F1 2009 PSP
Every once in a while a game comes along that you just can’t wait to play. For me that game is F1 2009 for the PSP. It’s the first official Formula one game since 2007 when Studio Liverpool released their interpretation of the sport.
November 19th was the day that I could finally play again with my favorite F1 drivers around some of the best tracks in the world. But was the wait worth it?
The menus are very basic. First you will need to enter your name, country and other relevant information that will represent you in online games and (more importantly) in career mode. The main menu shows a car in the background and the options you have. You can play a quick race, grand prix weekend, world championship, career, ad-hoc or challenges. Once you’ve selected a car in any of the modes, the background car will change to your selected team. This is a nice touch that can go a long way in the overall presentation. Before each race you will see parts of the track, similar to the official TV coverage. The graphics of the game are very decent. The cars look good and the tracks are built in the finest detail. Although I have to admit that some tracks do look a bit flat. The first real problem comes when you start a race. Frames take a considerable hit at the start of races and when a lot of cars are close together. You won’t notice this in practice or qualify – but it will compromise your racing experience. The sound is decent too. I like the engine sounds better than the one in previous PSP F1 titles. But the sound of activating KERS is really fake and annoying. As is the main menu music.
The most important thing in a racing title is that it drives well. F1 2009 fails in this department. All cars over steer like crazy; a small touch of the directional buttons will be enough to take even the slowest corners. This is troublesome because it makes small corrections are really difficult. We also don’t like the inclusion of KERS (boost button for 7 seconds per lap) to all cars in the game. In real life only Ferrari and Mclaren have used it and it’s unrealistic to see it on every F1 2009 contender. After a few hours of driving we got used to the steering which was great. But then came the AI. The computer cars have a tendency of hitting you from behind. They are way too aggressive. But apart from that we’ve little complaints about the computer cars. They can crash in the wall and make mistakes, just like a real person. I was surprised too see a Brawn car behind me crashing out in the first corner of the German GP.
Now I must mention career, as this will be the place you’ll be spending most of your time at. An agent contacts you by email and keeps you informed of events in F1 and tests you have with other teams. In the beginning you can test for BMW and Toro Rosso, failing to obtain a seat will give you a spot in the Force India team. So you will drive the Grand Prix’ no matter what; you can’t be a test driver. We appreciate this as most people only care about the racing but it’s just another layer of depth lost in F1 2009. Two other complaints we have about the career mode is that the emails feel very static. They do try to make it more realistic by saying things like: ‘Ferrari feels there’s no competition for the 2009 championship’, but in general it doesn’t feel human. The other and final issue we have with career is the fact that it lasts for only 3 seasons. When you’re done with career two other exciting modes will await you. First is the challenge mode where you attempt to beat bite-size challenges like overtake Hamilton or overtake as many cars as you can. It works well on a portable system but doesn’t excite an F1 fanatic like me. Ad-hoc does excite me though. You can drive a full season with a friend or anybody around the world. This is great fun but unfortunately I haven’t been able to test this yet.
Compared to the past
It’s hard not to compare this game to the last F1 game on the PSP system, which was F1 06. First the graphics and sounds are slightly better in F1 2009 but that’s hardly called an achievement as the game came out three years later. F1 2009 seems more dynamic when it comes to penalties and AI pace. Causing a collision can get you a drive through or a stop and go. This is really nice and really realistic. Also the AI pace is praiseworthy. We found teams being faster at curtain GP than at others. Ferrari was driving mid-field in China but was very competitive in Monaco. This is something we haven’t seen in an F1 game before – ever! The timing is also improved in this game. Now your lap times will compare to the fastest time just like in real life. In F1 06 the times were compared to your own personal best. F1 2006 has this game beat though when it comes to commentary (F1 2009 doesn’t have it) and the gameplay.
F1 2009 for the PSP has huge potential. We love the small touches like the penalty system and the way the game handles time differences. The graphics are really nice and it’s great to be finally playing with the latest cars and drivers. But serious frame drops temper the game experience, and the handling isn’t even close to what an F1 car should drive like.