F1 Race Stars review
Although it’s clearly fun to speed off into the distance as triple world champion Sebastian Vettel, there’s a strange satisfaction to winning championships with the underdogs. I had great joy carving up the track with Charles Pic driving for Marussia, just because I could.
Formula One – love it or hate it you must have heard something about the 2012 season as it was just so damned exciting! The chaotic season brought a lot of fans back to the fold as it was hailed the best season ever, so the timing couldn’t be better for Codemasters’ kart-racing homage to the sport.
Combining the pit stops and driving style of F1 cars with the assorted weaponry and boosts associated with the likes of Mario Kart, you can get into the seat of every official driver and a couple of additional extras. Each team has a special ability according to their driving style, for example a slipstream boost for Red Bull but a backwards homing missile for Ferrari (perfect for those with a more devious driving style).
Eleven out of twenty tracks are represented in the game (leaving room for dlc, Codemasters?) but recognising those famous corners can be challenging once they’ve been given their cartoon make-overs. Log flumes, hairpins in the sky and shortcuts through fields are just a handful of things you can expect to see as you make your way around the world. Taking the key elements of the tracks and turning them into an over the top trip around the country certainly makes this F1 Race Stars feel far more kart-racer than it would have otherwise. However, it still feels like they played it a little bit too safe as it just doesn’t have the sparkle or charm that you would expect. Long dull sections between glimpses of imagination greatly diminish the feel of the levels.
What are my options?
There’s certainly no lack of ways to play as you can play solo or co-op, against each other or in teams, both on- and offline. Time trial mode let’s you go forever as you seek the perfect line to shave a few tenths of seconds off your time, whilst career unlocks new events as you progress. Career starts with straight racing alone but eliminations, refuel events, collectible runs, slaloms, exhibitions, sector snatches and mixed events are soon made available. These events break up the racing nicely and prove to be an essential addition to the game.
With power-ups a plenty (boosts, missiles, rain showers, and safety cars to name a few) and a secret key-requiring route on each track this is far from a straight racing game. For maximum enjoyment quit caring if you win, get a mate and a few beers and enjoy the chaos. After all, that’s how kart-racers were meant to be enjoyed.
F1 Race Stars allows you to pick from three difficulties, one of which is fairly easy (even if you suck at kart-racers, which I do), and two of which make you feel constantly at the mercy of luck rather than your skill. Power-ups come thick and fast, with a hit from any of them holding you up AND rendering your car a broken mess that will crawl till you reach the pits. Of course, as soon as you leave you’ll find yourself damaged again, but now with a long way to go till the next pit opportunity. If you’re looking to not throw your controller through your TV then adjusting the options to no damage is really your only choice. Unfortunately this isn’t available in career.
I’m not entirely sure why Codemasters felt the need to put in two imaginary teams. One is mixed gender, whilst the other is female only. I can see why they thought this might appease non-F1 fans who were playing in pairs, but with the option to swap in your avatar surely this isn’t needed. Instead it takes away from the experience when you continuously see Michael Schumacher beaten by Ruby Power.
A major problem with F1 Race Stars comes in co-op career. In this style of game the fun is always going to be greater with a friend, and whilst this is accommodated to some degree it’s not enough. Playing together should be the standard way to play this game but only Player One gets any achievements or unlocks. It’s just not realistic to expect two people to play through career mode twice and so you quickly end up playing by yourself.
The Bottom Line
F1 Race Stars is a good stab at taking Formula One somewhere more accessible, but a handful of annoyances and lack of charm means it qualifies as purely mid-pack. Not fast-paced enough for a kart-racer and too crazy for F1, the handling of the cars is nicely done but damage and an inability to win on skill alone ruin a game that had so much potential.
Miss; Not having the ability to do a co-op career that counts for both players is a huge mistake that sorely dents this title.
Need; A better balance when it comes to damage. It can be a frustrating mess.