Jenson Button or Lewis Hamilton, how can I choose?
Codemasters have probably paid a big chunk of loose change to acquire the official Formula 1 licence and they have given the job af making this licence work to the impeccably qualified Sumo Digital, developers of Sega Rally. Sadly, this year will only see the Wii and PSP being gifted with a Formula 1 game, but that will have to do until the big boys arrive next year. So, helmet in hand, lets see what the Wii offering is like.
Formula 1 2009 offers players a selection of different modes from the main menu. Whilst the choice is plentiful, the menu itself is somewhat lacking in any form of friendliness. It is both ugly and confusing all in one package. Upon first starting the game up, players will find themselves perhaps a bit disappointed. Keep looking though, and behind this ugly interface you will find a reasonably good racing experience.
Being an officially licensed product, players should know what to expect from this title. All of the cars, drivers, tracks and teams are present and accounted for, from the 2009 Formula 1 season. Fans of F1 will certainly feel at home here, being able to take their favorite driver out onto their favorite track. This has always been one of the big pulls for the official games, the ability to play out a season and change history, sort of.
The vehicle handling within the game is pretty good. As with all Formula 1 games, this incarnation is not forgiving, although there are plenty of assists that can be turned on to make the experience more arcadey. In fact, given the history of racing games on the Wii, it could be said that this game is possibly the best Wii racer available. It provides a near realistic simulation experience for the fans of such, whilst also providing the kart racing enthusiasts with a reasonable arcade experience. There is a trade off evident though, jack of all trades, master of none. A special mention should be given to the players chosen method of control. Whilst the game can be played using most controller configurations, they do not all play the same. Maybe its just me, but I found the steering wheel to be far to difficult to enjoy. The player will find themselves sliding all over the place, which is something that does not fit within a Formula 1 game.
The game offers a split screen two player mode, which is nice and leans more towards the arcade feeling. Playing through a full season, however, should be attempted only by those from the simulation camp, as a full season will require a huge amount of time and patience. The lack of online mode is a real shame, but given the limitations of the Wii, it is not surprising. Should you choose a quick race or go for the full season, the game is pretty straight forward. With the assists turned on, the player will be whipping around the track with a surprising sense of speed. Turn off the assists and you will be playing far more carefully, although the experience is more satisfying. Without the help, the game provides many moments of simple risk taking, such as hitting a corner faster than you know is sensible, but these moments, when they pay off, will provide a warm feeling of accomplishment.
Again, I am going to complain about the limitations of the Wii. This time its the graphics. The game just doesn’t look that good. The visuals are grainy and dull. I realise that Formula 1 is not the most colourful sport in the world, but even the backdrops seem dull and unimpressive. To be honest, as soon as I put the game in, I felt like I was being transported back to the early days of the PS2. But this is not the fault of the developers and, given the choice between making the game gritty and realistic or bright and cartoony, I think they took the right route for the game.
Formula 1 2009 on the Wii may not be great to look at, but beyond the graphics and presentation is a game that can be enjoyed by a wide audience of arcade racing fans and F1 simulation lovers, thanks to some great game modes and a decent driving experience.