I still remember one of my best Christmas presents of recent years… a chance to drive a single-seater race car round Knockhill circuit in Scotland [photo]. I love Go-Karting, and watching races almost as much as driving. Often when I watch the Formula 1 Grands Prix I think how great it would be to have a go in an F1 car.
Well, I’m not quite there, and playing Formula 1:2009 on the Nintendo Wii is probably about as close as I’m going to get. Don’t take that as a complaint, though, because F1:2009 is a great game!
There’s something about driving around the circuits I’ve seen on the TV so many times that’s just amazing, seeing the same views as you would from the camera pod, finally understanding how the circuit fits together, and racing alongside all the cars I recognise from this season.
There are several options for going racing: a quick start will let you jump in a car on any track and choose to take the place of one of the current F1 drivers, giving you the chance to drive your favourite team’s car straight away. You can opt to play a full race weekend, from practice through to the race itself. Or you can try to aim for the championship over one season or three… building up your reputation and skill as you go. The options are many – plenty to keep F1 fans busy! I certainly understand a little of how drivers must feel during qualifying now, wondering whether that lap you put in will be enough to get you through to the next session or if someone’s about to come and knock you off your spot.
There are a few oddities to be noted, though. Firstly, all cars have KERS. Secondly there’s little indication of the dominance of the Brawns or the terrible start of the McLarens, all the cars seem to be around equally competitive.
I think this highlights a problem with this sort of game: we all know how the 2009 season went. Brawn started well but tailed off (although they had enough of a headstart to win overall). McLaren started poorly but got better. Massa was knocked out (literally) part way through the season, and not every team opted to use KERS even though they were allowed to. Codemasters, of course, couldn’t know all of that when they published the game… even if they had restricted who was on KERS the teams kept changing their minds! And could you remove a character from a game halfway through because of real-world injury, or would that just be insensitive?
None of that is a serious concern, though, because it’s all about the skill of the player and the enjoyment of taking part in your favourite sport, even if only digitally.
One thing I struggle with, and I’m not sure if it’s because the Wii controller isn’t attached to a steering column, is that I find it quite hard to steer! I’ve found the same thing with driving games on the iPhone too. I often over-correct at corners, although I’m getting better with practice. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one having difficulties though – Chris Garrett mentioned on Twitter that “the tracks and cars make you feel like you are there even if crashing a lot doesn’t ;)”
That pretty much sums up my experience of the game. It does a great job of capturing the feel of F1… the races, the tension of qualifying, and being able to drive around the tracks I’ve watched others navigate so often are all fantastic! But, my goodness, I spend a lot of time in the barriers. Better get some practice in then.
Have you played F1:2009? What did you think about it? Share any tips or even just tell us your favourite track in the comments.