Codemasters and F1 racing go together like Charles Leclerc and Ferrari - it just feels right.
For nearly 12 years, Coddies have been releasing F1 games and generally their releases have been getting better and better, with anticipation for this summer’s F1 2021 very high.
But what can you remember about the very beginning of this special relationship, and the release of F1 2009 on the Wii and PSP?
Coddie’s F1 debut is now looked back on as a bit of an oddity; a product of its time and a prologue to the company’s undeniable success on consoles (that weren’t the Wii). But was it any good?
Why the Wii?
At the time, Nintendo’s Wii had outsold both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, with the unique motion-sensitive controller being the console’s selling point. Commercially, F1's place on the Wii made sense.
But it was a hard sell to F1 fans, who'd been waiting for three years for an officially licensed F1 title. Ultimately, they were left slightly disappointed.
With its focus on arcade-style gameplay instead of a deeper simulation of the sport, it’s clear that F1 2009 was made to be accessible to casual gamers - and was less geared towards the hardcore fans.
Simply put, this is more Mario Kart than Assetto Corsa. Not that that's a bad thing.
Graphically, things could've been better. Frame-rates would drop when there were too many cars on the screen, particularly around corners, and everything looked just a little too boxy. The tracks, cars and backgrounds were pretty light on detail, too.
But the feeling of speed was captured brilliantly - especially compared to the dull, lifelessness of the Sony F1 games previously, and that was really a sign of things to come from Codemasters future in F1.
So, how exactly did F1 work on the Wii?
There was a simple solution; F1 2009 came boxed with a special adaptor which allowed the player to hold the controller like a steering wheel. It was comfortable enough to drive with, although it was nothing like a more traditional steering wheel setup gamers were used to on other consoles.
Strangely enough, controlling the car in the game felt fairly natural. The steering mechanics were race-car sensitive, which usually meant the first 10 minutes of driving was spent skidding off the track - but it was all pretty satisfying when you eventually got to grips with it.
Frustrating? Maybe at times, but it could also be tons of fun!
Perhaps the biggest issue here for F1 gamers was with the AI opponents.
In general, the on-track opponents were all quite predictable. They followed the racing line and would fail to react intelligently to the player’s overtaking maneuvers. There was simply no personality here, and that lost much of the game’s feeling of immersion.
Wheel-to-wheel battles would have to wait.
A place in history
Jenson Button fans will certainly look at this game fondly. Being a fully licenced F1 title, everything from the 2009 season was here. All the drivers and teams had the right names, liveries and logos, and that includes the Brawn GP team.
That’s right, this is the only officially licensed F1 title to feature Brawn as a current team. Really, it doesn't get more special than that, does it?
In retrospect, F1 2009 was a good start to the series. Sure, cynics will tell you that it was an over-ambitious beta test for F1 2010 - and perhaps they're right. But it certainly deserves its place in F1 gaming history.
F1 2021 release date
The release date of F1 2021 has yet to be confirmed, although we expect to see it around late June/early July.
This is the window Codemasters has been using for the last few years, and bar any unexpected delays this should be when we get the new game.
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