Codemasters give the iPhone and iPod Touch owners the sights and sounds of the exciting 2009 Formula One season. But is it life in the fast lane or a trip to the pits?…
Until now, Formula One games have been a little thin on the ground on the AppStore. There have been offerings from both Brawn GP and BMW Sauber teams, but these have been little more than promotional games. Codemasters offering however is fully endorsed by the FIA giving you fully licensed teams, drivers and tracks of the 2009 season.
There are 18 tracks in total, including: Singapore (night circuit), Monaco, Silverstone, Monza, Nurburgring, and the latest Abu Dhabi. All 20 drivers are there too, across the 10 teams, including current world champion Jenson Button from Britain; his Brawn GP team mate Rubens Barrichello of Brazil; for Ferrari there’s Felippe Massa also from Brazil; ex-world champion Kimi Raikkonen from Finland; and last year’s world champion Lewis Hamilton from Britain in the McLaren Mercedes.
In a move that will likely annoy some F1 gaming fans, you cannot participate in a full or partial championship. Instead the game plays as an online time trial/qualifier, with you taking on each track on your own-some through either time trails of 2, 3, 4 and 5 laps or Endurance trials of 6, 9 and 12 laps. On completion of the first lap, a ghost of that lap will appear on the track, allowing you to in a sense race yourself. The race officials are strict, so if you over shoot a corner you may be disqualified from that lap should it be deemed as an unfair advantage. After completion, your stats are uploaded to your online profile, powered by the AGON social networking (supporting both twitter and facebook syncing). Here you can do the usual comparisons of your times with the world regions and friends.
If you are not a fan of accelerometer controls then I’m afraid you are out of luck. All three control options are tilt based, with the only difference being the placement of the touch screen buttons. Gear selection is automatic, allowing you to concentrate on acceleration, braking and the newly added K.E.R.S system (like a turbo boost), this only lasts a limited time, and just like in the race, is replenished each lap. While in the real championship this year only a selection of cars where fitted with K.E.R.S, in this game they all are, just to make it fair. If you are a frequent visitor of this site and of my reviews in particular, then you will no doubt know that I always prefer tilt controls over buttons for vehicle control in racing games. Just as F1 2009 uses the Wii-Motes accelerometer int he Wii version, so should the iPhone and iPod Touch versions. It’s the only way to experience the realism of the sport. It’s just a shame you can’t buy a clip on F1-wheel, like the Wii edition.
Anyone expecting an easy arcade experience may find F1 2009 a bit of a challenge. F1 Cars in real life are incredibly fast and manoeuvrable, and the racing models in the game are no different. Even with the Real Racing style brake assist and the racing line highlighted on the track, beginners will spend many of their first attempts behind the wheel either in the tyres or spinning out in the sand traps It’s very sensitive, but that is all part of the challenge and is all the more satisfying when you complete a perfect flying lap.
Why Codemasters could not include the full feature list of the PSP and Wii iterations is anyones guess, but it possible that they didn’t feel happy offering a full console experience at the low price that the people expect on the AppStore when the console editions are around the $30-$50 mark. Still, same kind of head-to-head or full race mode would have been a nice addition, even if it was limited to a few laps. Another option would be to offer the full championship mode through a premium in game purchase. Allowing those who are hardcore racing fans to get their F1 kicks. However, as of writing this review Codemasters have stated that there are no plans to include a full championship mode.
Having said all that, F1 2009 is still one of the best racers on the AppStore. The realism of the car handling, full roster of teams, cars, drivers and tracks, all modelled accurately and rendered at a smooth framerate, offers F1 fans an unmissable experience in a portable package for a fraction of the console price.
F1 2009 is out now for $6.99