Bring me to the main page   Give me games-related articles

PLAYING FOR REAL

How real can your Amiga get? To see if driving games and flight sims actually put you in the hot seat, James Leach talks to the professionals to discover what they really think of the Amiga world of simulations.

HOW OFTEN DO you race high performance cars? How often do you fly bombing missions or dogfight with enemy fighters at twice the speed of sound? Not often? Then how can you realistically expect to judge the Amiga sims that claim to let you do just that? The truth is you can’t. You can only compare a simulation to what you think the reality is like. If you have watched Top Gun or a Formula One Grand Prix you might have a better idea, and if you are a plane or car buff you might be even better informed. But unless you are an expert, you won’t know how real simulations on the Amiga can be.
Amiga Format can tell you. We took our Amigas to professionals from the Royal Air Force and the motor racing world. We then gave them the best games and let them play and judge for themselves how accurate they thought the sims really were.

Erling Jensen Erlin Jensen
British Rallycross Champion 1985,
RAC Two Wheel Drive Champion 1987 and
Group A racing driver.

Erling played Hard Drivin’ (Domark),
Indianapolis 500 (Electronic Arts) and
Stunt Car Racer (Microstyle).

Sir Michael Armitage Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Armitage
Former Commandant of the Royal College Of Defence Studies.

Sir Michael played F15 Strike Eagle II (Microprose), MiG 29 Fulcrum (Domark), F/A 18 Interceptor (EA), Proflight (HiSoft) and Afterburner (Activision).

Hard Drivin’
Hard drivin' "The car is not easy to drive in this game. The circuits are, erm, interesting, but something I’d ever like to come up against! But one of the first things I noticed was that you could sometimes drive right through a barn-type building just where the speed-track branches from the stunt track. Not very realistic! The other cars do not look to impressive, either, but the speed is exciting, and there is that loop, once I got the speed right, I managed to beat it".
"Using a joystick rather than a wheel also takes some getting used to. You cannot feel the road, of course, like you do when you are driving, and you certainly cannot spin the wheels to opposite lock in sharp corners".

 

F15 Strike Eagle II
F15 Strike Eagle II "The aircraft does not handle well. The joystick is sluggish at first, then flips far too quickly. But the Head Up Display is impressive, however, and it gives many of the functions one would reasonably expect to see".
"The weapons used in the game are well-simulated models of AGM 65 Mavericks, AMRAAMS and AIM 9 Sidewinders, and the geography is also reasonably accurate, with Sude Bay, Tripoli and so on. In the game there is a lot of on-screen data to assimilate, but it is presented clearly".

 

Stunt Car Racer
Stunt car racer "Again, the circuits are not a like real life, thank goodness. This is a powerful car, and must have incredible suspension to take some of these jumps. I spent a lot of time falling off the track here, partly because the cambers (the way the track leans at the corners), which are very important to fast driving, seemed to lean the opposite way, so you’d pushed out to the edges of the corners".
"Racing cars are noisy places, and the engine noise here is very good. The pitch changes as you rev the engine up and everything, so it is pretty accurate on that count. The only thing is I have never seen tracks quite like these so the game is not much like any race I have ever known and it is hard for me to compare it to real life".

 

MiG 29 Fulcrum
MiG 29 Fulcrum "Now this is rather more stimulating then the F15. The aircraft handles better, and the outside displays are more realistic. Being a Russian aircraft, the instruments differ from NATO fighters, and are more in the fashion on needles and gauges, but they are clear once you learn the functions".
"The outside views of the aircraft are also good, and from angles slightly resemble Royal Air-Force recruitment films!".
"Oh, and why, if the runway is aligned North-South, is it clearly marked 29? It is out by over 60 degrees, which could cause an accident or two!".

 

Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500 "This one is definitely my favourite. It is the most like driving in a real race. The feeling of speed is tremendous and as you are belting round, you can see other cars in the mirrors moving up behind you. Whenever this happened, I swerved around to stop them getting past, but they usually swerved the other way and went through. It is very realistic because this is what happens on any racer circuit".
"I like the ability to adjusting the suspension of the car, too. Suspension is incredibly important when you are racing at high speed, because it affects the way the whole car behaves. It causes oversteer, understeer and all sorts of effects".

 

F/A 18 Interceptor
F/A 18 Interceptor "Now this is even better. The control feel is far more consistent, more like that of a real aircraft. It is possible to achieve steady rates of turn and one can easily perform manoeuvres such as the Immelman Turn and the Split S. The instrument panel is interesting, even though it is much simpler than the other games I have just seen. The HUD is good – it is clear, has useful data such as the G-meter as well as the standard height, speed and direction data, and is not clogged with other unnecessary complications. It’s everything a simple HUD should be".
"The game is a lot of fun, with San Francisco below, and the combat is fairly well represented. It is good".

 

AFTERWORD
"They are great fun, these games. They do not feel very accurate as you are driving, though. There is not the noise, vibration and excitement – and of course there is no feedback through the steering wheel – but they have got lots of nice features. My favourite out of all the games is definitely Indianapolis 500. It has got an excellent circuit, it is fast and the ability to overtake lots of other drivers adds a real competitive edge".
"Playing the Indianapolis 500 game could actually teach people something about the way racing cars are set up. Not many people even know what oversteer and understeer are, let alone how they affect the handling of a car".
"My kids enjoyed playing the games too. They have got a Spectrum, but this Amiga is a big different. When they won a round of Stunt Car Racer, they got a picture of a guy with a wreath round his neck, which they immediately identified as me"
"But having the Amiga did cause tears, with the kids wanting to play all the time, so we decided we would not be getting our own!".

 

Proflight
Proflight "There is certainly a large instrument panel here! It is remarkably detailed but strangely, the HUD does not display any figures. This is not like the real Tornado Heady Up Display at all. The Proflight HUD just seems to have moving lines on it, which are not really much use to a pilot in combat, who cannot afford to look away from the outside world to focus on small gauges in front of his knees".
"Otherwise it is a detailed and accurate simulation. It is very enjoyable using the mouse rather than the joystick. It has also got a very helpful manual – one that even goes into the theory of flight. Whoever wrote this knew what he was talking about, and for anyone interested in learning about flying rather than pushing a computer joystick around, this is a really excellent introduction".

 

  Afterburner
Afterburner "Wait a minute! This is an arcade game! It looks like you are meant to be flying the F14 Tomcat, but it is pretty silly. It is nothing like a real aircraft whatsoever. What an oddly unsatisfying game!".

 

  AFTERWORD
"I have not tried a computer joystick before. It is rather difficult to use because it is quite unlike the feel of an aircraft control column. But once you get the hang of it, the things you can achieve with the programs are remarkable. These really are impressive flight simulations. There are a lot of options and a high interest level. The action is condensed into a few minutes, unlike real combat missions, which involve a great deal more uneventful flying".
"None of these can of course give an accurate idea of the environment a combat pilot will find himself in with today’s fast jets. There just is not any feedback on any of the controls. But what is interesting is the level of technical accuracy included with the programs (except Afterburner, or course). There is a lot of data displayed in front of you and the ability to check it whilst concentrating on a dog-fight is very useful indeed".
"When I was teaching people to fly in the Air Force, I came across trainees who would either ignore their vital instruments in order to look out, or would fix on one or more cockpit instruments and ignore the outside world altogether! These programs go some way towards teaching scanning – checking all the instruments in a coherent manner".
"The only problem is that this won’t teach you to keep a good lookout in the sky around you as well; but you can hardly expect that from any but the most advanced Air Combat simulators used by the RAF and costing several million pounds".
"But overall, the standard is impressive. It is amazing what they can do nowadays".

Amiga Format, Issue 28, November 1991, p.p. 121-123