F1 Race Stars PS3 Review

Publisher: Codemasters  Developer: Codemasters Birmingham  Genre: Racing  Players: 1-12  

Age Rating: 3+  Other console/handheld formats: Xbox 360

To many, Codemasters has done a wonderful job with their F1 simulators, although such games can be intimidating for certain players. F1 Race Stars is the answer for those who tremble by just the mere sight of seeing an F1 game on the shelf. With its lighthearted feel and approachability, this is one game that isn’t to be taken seriously.

In F1 Race Stars the dull and dreary real world has been replaced by a world bursting with colour, while the tracks are recognisable F1 tracks, but they have had a facelift to be a better fit in this over the top world. Finally, the familiar drivers remain just that; familiar, although they are cartoon and pint sized versions of themselves, which is highly amusing, particularly if you know what these racing personalities look like in reality.

As a game, any seriousness of the F1 simulators should be forgotten about, as F1 Race Stars, with its approachable handling and power-ups, has far more in common with Mario Kart. As I said, the handling is definitely what I would call approachable, although in no way does it deliver the same sense of joy in, say, the same way that a Mario Kart game does. There’s no drifting around corners here, and you do have to slow down as you approach chicanes, so for a kart racer its handling model is a little characterless, it has to be said, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not fun, as fun it is.

There’s certainly a great sensation of speed, and there’s a nice choice of power-ups in the game. There’s one power-up that allows you to slyly cause it to rain, slowing everyone down but yourself, while another calls in the safety car to slow down the pack leader. There are bubbles to trap your opponents in, as well as boost and so on. The power-ups are well balanced, and there’s the potential to counter incoming power-ups with those of your own.

F1 Race Stars has a total of 11 tracks, with further tracks available for purchase and download. For those familiar with the real world tracks, the ones included here will prove to be recognisable in certain sections, but to call them carbon copies would mean that the world of F1 had suddenly become a lot less safety conscious. Indeed, as much as it would add to the excitement of the real life sport, you don’t see F1 cars speeding along the roof of moving trains, avoiding moving tractors, fountains of water, taking into the air from massive ramps, riding the wall of death and so on in the real world. It adds much character to the game, and it would have been far less boring if Codemasters had opted to just include the typical F1 tracks.

Other than the slightly more demanding handling, F1 Race Stars also has a few more things that reminds you that, as exaggerated as it may be, you are still playing an F1 game. It’s possible to incur damage for example, and a quick trip to the pit lane will sort you out, although you won’t have to stop while the pit crew roll out fresh tyres or anything like that; you just speed through and automatically get fixed up. The KERS system is also in place, with it coming into play on certain sections of each track. When driving across KERS pads, you are able to pump the accelerator button of which fills up a metre on the back of the car, giving you a satisfying jolt of speed at the end of the pad.

The AI does spoil things somewhat, as these drivers have a tendency of pushing past you without any evidence of power-ups being used at times. As for racing against them when the power-ups are turned off, well for some reason they seemingly have a major advantage over you. Some of the later races in the career are maddeningly difficult, and this comes as quite a surprise, particularly when you consider that it’s obviously aimed at younger gamers.

In terms of options, F1 Race Stars has a rather meaty career mode, with a total of 30 championships. It has to be said that the 11 tracks do start repeating themselves all too soon, and it feels a bit cheap for Codemasters to have added mirrored versions of the tracks into the mode as opposed to extra circuits.

There’s multiplayer options for up to four players locally and 12 players online. Multiplayer is one of the strongest elements of the game, so it’s a shame that the online servers are a little empty at times, although, however many players are in a race at one time, there’s always 12 on the track, with empty player slots being occupied by AI drivers. If you can gather people together in the same room, then four player split screen is also lots of fun, and is arguably the best way to play the game.

F1 Race Stars certainly has some significant issues, although it’s also an enjoyable kart racing game that does things a little differently from the norm. Damage and repairs, KERS and having to actually brake to get around many of the corners on the colourful and well made tracks makes the game standout somewhat in the genre. With all the latter said, the lack of content and AI that is unfair at times does pull the game away from greatness, but F1 Race Stars is still a fun and playable game.