The Average Gamer

F1 Race Stars Preview

F1 Race Stars - DriversF1 Race Stars is the second Formula 1 game from Codemasters Studios this year. Unlike the ultra-realism of F1 2012, F1 Race Stars is more of a family arcade racer; like a high octane version of Mario Kart.

This is a Formula 1 game with cartoon recreations of real-life F1 drivers competing against each other in chunkier, toy-like F1 cars. Given how stringently Formula 1 Management (FOM) police their intellectual property, it’s a hugely impressive feat by Codemasters Studios to get every driver in the 2012 F1 championship to sign off a cartoon version of themselves and to substantially change (i.e. spice up) the racing tracks.

If you watch Formula 1 on TV you’ll instantly recognise the drivers from their caricatures. Mark Webber has a grizzled, stubbly, solid jaw. Nico Rosberg looks resplendent in his golden locks which gave rise to his pit crew nickname of “Britney” and Lewis Hamilton is complete with his perfectly manicured pencil-thin beard and hair.

The racing itself is all very Mario Kart which involve three lap races to see who’s the fastest. The karts, sorry F1 cars, are all really easy to drive. It took me about 10 seconds to get used to the controls before I was weaving all over the track chasing powerups and looking for short-cuts.

Rows of power-ups are littered at set points throughout each of the tracks. They’re of the drive through to collect variety and they range from fizzing bottle rockets, yellow ricochet bubbles to teleports and a safety car. The last two power-ups are more likely to be given to the people lagging at the back to keep the racing nice and close. I found it difficult to build a substantial lead whenever I was leading a race as they would keep warping right behind me or limit my speed behind the slow-moving safety car.

You can damage your F1 car if you take too much grief from weapons like bottle rockets. It’s quite funny to watch bits and pieces will falling off your car and smoke pumping out all sorts of orifices. Fortunately, a trip down one of the two pit lanes per track fixes your car completely but will cost you time and more importantly track position.

The current F1 driver toys – KERS and DRS – make an appearance too. Just life in real-life, you have a limited amount of KERS (aka turbo-boost) to use anywhere on the lap before being refilled every time you cross the start/finish line. The Drag Reduction System (DRS) which temporarily increases your top speed is a little tricker to use. To activate it you have to pump the right trigger three times while driving through one of the blue DRS activation zones. Only then can you use it at will around the track. One a few occasions I was so busy trying to get the DRS activated I forgot to steer around the corner and ended up off the track.
F1 Race Stars - Castle
The circuits themselves are a technicolour mixture of fantasy and reality. The Hockenheim circuit for instance, starts off in similar fashion to the actual race course in Germany before snaking through the Black Forest, Bavarian Castle and a stretch of autobahn before reaching the finish in a stadium section. The Abu Dhabi circuit even features a huge rollercoaster section complete with the corkscrew loops taken from the Ferrari World theme park which is next to the track.

If you want to race against other people you can have up to 4-player split screen on a single TV or a full grid of 12-players via the online multiplayer. Tthe AI will take control of any empty racing cars so you’ll always have a full grid to race against.

F1 Race Stars is a game that you can pick up and play straight away. It’s fun, colourful and fast. If you find that Formula 1 games take themselves far too seriously then check out F1 Race Stars for a bit of racing Mario Kart style.

F1 Race Stars will be released for PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360 and PC in Nov 2012.