normally set on 18 kilometres, which is a mere three or four laps of most circuits. There again most grand prix races are closer to 300 kilometres. If you went through it doing every stage as you should by my reckoning it would take a day to complete one race.

What is it like to race? Well once you are in the driver 's seat, it is not bad at all. The view you get is accurately of the driver's own with the steering wheel and cockpit before you. If anything, it is a bit high. The cockpit itself is full of the usual instruments but they are difficult to read and most are only of use at more advanced levels where you have to do the gear changes for yourself. Everything else is controlled via the mouse, including steering, breaking and accelerating. And once you are moving round the track it feels pretty good.

Graphically, FF1 is inconsistent. The still screens of detailed areas like the pits and the garage are excellent; whilst the more distant ones of the paddock and the test track are merely average. Out on the track the courses are varied and surprisingly detailed. Monaco for example is clearly on the coast, even if it does not have that 'street' feel to it. All tracks are painstakingly accurate. Imola, for example, has the acute Tosa bend where Nelson Piquet spun off last year at two hundred miles an hour.

The car and those of your opponents leave a little more to be desired however. Whilst the rear view through your mirrors is effective the other cars lack detail and suffer from the trap most racing games fall into - perspective. From a short distance away they look absolutely huge. Also, the results of a crash, like Test Drive, are disappointing - no balls of flame plumes of smoke. Don't programmers realise we are all a bit sick? Sound is perhaps the game's biggest disappointment. There are a few good effects like the whiz of the pneumatic spanners but had EA gone and sampled some engine noises it would really have given the game an authentic feel.

Nevertheless FF1 has more than any other racing game. The only thing that comes close is Revs, and this is a lot more fun and a lot less hassle to play. With the Brazilian grand prix already over, I reckon all you boy and girl racers are going to get into it in a big way.

Turbopower turned down so that turbo cars and normally aspirated ones stand a chance of being closer.
Riccardo Patrese second driver at Williams.
Williams cars no longer powered by Honda Engines.
Nelson Piquet now driving for Camel Lotus.
Ferrari likely to continue their revival.
Boutsen and Fabi to challenge strongly in Benetton-Ford.