F1 2009 Review

By Bryan Stratton - Posted Nov 17, 2009

F1 2009 delivers an authentic, unforgiving F1 racing experience. Endless customization options and a detailed sim experience will satisfy the pickiest gearhead. But despite attempts to give newbies a rolling start, most gamers will be left in the dust.

The Pros
  • Detailed and realistic sim experience
  • Plenty of race types and play modes
  • Variety of beautifully modeled courses
The Cons
  • Extremely bland presentation
  • Not as newbie-friendly as advertised
  • Chuggy framerate

F1 2009 delivers an authentic, unforgiving F1 racing experience. Endless customization options and a detailed sim experience will satisfy the pickiest gearhead. But despite attempts to give newbies a rolling start, most gamers will be left in the dust.

F1 2009 Review

Get Lost Under the Hood

F1 2009 for the Nintendo Wii is Codemasters' first Formula One racing game for the console. Developed by fellow Brits Sumo Digital, it's a bold bid to re-establish Formula One racing as the viable racing genre that it was in the first half of the decade. Since 2005, only two Sony-published F1 titles made it to retail, and the franchise has been in a pit stop since 2007.

There's no doubt that Sumo and Codemasters have made every attempt to deliver the absolute most realistic F1 experience possible, and they have succeeded. The game features 17 real-world tracks and 20 licensed drivers, and the sheer number of options that you can fiddle with makes car customization almost a game unto itself.

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Do you want to adjust the degree of body roll for your vehicle? There's a slider for that. Does the thought of having to manage your fuel stops excite you? Turn on that option, then. Want to increase the already sadistic level of difficulty by racing through a rainstorm? It's your funeral, pal.

There's no skimping on the game modes either. Although you can simply jump into the driver's seat for a Quick Race, you can also race against the clock in a Time Trial, recreate an entire Grand Prix Weekend, compete in the full world Championships or strap yourself in for three full seasons of F1 racing. Additionally, there are 170 different Challenges to complete, as well as a bevy of multiplayer modes.

F-What?

Formula One racing is one of the most popular auto sports in the world, provided that the world in question excludes the United States. None of the drivers—in the game or in Formula One racing itself—are American. It's a Euro-centric sport, and although it has broadened its appeal east of Europe, its status hasn't carried it across the pond in any meaningful way.

So, not only is it extremely unlikely that the North American audience will be excited at the prospect of playing as the Timo Glock, F1 2009's racing style is going to be a huge adjustment for those whose interest in motorsports begins and ends with watching cars turn left for 500 laps. Considering the American market's lack of exposure to Formula One, F1 2009 would have benefited from a tutorial, or at least some sense of context.

Instead, it provides over a dozen game options that can be toggled on or off, in an attempt to make life easier for F1 virgins. The most helpful of these is the racing line, which illustrates the optimal path through each hairpin turn. But here's the Catch-22: if you turn all of these options on, your car practically drives itself. If you turn off the predictive braking and steering assist options, you're going to have to invest some serious time and effort into learning how to keep the car on the damn track.

And for those four hardcore North American Formula One gamers who snickered at that last paragraph…congratulations, race nerds! You have way more time to waste than the rest of us. 

F1 2009 Review
 
Hope You Like Engine Noise!

Not only will F1 2009's unfamiliar and unforgiving style of racing turn off the majority of U.S. gamers, its bland presentation does absolutely nothing to pull them in. The courses are faithful recreations of their real-world counterparts, but they're presented in vintage PS2 fidelity. And while the game does nail the sense of velocity and rush of speed, it also hits areas of choppiness on every course, even on clear days when there are no other cars on the track.

There is no in-game commentary except the occasional, unhelpful mutterings of your pit crew, who don't do much more than tell you who you're coming up on and how fast your lap time was compared to other laps. There's also no soundtrack, which means that all you hear is the high-pitched whine of your car's engine, and that gets old quick.

F1 2009 is the absolute definition of a niche product. It appeals to a very specific audience, and its attempts to broaden its appeal fall short. If you're already an F1 fan, or if you crave a precise and uncompromising racing experience, you'll find something to like here. If you don't, you won't.