There’s no denying that Codemasters is full of love for Formula One. Buying the F1 licence, rebuilding the franchise into a real winner on this generation’s consoles and transforming a somewhat sterile proposal in terms of gameplay to something that can cater for all comers put the F1 franchise on the top of the podium.
So, it initially came as a shock when the now renamed Codemasters Racing announced a karting game in the form of F1 Race Stars. Playing on the conventions that made Mario Kart, as well as a host of other karting games, so successful and adding F1 branding to the mix F1 Race Stars looks to add more fun and humour to what could be called a purist form of motorsport but does it have what it takes to take pole position or does F1 Race Stars spin off at the first corner?
F1 Race Stars definitely adds some colour and comedy to the game mimicking the real world race stars with bobble head versions of themselves, whilst you speed around tracks that have been based very loosely on their real world counterparts. The joy of Eau Rouge from the Spa Francorchamps track in Belgium, for example, is instantly recognisable in the Beligium track but then peels off into a series of short cuts, crazy corners and insane loops that make karting games stand out from other racers. The inclusion of 11 of the tracks may seem a little small for a big box title but when you race around each track, hitting the various KERS boxes for power boosts as well as collecting power up weaponry from boxes that appear around the track and you have a completely different proposal and one which ticks all the right boxes when it comes to a karting game.
If you strip away all the bows and whistles F1 Race Stars performs admirably at its base level, providing a pure and uncomplicated racing spectacle that is hard to put down. F1 Race Stars becomes a no holds barred battle to the finish against opponents that are instantly recognisable to the drivers that fire themselves around the real live circuits. In single player mode, 30 different championships are available, offering a mix of different tracks in each championship with a choice of racing in 3 different classes. Unfortunately, the lack of tracks here does start to bore you a little but there is enough character in them to give you ample playtime.
Where the game does come alive though is in its multiplayer with a suite of customisable racing options as well as the traditional race modes. Team play modes also make a nice addition to the online portion of the game and adds a little more depth and as well as being fantastic playing with friends online, Codemasters Racing in their infinite wisdom have added …. wait for it …. 4 player split screen! Yup, the old school flavour of these kinds of games, where 4 blokes sit in a room with a crate of beer and race the arse off of each other whilst healthy banter and a little and pushing and shoving, is back and back with a bang. The ability to be able to recreate these memories again in a game that caters perfectly for the post pub raceathon that used to be a feature of gaming 15 years ago is a real breath and I hope that gamers see the beauty in actually be able to do this sort of competition in real life rather than just over the interwebz.
So, F1 Race Stars performs admirably in every way so far but what makes it different from any other karting game that’s been out there apart from the beautifully donned F1 branding? Well, although the fundamentals in gameplay are very similar and copy and already successful formula there are a few additions that make this title stand out. For starters there is no drifting in F1 Race Stars and there is a reason for that. F1 cars don’t drift, plain and simple, and keeping to the credentials of the F1 feel, players are asked to clip every apex and kind of learn the corners whilst all the while trying to dodge a variety of traps, firepower etc from your opponents.
Getting too damaged slows you down but the ability to pit a couple of times around the track allow you to get back to full throttle quickly and becomes a very tactical in how you adjust to your race. Weather dynamics are also present and a downpour will produce large puddles of race which again slow you down if you hit them.
Power ups follow in familiar footsteps with other racers with the inclusion of balloons that slow opponents down, missiles that will damage other racers as well as speed boosts and sticking to the faithfulness of the sport a safety car that can be deployed to slow up the front runners.
Overall, F1 Race Stars performs admirably for another karting game and although doesn’t do much that is new has a tonne of personality that will charm the pants off of the most hardened racer. Although the single player may leave you a little flat after a while the multiplayer more than makes up for any deficiencies that appear. After all, who wouldn’t want the gameplay quality of Mario Kart with the ability of being able to play as a bobblehead Jenson Button and knock ten barrels of hell out of a cartoon Ferrari that is driven by a bobblehead Fernando Alonso?
Offering up trophy and achievement support, playing on the conventions of every successful kart racing game whilst putting its own stamp on the genre with a variety of modifications and the full on backing and branding of the F1 juggernaut makes F1 Race Stars a serious consideration for anyone looking for a fun racing title. Add to that the ability to get drunk with your mates and go crazy in 4 player split screen and you have a sure fire winner that can stand on the podium waving cheerily to the crowd of serious games below available this Christmas below it.
F1 Race Stars can be purchased from our retail partner, That Game Shop.