The Average Gamer
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F1 Race Stars Review (Xbox 360)

Codemasters’ latest Formula 1 title is one with a twist. Unfortunately it’s an awkward and much recycled twist: the Mario Kart clone. Many have come and gone, and in some respects, even Mario Kart itself isn’t what it was. But I’ll get to that.

F1 Race Stars recreates the sport’s current favourites as cartoony caricatures of themselves, F1-Race-Starsand places them in miniature F1 cars, in races to the finish. Everyone’s favourite tracks are here, but in name only; Brazil’s course will have you racing through a jungle, and on our very own British Grand Prix, be ready to dodge harrier jet exhaust fumes instead of just handling the usual sweeping corners. Whimsy is the word of the day here, but unlike Mario Kart and its trademark track themes, they just aren’t memorable enough.

The actual driving element of F1 Race Stars is also peculiar. It’s somewhat hard work, with elements of bad and good luck thrown in, which unfortunately quite often measures the amount of success you may/may not have.

Although a karting game, it retains the F1 need to brake on the bends instead of any sort of drift/slide, which makes for some very choppy racing. Imagine the scene; you break perfectly round a tight bend, and then get battered by other drivers and/or a weapon.

As for the weapons themselves; Homing Bubbles, Trap Bubbles (banana skins) and boosts are all in abundance, collected from pods as you go around the tracks. Again it’s familiar territory from other kart outings, but they are no less effective, one of the more positive aspects of F1 Race Stars.

Other positive elements are approximations of the sport itself, starting with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System); when braking and navigating round a corner, a resulting charge is stored in a battery which displays on the rear of the car. As soon as the corner is over, a nice burst of pace follows, depending on the energy saved in the battery. DRS (Drag Reduction System) is available, also known as Starman from Mario Kart, which makes your driver invulnerable for a short time. Considering how aggressive the AI can be, and of course the general mayhem occurring on the track, you will quickly find the need to rely on these weapons and attributes to stand any chance of success.

F1 Stars RaceThere are some positives for F1 Race Stars to go out on, however. In multiplayer, everyone will have a lot more fun than any single player mode, which is a given for most racing games. It is also worth noting that F1 Race Stars is a great idea and twist from the regular serious F1 experience. It looks great, the drivers look like collectible models any F1 fan would love to own.

So there is nothing here that hasn’t gone before, just different characters, names, and a different badge on the front, so to speak. But where Mario Kart will always have its charm, character and grace, F1 Race Stars is Mario Kart with product placement, little character, and only acceptable racing. Even Little Big Planet Karting, although not perfect, holds its own with its editing and creation options, and through that, offers a different alternative altogether. Although Little Big Planet Karting and Mario Kart are only available from Sony and Nintendo respectively, F1 Race Stars still isn’t even the best non-serious racing game on Xbox. Sonic All Stars Racing and its recent sequel Transformed are much better options.

Codemasters just doesn’t quite pull it off. The elements for success are there, but when put together, it’s a bit of a mess, much like the races themselves. Stick with the simulations.

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