F1 Race Stars Review
Written : Friday, November 16, 2012
By: Richard Walker
Formula One is a pretty serious sport, so the cartoon stylings of F1 Race Stars is something that's surprisingly out of the ordinary. And although the kart racing sub genre has taken a variety of shapes from the grandaddy of them all, Super Mario Kart and the excellent Crash Team Racing, to a whole host of other half-arsed shovelware with 'kart' slapped on the end of the title, F1 Race Stars is a slightly different prospect since it's based on real-life racing personalities with real-world licenses.
That's where the similarities to actual F1 begin and end though, because first and foremost, F1 Race Stars is a bright and breezy karting game that plays fast and loose with the rules and regulations of real Formula One. With the requisite power-ups and insane tracks, F1 Race Stars ticks all of the right boxes as a kart racer, and it's all injected with a hefty dose of personality that the real sport of Formula One doesn't otherwise possess.
Race Stars is almost never this sedate or sportsmanlike.
As racing games go, F1 Race Stars is every bit as packed with modes, race-types and options as any racing game, and it's even got a rather sizeable Career Mode to speed through. Consisting of numerous racing events, the Career Mode is a fairly no-frills affair in which you win races to earn trophies that in turn unlock more events. Winning all 93 trophies across all 30 career championships will take a while, but there's not really a whole lot to it beyond performing in the races and bagging trophies. That said, you'll probably be glued to it for a good few hours.
Featuring standard races, Elimination races, Refuel, Trophy Chase, Pole Position, Slalom, Exhibition and Sector Snatch races, there's certainly no shortage of variety in F1 Race Stars. Factor in a range of modifiers like monsoon weather, no HUD, mirrored tracks, infinite boost and so forth, with three able to be activated at any one time for custom races, and F1 Race Stars has the potential to keep you experimenting and playing for quite some time. Time Trial rounds out the proceedings, making F1 Race Stars a generous chunk of karting fun.
On the track, like any kart racer worth its salt, races can often be unpredictable with power-ups flying left, right and centre, while the circuits themselves are filled with insane deviations through castles in Germany, across the roof of a speeding bullet train in Japan and between the legs of a huge Truckosaurus on the USA track. There's plenty of imagination at work in each of the eleven tracks then, and with keys to grab to unlock shortcuts, there's loads to discover and explore too.
You'll find three skill levels to choose from, embracing a broad audience of racing fans, from the super-casual or the young racing game player with the comparatively easy-going 1000cc class, to the normal skill level of 2000cc and the slightly more demanding 3000cc level. Rest assured, that in 2000cc and 3000cc races, you'll need to use the brake on corners and pump the KERS boost on each circuit's blue arrows to stay among the pack. Expect a lot of jostling and battling for first place, because F1 Race Stars won't hand you victory on a plate.
At times, F1 Race Stars can seem pretty tough going, but overall Codies' has managed to get the balance just about right, providing the casual player with relatively easy wins at 1000cc level, while presenting a challenge for more seasoned racers with the 3000cc class. Whichever class you opt for, Race Stars is consistently good fun and proves to be the perfect arcade racer to bust out for some 4-player split-screen. As a slice of multiplayer entertainment, F1 Race Stars is pure gold, providing a level playing field for all-comers, and loads to do with its array of aforementioned modes and multipliers.
Modes like Exhibition Mode that stink when played solo, come into their own in multiplayer too, while the handling rewards skilful players and punishes anyone with a lead foot. Using the brake is important, and like an F1 car, there's loads of grip and very little scope for powersliding. This might not sound like much fun, but when you combine Race Stars' power-ups and characterful tracks packed with activity, colour and exuberance into the equation, it's something that becomes hard to resist.
You've gotta love a bit of 4-player split-screen.
Offline multiplayer is oodles of fun as you'd expect from an arcadey kart racer, and online multiplayer is another solid effort from Codemasters, with multiple playlists to choose from covering all of the game's various race types for up to 12 players. You can play solo online, or as a team of up to six players, while the Pot Luck playlist presents you with a range of random modes to compete in online. For many however, split-screen will be where it's at in F1 Race Stars, and as well as supporting up to 4-players racing competitively, you can also form a team to tackle the Career championships. There's plenty to keep you well occupied in F1 Race Stars then, and there are even a few unlockables to unearth including accessory packs and whatnot.
There's a single multiplayer trophy to unlock too, by winning a single online event, which shouldn't prove too difficult assuming the world can tear itself away from Black Ops II for five minutes. The rest of the trophies centre around the offline game, so completing all of the Career championships, winning on every track at 3000cc level and engaging in each mode, completing a set objective will keep you playing for ages. It's not a particularly taxing trophy list by any means, but it'll encourage you to fully explore everything that's on offer. Be warned though: the Time Trial lap times are tight, and you'll need to rope in friends to complete some of the team-based trophies.
Another string to Codemasters Racing's bow, F1 Race Stars is a neat kart racing game that appeals to kids and big kids alike. The difficulty levels can sometimes feel uneven, but races never feel completely unfair, although the bitter taste of disappointing defeat when you're hit by a power-up near the finish line still stings like it always has in other kart games. Colourful, bold and packed with fun, knockabout action, F1 Race Stars is the kind of kart game that'll keep both kids and adults hooked.
Jaunty little ditties and daft, national stereotyped voices are enjoyable and that, but it's nothing particularly remarkable. It does the job just fine and fits the bill nicely.
F1 Race Stars never fails to raise a smile, with chunky, beautifully rendered cars and diverse circuits filled with random activities. The drivers look cool too, although they have far more personality than their real-life counterparts.
Get three mates round, and you have all the makings of a great night in of raucous racing fun. Race Stars is an entertaining and hugely enjoyable kart racer that's surprisingly challenging.
Filled with enjoyable modes and race types, F1 Race Stars is every bit the fully-fledged racing game. With 11 tracks, a decent-sized (if somewhat no-frills) Career Mode and a meaty multiplayer component, Codies' hasn't skimped on the content.
A solid enough trophy list that'll entice you into playing each of the modes and race types on offer. There's enough short-term and long-term gratification attached to the trophies to keep you coming back for more. A nice selection.
There's not exactly a slew of karting games on consoles these days, so F1 Race Stars is a welcome addition to the genre and a wonderfully crafted little racing game in its own right. As a 4-player party game, F1 Race Stars is pretty much indispensable. And it's the perfect Holiday gift for little Billy too.