Codemasters, known for breaking gaming ground, have tried something new with F1 Race Stars. Instead of going for their typical formaula of emulating the F1 Grand Prix that’s aired on TV, they’ve gone for the Mario Kart-style arcade racer. Small cars, items and courses. In a rather nice twist, they’ve managed to bring across their official FIA licensing from, so you can expect to race as your favourite drivers and their respective teams.
Being very much a family oriented title, it’s got a simple and easy to use menu system matched with very cartoony visuals. Drivers are represented as bobble-heads so they all look a bit ridiculous, again, seemingly in the spirit of trying to make a fun game that all ages can enjoy. It’s clear that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and so it’s filled with bits of silly little comedy that’ll keep you amused for a minute or so, but can become a bit of a drag after watching the podium presentation dance off for the umpteenth time.
It seems like Codemasters have tried to stray away from creating a Mario Kart clone as much as possible – which is hard to do in such a genre. They’ve gone about this by introducing different items and unique game mechanics to compliment their IP. Unfortunately, these don’t exactly work too well.
For starters, your vehicle can become damaged by items or accidentally hitting bits of the course. There are two levels of damage you can take: the first is quite minor and doesn’t affect your speed too much; the second is rather major and it dramatically affects your speed. You have to drive into Pit Stops to repair the damage, these stops are located around the track for your convenience. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if it were more avoidable – and if it didn’t cost you races so often. However, it isn’t an easily avoided occurrence - and it does often cost you races.
You could be on the final lap, far out ahead of the group, but if you get hit by a homing item, it’ll almost certainly cost you the lead. Then if they catch up to you before you reach a pit stop, you can almost guarantee that you’re going to be hit again – pretty much putting you out of the race. In this respect it’s very much like Mario Kart: if you’re out in front, unless you have an item you can throw behind you, it’s more than likely you’ll be hit by a Red Shell or a rogue Green Shell. Except here it’s a lot more annoying because, unlike Mario Kart where it doesn’t affect your car, this does. You could argue that you should play more tactically and save items, but that can’t always be the case.
Peculiarly F1 Race Stars also lacks the option to skid or drift around corners. I know they’re supposed to be miniature Formula 1 cars that, in real life, don’t drift, but a case for realism can’t really be argued for as it’s clearly not what Codemasters were going for. Not having a skid option makes turning an awkward and clunky chore, especially if you go into the corner too fast as it means you’ve got to press the brake and slow down completely. This brings me to the next problem: to combat the fact that you can’t drift boost in F1 Race Stars, they’ve come up with a concept where you have to let go of the throttle button, then press it again. Doing this three times fills up your boost tank, giving you the full amount of boost, but you can only unleash this on certain boost pads.
The tracks you’ll find to race around are quite basic, but they do suit the game well. The art style that F1 Race Stars has used fit well with the tracks, making them look quite pretty and an enjoyable experience to race on. Each course is set in a country that a real life GP happens, so you’ll be racing on the twisty and tight roads of Monaco and racing in the Abu Dhabi deserts.
There’s also a big range of race modes to choose from, which is nice to see. Ranging from your basic race to a mode where you have to keep yourself fuelled up by driving over power ups. This is a rather interesting mode because you actually go quicker with less fuel, therefore it requires you to think tactically with how much fuel you pick up. It’s a great game mode and a nice change from the bog-standard race. They’ve incorporated the different game modes well into the career mode, meaning that you’ll be racing through different modes in your career, which keeps things interesting.
Online play is a your standard affair: racing on courses online with different people and have different game modes to enjoy. It would have been nice to see some Mini Games put in, but it’s not a game changer as this can easily be enjoyed playing against people in the same room.
F1 Race Stars is a strange game. Codemasters have tried to make it their own, but all the changes they’ve made seem unnecessary. While it was trying to avoid aping Mario Kart too much, it could definitely be improved by taking a few more notes out of Nintendo’s Karting manual. It’s an enjoyable game nonetheless, and one that could prove to be a great way for those of us who don’t own a Nintendo console to experience the joys of a karting game.
Audio/Visual – 4/5: Incredibly pretty art style and the cartoony characters help to make playing the game an enjoyable experience.
Gameplay – 2/5: Let down by a few mechanics that shouldn’t have really been put in, but an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
Innovation – 2/5: Pretty basic, though it is uses the Formula 1 licence well, giving it a nice twist on the Karting genre.
Value – 3/5: For £30 it’s good, and could be a great game for Christmas time with the family.
Final score: 2.5/5