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F1 Race Stars 360 Review - -
F1 Race Stars
Reviewed by
Sean Warhurst
F1 Race Stars 360 Review. F1 Race Stars was a bit of a gamble for Codemasters and although they may not have completely pulled it off, itís an admirable attempt that should be appreciated for what it is Ė A much less serious excursion for the F1 license and a much needed injection of fun into a notoriously po-faced series.

Gameplay 7.0
Graphics 6.5
Sound 6.0
Value 6.5
Developer: Codemasters
Rating: G
Review Date: Dec 2012
Sean Warhurst


F1 Race STars

The usually austere F1 license and the wackiness synonymous with kart racing are disparate genres that, just like that Emo chick at school who hooked up with that sports-mad bogan, you never expected to get married together. Does the world of Formula 1 racing games, primarily focused on authentic simulations, make for a good partner or is an acrimonious divorce on the cards?

If youíre going to go head to head with a genre dominated by Mario, you better bring your A-Game. For nearly two decades now Mario Kart has been the unequivocal King of kart racing, with all other contenders to the throne dismissed as pale imitations of the real thing.

Rather than rehashing a tired template with a Formula 1 skin, Codemasters have tweaked the genre ever so slightly to add some new elements more in keeping with the games older brother, the acclaimed F1 series. The very first thing youíll notice about F1 Race Stars is that thereís no drifting. Yep, you read that right Ė No drifting whatsoever. In keeping with the sport, races focus more on hitting the apex of a corner and then accelerating suddenly rather than power-sliding all over the place. Although this would appear to be a small change, it has a major effect on how you play as precious seconds can be lost by hitting a corner too hard and overshooting the turn, smashing your grinning caricature headlong into a wall.

The game features some of the most pronounced understeer youíll encounter in a game of this sort and places driving skill first and foremost, rather similar to the recent F1 2012. This change takes a little bit to get used to, but after a few races you become comfortable with the handling and will be able to hold your own with the best of them. Boosts are abundant in the game, with red lines automatically accelerating you and blue ones requiring you to press the right trigger from one to three times, with the intensity of the boost raised incrementally with each successive press. In lieu of drifting, you have the KERS boost system at your disposal.

This sounds easy, but more than once I found myself sliding off the track during a tight corner and resetting my boost level; it takes some skill to maintain your speed. It is surprising that a game thatís aimed at kids and the party gaming demographic would insist that you drive at a skill level usually reserved for more serious fare but itís not detrimental to the game in the long run.

The tracks are all based on famous Formula 1 mainstays but with a cartoonish twist; Abu Dhabi takes place on a rollercoaster, for example, and youíll find yourself struggling to maintain control whilst being besieged by giant Sumo Wrestlers, jettisoning your car off of ramps into the night sky and riding on top of moving trains. The tracks are incredibly fun and inspired and itís fun to see them re-imagined in such an overstated manner. One complaint is that there are only 11 representations of the 20 official tracks, eventually making the career mode an exercise in repetition.

As expected for an official game, F1 Race Stars is well licensed and features a cadre of big names such as Mark Webber (Complete with a ropey ocker accent), Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Rendered as goofy caricatures with oversized heads and childish idiosyncrasies, initially the characters come off as endearing but after awhile the exaggerated accents start to grate a bit. You can always turn the voices off in the menu if they get on your nerves too much though.

Despite the boosts and KERS, the game sometimes feels like its on-the-rails, in that you can complete some of the easier tracks by holding down the right trigger and ignoring the brakes altogether. Following the familiar karting formula you run over a myriad of power-ups and use them to decimate your competition. These include coloured bubbles, similar to the turtle shells in Mario Kart, and some ingenious variations of Formula 1 specific power-ups such as a safety car that slows the opposition down, allowing you to streak past them and into the lead.

Weather conditions can change throughout the races Ė A power-up can also affect this Ė But for the most part there is no discernable effect on handling, which is a bit of a shame. The game also features a dynamic damage system and optional pit stops at certain points of the track; these add a strategic element to the game, ensuring that maintaining the condition of your vehicle is paramount if you plan on holding on to that elusive first place. This is a welcome addition to the genre as your tactical advantage can hinge on whether or not youíre willing to lose a few seconds in order to re-enter the race with a refurbished vehicle.

Although the single player career mode can feel a bit hollow, multiplayer is where F1 Race Stars starts to shine. The AI, while decent enough, canít hold a candle to the antics youíll encounter either online or in split screen multiplayer. In fact, on occasion the AI can be downright malicious; more than once Iíve been on the home stretch with a healthy lead only to be hit by a homing bubble and left to dangle statically metres from the finish line whilst my opponents zip past me, leading to a multitude of expletives being spat angrily at my television.

As fun as multiplayer is though, youíll be hard pressed to find many games at this early stage. After waiting for what felt like an eternity, I found another player to race against, but the second time I attempted to play online I was unable to find a single game to jump into. The following day I managed to find one with three other opponents but the sporadic nature of the server connection and countless minutes spent simply waiting was enough to deter me from delving to deeply into this side of things. Itís a shame, really, as when I found a game it was an exhilarating experience stopping a foul mouthed cockney in their tracks as I sped into the lead. Thankfully, if you have some likeminded friends, split screen multiplayer is as fun as ever and doesnít suffer from these issues.


The graphics are clean and free of jagged edges and F1 Race Stars takes visual cues from the its contemporaries, replicating the flamboyant colours, cel shading and cartoonish visuals associated with the genre. Although the visuals are effective in making you feel like you are playing a cartoon, compared with other games on the system theyíre rather simplistic and donít really tax the 360ís processor. That being said, for games such as this the visuals come second to the experience and they serve their purpose in this respect. There are no visible drops in the framerate, even when engaged in online multiplayer.

Audio is unremarkable, again a case of being merely serviceable. The cars sound nice and sound effects are conveyed adequately, but poor voice acting drags the game down in this respect. The music is as annoyingly kitschy as expected but youíll find yourself humming along to the boppy tunes on your second playthrough of each track and the soundtrack suits the tracks theyíre assigned to rather well.

Final Level

F1 Race Stars is a game that struggles to find its identity. Too esoteric for many karting fans, itís too simplistic and cutesy for hardline Formula 1 fans. This internal conflict works against the appeal of the game and it suffers as a result. Codemasters have done a decent job with the game but itís too unsure of which demographic itís aiming for, attempting to placate both sides and inadvertently leaving both underwhelmed.

It doesnít bring all that much thatís new to the table, and what changes they have made may turn some potential fans off, especially the lack of drifting. With all that said, however, the game is a fun little distraction that youíll happily invest a few hours a week into if you can get past its minor flaws. Multiplayer is really where the game stands out and, assuming you can actually find a game, youíll have just as much fun with F1 Race Stars as you would with most other games of its ilk.

F1 Race Stars was a bit of a gamble for Codemasters and although they may not have completely pulled it off, itís an admirable attempt that should be appreciated for what it is Ė A much less serious excursion for the F1 license and a much needed injection of fun into a notoriously po-faced series.


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