• Game review: F1 Race Stars

F1's gaming makeover

Chris Medland December 19, 2012
F1 Race Stars is available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC © Codemasters

Following the release of F1 2012 - the latest offering in the continuing success of the official Formula One game - Codemasters used its licence to bring out F1 Race Stars, and it's an altogether different proposition.

Firstly, if it wasn't clear enough from the cover, this is no racing simulator. One of the main criticisms levelled at the F1 series from Codemasters is that it's too technical and complicated for all but the most die-hard Formula One fans, to such an extent that F1 2012 no longer features a full race weekend. F1 Race Stars, however, appeals to the other end of the spectrum.

It's impossible to avoid likening it to Nintendo's MarioKart. The game is easy to pick up and play, with simple menus and controls to enable you to jump immediately in to racing. You can choose a driver from any one of the 12 official teams, while there's also two fictitious teams including three female characters. Some of the caricatured drivers have a clear resemblance of their actual face, and some less so, but that's not really important as soon as they put their official helmets on at the start of the race.

Racers can select from 1000cc, 2000cc or 3000cc cars, and would be well advised to start at 1000cc. In one sense it's the equivalent of easy, medium or hard difficulty, as the 1000cc cars are easiest to handle and require very little braking. As soon as you move up to 2000cc you find that avoiding obstacles and sating on-track requires more driving technique, with the off-track areas designed to slow the car to a crawl. Finishing 10th in Monaco on 3000cc felt like a real triumph, so it's far from simple.

The countries featured are Belgium, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Abu Dhabi, Monaco, Singapore, Australia, USA, Great Britain, and Japan, and the tracks themselves actually start and finish on resemblances of the official circuits. From that point on, however, almost anything goes with holes, shortcuts, sludge, sand and moving objects galore. It's also possible to download extra circuits if you get bored of the eleven tracks initially on offer.

The game features official drivers and team liveries © Codemasters

Races are either two or three laps long, so in multiplayer mode the championships featuring multiple races are the best way to go and follow the same scoring system as the world championship. There's also a career mode which gives you 30 off these championships to participate in, but only three are unlocked. The randomness of the races means it will take longer than you think to complete…

While still fun on your own, it's very much a game geared towards the multiplayer facility. The online function works really well in this regard because, unlike F1 2012 when you are frequently angered by rogue players taking you out at turn one, that's half the aim of Race Stars. Contact can be repaired by a trip through the pits, which is just a normal part of the race.

For the individual though, the time trial facility is surprisingly addictive. By logging in to the game's network you can pitch your time against other players, but as one lap ends the next one automatically begins with a ghost car and you're left always trying to better yourself - which can take a while when the tracks feature different shortcuts and routes.

There are few negatives, but one which crops up early on is that the pre-race sequence gets very repetitive very quickly. It also appears nigh-on impossible to powerslide the car or shake off a red bubble fired at you when you're leading, but that may just be down to a lack of skill on this gamer's part…

All in all, F1 Race Stars is only a Formula One game in terms of licensing for the drivers, team liveries and parts of the tracks, but in a sport which can take itself too seriously at times it's a refreshing change. The game may lack the ability to give you any real sense of achievement or deliver many F1-specific aspects of racing but as a kart-style racer, it does what it does well.

Title: F1 Race Stars
Published by: Codemasters
Price: £34.99 (PS3, Xbox 360) £29.99 (PC)
Available: Now
Formats: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC