F1 Race Stars – Review
Follow Genre: Racing
Developer: Codemasters Birmingham
Publisher: Codemasters
Platform: PC, 360, PS3

F1 Race Stars – Review

Site Score
6.5
Good: Great party game, Formula 1 license
Bad: No drifting, single player lacks depth
User Score
6.8
(4 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.8/10 (4 votes cast)

Codemasters’ F1 Race Stars has left the garage, but travelling in its slipstream we find LittleBigPlanet Karting and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Will the colorful caricatures of the real F1 teams cross the finish line first, or will they be lapped by Sonic or the Sackboys?

F1 Race Stars Logo

Story
F1 Race Stars is meant to be a fun racing game in the style of Mario Kart, but instead of racing against evil anthropomorphic turtles, we now get to compete with real F1 teams and drivers, albeit in an exaggerated cartoon style. The game is built around an F1 season, which takes place in 11 different courses around the world.

F1 Race Stars Selection

Graphics
The game wants to look colorful, charming and cute and does a good job at it. The drivers are easy to recognize and all feature a big cartoonish head. The circuits are loosely based on real tracks but are mostly unrecognizable when compared to their real world counterparts. Most tracks, with a few exceptions like Monaco and Abu Dhabi, are mostly made up and just focus on letting you drive through a bunch of clichés based on the country the track is hosted in. For example, in Belgium you drive through a beer brewery and the finish line is always flooded with water, while Japan has big statues shaped like Sumo wrestlers that get in your way. On the other hand, some circuits try to resemble their real life counterparts too much and we only sporadically see high jumps, half loops or shortcuts. This makes them look a bit bland and seem like a testament to Codemasters having trouble finding a middle ground between simulating real tracks and giving free rein to the imagination.

Sound
Like the graphics, the sound effects are cute and cartoonish. Every power up has its own unique sound which makes it easy to hear what projectile the driver behind you has launched at you. This can help you decide on what evasive maneuver to take next. The engine sounds are spot on and remind you that you are still in a Formula 1 car. Unfortunately, the music is repetitive and can become a little annoying, especially on the menus. During the race, this is less of an issue, because the music fits the theme of the track. So put on your Lederhosen and get ready for some epic “Tiroler Musik” when racing in Germany.

F1 Race Stars Graphics 1

Gameplay
The single player mode consists of several championships, often with a particular theme (such as continents or race modes) in which the races are grouped. These 29 championships vary in difficulty, number of tracks and race modes: the most basic mode is just trying to cross the finish line first, but in the Slalom Story mode you accumulate points for driving through goals and the first to reach a certain number of points is the winner, in Refuel Racket you need to collect fuel to keep on driving, but keep in mind that your car will run a lot slower with a full tank, in Elimination, the driver in last place is eliminated at the end of a countdown. The other game modes include Trophy Chase, Pole Position Pageant, Endurance and Eagle Eye. These modes are just small gameplay variants that don’t hold your attention for long and in combination with the fact that there are only 11 tracks available, or 12 if you count the DLC, the game can get boring quickly.

What makes F1 Race Stars different from other karting games is that they’ve tried to stay close to the essence of F1 and still capture the typical arcade gameplay we are used to from other games in the genre. A good example of this is the KERS system, in real life F1 this gives the driver a boost in horsepower for about 7 seconds per lap and is recharged by storing the energy released during braking. In the game this is translated by allowing you to charge KERS in certain marked corners. You do this by pumping the accelerator, up to a maximum of three times. When your KERS battery is full and you get to the exit of a corner, you get a short boost. This is the replacement for the drifting seen in almost every other karting game.

F1 Race Stars Safety Car

To keep the game close to F1, the driving controls have been made more difficult than what we are used to. It’s not like F1 Race Stars plays as a realistic racing simulator, but the way the car behaves doesn’t make it feel like a simple arcade racer. Going off the tracks and colliding is, just like in real life, punished mercilessly. The lack of a drift mechanism forces you to brake in order to correctly negotiate corners, especially in the fastest 3000 CC class. An approach that feels strange, because why simulate the behavior F1 cars have, if the game include power ups like heat seeking missiles ?

Talking about power ups, it should be noted that the game features some pretty unique attacks. For instance, you can unleash a safety car that will limit the top speed of the front runners allowing everybody to catch up. On our play through, we noted a good mix between typical arcade style attacks, like several types of missiles or traps that capture karts that drive in it and power ups inspired by Formula 1, like a rain cloud that makes the karts lose grip and of course the safety car. When a kart gets hit by an attack, it takes damage and will lose speed. In order to recover from this and gain full speed again, you need to make pit-stop. Unlike real life pit-stops, that require the car to be in the pit lane for about 30 seconds, the cars are fixed instantly when driving through the pits. The pits are simply small deviations from the track, indicated with a wrench, in various locations on the track. Some time is lost because we left the ideal route, but it is usually worth it in the long run.

As an added feature, the game also boasts a split-screen mode for up to four players, something which has become somewhat rare in recent times. These four players can also enter the same race on Xbox Live, so your buddies in the room can battle with your buddies on the net.

F1 Race Stars Graphics Split Screen

Conclusion
F1 Race Stars is trying to be Mario Kart with a twist, and offers mostly similar gameplay. The combination of realistic elements and the arcade style power ups make the game feel a bit weird at time. Nevertheless, the fun factor is still there, especially when playing against human opponents. The 11 tracks are not enough to keep your attention very long and the game is best played in short bursts. If you’re looking for a party game you only intend to play with friend this isn’t much of an issue, but don’t expect a deep single player experience.
In the end, F1 Race Stars doesn’t do enough to be on par with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, but it fares well against LittleBigPlanet Karting.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.8/10 (4 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
F1 Race Stars - Review, 6.8 out of 10 based on 4 ratings

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