Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

F1 2009 – iPod Touch / iPhone review - The Codemasters racing game arrives on mobile devices

Published by Lukeh

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This year we have indeed seen the return of F1 to videogames and it was a great return as I so much explained in my previous Wii review. It came just as much as a surprise to myself as it was to many others that an announcement last week confirmed that Formula 1 was indeed coming to iPods worldwide this week. The game weighs in at £3.99 / $6.99 so it’s got a bit of price on it for an iPod app, but is it worth it?

What must be remembered is this is an iPod, not a Playstation Portable or a Nintendo DS or any fully fledged gaming handheld. Whilst the iPod is more than capable of holding its weight with it’s gaming capabilities, it’s never going to include games as detailed as the aforementioned rivals. Nevertheless, I feel that the F1 2009 game for the iPod touch / iPhone is a nifty addition to the series that Codemasters seem willing to build.

First off, the graphics genuinely opened my eyes in surprise. For something so delicate, it really shows off the possibilities of gaming for this format. From the few tracks I’ve played since purchasing the game earlier this evening, everything noticeable from real life tracks is there – the urban classic streets of Monaco, the giant overhead stand of China, the overseeing forests of Spa. It is a visual delight and a true tribute to the power of the iPod/iPhone. When you’re flying down at 200mph it runs smoothly and nothing seems to be out of place, so needless to say this aspect of the app impressed me immensely.

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The controls though are where things start to get dodgy. As with most iPod racing races, you use the system’s accelerometer to steer the car with various buttons on screen to accelerate, brake, change camera and use KERS. The initial impressions of the controls came to me with must frustration – the default steering sensitivity is, for lack of a better term, wild. You know how when Formula 1 cars warm up tyres they swing from left to right? That’ll be you initially upon first play. From my own point of view, I would suggest jumping into the options and turning the setting down a little, as it makes the driving a whole lot more tolerable. Furthermore, the default control system both acceleration and brake pedals on the right of the screen, and KERS button on the left. (Obviously it can be adjusted for left hand players.) Whilst others may find this alright, it felt very clumsy to me going to accelerate but finding myself braking instead – luckily an alternative setup of acceleration on the right and brakes on the left can be found in the options, an option I found immediately handier to use. Again, it’s just a personal thing so it may be different for you. In general though, it handles as you’d expect albeit it completely insanely at times, but it’s nothing deal breaking. Just very, very tough.

With 17 tracks and 20 cars you’re not exactly lacking variety

So what will you be getting in terms of content for your £4 or $7? Well I’d better give you a warning now – there is no racing as in 20 cars on a grid racing. The two game modes include Time Trials and Endurance, both seeing you racing in any car of your choice on any track of your choice. Time Trials does what it says on the tin, with your goal simply to set times and see which is fastest. Endurance sees you going out for laps and continually trying to beat them with consistency being the name of the game rather than the more general time trial mode. To be fair, with 17 tracks and 20 cars you’re not exactly lacking variety so there are no complaints there but I’m sure many will have wanted racing. It’s perfectly understandable though why it’s not there though. Your times can also be uploaded to Agon Online, a built in system that uploads your best times and shares them with the world as well as allowing you to browse yourself and view friends’ times.

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So, should you buy it? Of course that is not my decision for me to make for you but in my advice I would only buy it if you really want an F1 game on your iPod / iPhone. Visually it is incredible, rivalling what we see on the Wii version of F1 2009 but it is very, very tough with the oversensitive handling and quite unique way of handling the game. Again, it’s what’s to be expected of the iPod and it is impressive considering what small weight the system has but, at £4 / $7, it’s probably recommended for the more advanced players of the system. It’s definitely a promising start though for future installments, just don't expect an easy ride with this app!

The game is available to download now from the App Store.

All content in the series F1 on the iPhone