With Codemasters Racing producing some fine games by way of the official F1 franchise, it comes as no surprise that they have decided to branch out and try and sell the charms of Formula 1 to its more casual fans. The resulting title is one that provides the user with an enjoyable experience and also a treat visually.
F1 Race Stars is instantly likeable with its unique art style and popping colours, it will brighten up any F1 fans day. Every car has been remodelled into a smaller, cuter kart version and the same is said for the twenty four official drivers, all of which look both hilarious and also enough like their counterparts for you to instantly recognise who you’re racing against. The silly animation before, during and after the races also adds to this games childish appeal. There’s something rather endearing about watching Michael Schumacher salute Webber and Webber pretending to shoot Alonso with his fingers as the camera pans down the grid. You can also use your own avatar to drive; you can watch on as your own little character starts reeling in his helmet before the lights turn green.
Each of the eleven tracks has also been created with the actual locations in mind, although it is a little disappointing that Codemasters has seen fit to omit nine circuits. Abu Dhabi will have you racing around the roller coaster that parallels the course and Monaco includes the famous casino hairpin. Granted most of the circuits are made of simple corners and national stereotypes such as Wild West Towns with tumbleweed floating by down in Texas and the Red (Grey) Arrows flying over you as you career through hay fields in the UK on every lap, but this bit of joviality only adds to the enjoyment felt by all playing F1 Race Stars.
The game itself feels like most any kart game made before it with the simple exclusion of drifting, which I guess is Codemasters Racing’s attempt at not making the game too unrealistic (although they lost that battle as you went driving through the legs of Truckosaurus). You don’t have to worry about aerodynamics and wheel changes, but the inclusion of pit stops is admirable and actually quite useful. During your travels you will of course be subject to abuse from your fellow competitors; when the smoke plumes start rising from your engine bay you know it’s time for a quick stop. Yes, all you do is drive through the pit-stop and the game plays a generic ratchet sound signifying that your car is being fixed, but again Codemasters seem to have found a nice medium between it being too realistic and too jovial.
Staying true to Formula 1 safety cars, rain and KERs also play parts in your gaming experience. The safety car can be deployed as a weapon to help you catch-up with your competitors, rain is again used to slow down the other racers and KERs has been implemented as a speed boost which can be built up while driving around certain arrowed corners within a circuit. Once again the inclusion is somewhat meritorious, but we could have had a bit more by way of weapons from Codemasters. There is very little that will excite you when using your weapons, you get homing bubbles, non-homing bubbles, backwards facing bubbles and static bubbles … oh, and a line of three bubbles; it’s not exactly thinking outside the box. They have tried to inject a bit of fun with balloons filled with confetti blinding any unsuspecting driver that should drive through one, but even then it barely covers the screen making their use negatable. With so much imagination being used on the tracks, the characters and the cars, it seems that Codemasters ran out when designing your weaponry which in-turn affects what happens on the track.
What I mean is that it is very easy to get away from the ‘pack’ and be uncatchable. The weapons, bar perhaps one or two, can only be used in close combat so if you manage to get far enough away you’re left listening to nothing but the sound of your cartoony engine and the odd bird tweeting as you go on by. The tracks also do little to halt your path with every obstacle giving you enough room to navigate a Challenger tank through. There is also the issue of the four made-up female drivers which comes across as a tad shallow from Codemasters especially considering McLaren has recently signed Susie Wolfe and Marussia snapped up Maria de Villota. Instead you’re left with the cheap Ruby Powers and her crass pink Barbie-mobile.
The game does offer a few different game-modes which will keep you occupied for a short while, such as slalom where you get points for passing through coloured squares, elimination which is pretty self-explanatory, pole position where you get points for leading and not so much about where you finish on the final lap. Pit-Stop race is a firm favourite which again has a hint of realism to it as you watch your petrol gauge get closer and closer to zero, but at the same time topping up means slowing down your car, decisions.
Online it is a little quiet and with no online leaderboards or ranking system it can feel a little pointless. Lag is also prevalent with you going from 1st to 5th as four vehicles jolt on by. Despite this, racing against your mates is very effervescent and with Christmas just around the corner you are more than likely to pick this over F1 2012.
F1 Race Stars is a great little game, perfect for those F1 fans who don’t want the seriousness of Codemasters Racing’s top dog F1 2012. It’s the perfect time for the game with the vivaciousness of Christmas just around the corner and everyone wanting to have a bit of a laugh during the festive period. Visually it does look stunning and the true to life 1:25 (at a guess) scale cars with their bobble-headed drivers making it all the more enjoyable.
Yes it can be easy to breakaway, the weaponry is somewhat lacklustre and they’ve been rather shallow with their female drivers, but looking past that I think Codemasters Racing can be happy with their little creation and it’s a good start for what could become a new gaming franchise. Although F1 Race Stars will have tough opposition by way of Sonic and Little Big Planet Karting and as ever Mario Kart is always floating about.