BMW Sauber F1 Team Racing 09 in Review – Grade A F1 goodness

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Asphalt 4 woke me up to iPhone gaming as it burst through mental barriers which had held me to an archaic need for buttons. Since then, racing games for the platform have evolved and consequently, my need for buttons has dissolved along with the residual need for something to mash. BMW Sauber F1 Team 2009 is barely a couple of weeks old, but already it is skid-marking the hallowed tarmac of very realistic F1 stages, proving the validity not only of realistic race simulations, but of collaborative works.

Before I get to the meat and potatoes of this game, don’t forget to check out Artificial Life’s BMW Sauber F1 Contest which goes on till 1 November. Prizes are nothing short of amazing: replica Sauber F1 steering wheel, official BMW Sauber team-signed overalls, and original BMW Sauber F1 wet/rain rim!

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As the only realistic F1 simulator at the App Store, BMW Sauber F1 stands alone. But, even when placed against other, more well-established franchises, this 2$ app has a lot going for it. For instant-action fans, there is quick race, and for the more methodical, there is championship, a mode which will drag you through a globetrotting career. Either way you go, you can choose from the highly simulative professional mode, and an instant-on simple mode – both are enjoyable.

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As per usual, championship mode will unlock the game for continued challenges and additional tracks. At the start, there are 4 immediately accessible tracks and 4 which will come as you place well in successive races. What you will have to remember is that your car, the Sauber is the only choice, and that upon boot, you are part of the BMW team. For the fickle, Sauber’s team drivers: Nick Heidfeld, and Robert Kubica, are up for grabs and recommended with tiny CVs.

Since few of us have ever raced an F1, Artificial Life have installed an informative FAQ to explain, for instance: under what conditions option tyres should be slapped on; or why in the rain, the body of the car should be raised by 1,5 cm. The truth is that BMW Sauber F1 can get very realistic, very quickly, and has loads of options. In professional mode, you will have control of the pit team and a host of tweaks which render your car fit or unfit to win a race, and when you get far enough, engineering mode will put you in a make-the-calls position for your racers.

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Beyond that, it is up to your skills behind the wheel to forge a winning path. Fortunately that isn’t impossible as Artificial Life backed their game up by a very simple and intuitive control scheme: tilt to steer, and tap to accelerate/brake. There are no gears to fumble around with, nor excess controls which on the iDevice, would only mangle an otherwise smooth racer. When in the pit, slapping on different tyres, lowering your car, or changing wing angle makes immediate and noticeable difference to racing, but also requires you to make efficient choices.

Speaking of the pit – it is the pits, honestly. Some may really enjoy it, but my behind-the-wheel skills require me to make as little use of the crew as possible. The mini-game style is quite nice, and while it pauses to help you suss out a different build strategy, things can get frantic when trying to change tyres, add fuel, and otherwise alter your car. While the controls are merely tap or hold, there are instances where the game won’t perfectly register a tap, wasting you precious time. Oddly, the same is true for the accelerator button which doesn’t has a very narrow point of engagement.

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No worries though; when it comes to careful braking around corners and speeding down the straights, the game is natural to suss out from cornering to AI. While AI drivers tend to start out in predictable manners, even they seem to have trouble along the way, which helps my fumbled thumb-driving. True F1 fans will probably enjoy the options, and fans of the racing genre, the sense of speed and exciting graphics.

The visual engine is a good mix of reality and fantasy. For the most part, BMW Sauber is stunning, though not ‘omygawd’ jaw dropping. Don’t expect plastic-coated shiny graphics ala Need for Speed Underground, but do expect exciting details such as environmental blur, realistic cockpits, and in overhead mode, your tyres picking up gravel, grass, and other bits of the environment which will squeal with lost traction. Artificial Life also chose a good soundtrack with a handful of catchy songs which span a violent gamut from metal to electronic. What does need work is sound effects. In the intro video, the screams of engines, brakes, and gear clipping border on awesome, but when in the cockpit, sounds are generic. Brakes and engines effects are looped and from time to time, stutter.

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But, there is nothing bad to say about BMW Sauber F1. As a first in the App Store, it rocks, and for the price, is a stunning choice for race fans. Realists may be put off by the lack of damage engines and the funny, anime-esque speed lines which wisk through the air, but for gamers, this title is great. The add on donut-tournament sounds fun, but I have enjoyed my romp with along the 8 tracks well enough to keep my fingers out of my wallet, at least for now. This game is fun, and if Artificial Life would fix up the sound and tweak the response of the pit and the sometimes fickle accelerator, they might have a perfect F1 game on their hands.

All said, this is a hearty GRAB from TouchMyApps.

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App Summary
Title:BMW Sauber F1 Team Racing 09 (v1.01)Developer:Artificial Life
Price:$1.99App Size:47.7 MB
  • Realistic, option-riddled racing
  • Detailed graphics
  • Good control scheme
  • Instant-on action and good strategic career mode
  • Stuttering sound
  • Tap control problems need to be addressed

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