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Gaming Review

'F1 Race Stars' review (PS3): Lacking courses, but full of charm

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Released on Tuesday, Nov 13 2012

'F1 Race Stars' screenshot

© Codemasters


Release Date: November 13 (North America), November 16 (Europe)
Platforms available on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Genre: Racing

To call F1 Race Stars a departure from the usual Formula One fodder would be an understatement. Sharing more in common with the likes of Mario Kart and the recently released LittleBigPlanet Karting, F1 Race Stars favours power-ups and arcade action over racing lines and realism. Despite some issues, F1 Race Stars succeeds where others have failed, replicating Mario Kart's winning formula.

F1 Race Stars features all of the teams and drivers of the current F1 season, as well as 11 courses, very loosely based on their real-life counterparts. Instead of ultra realistic graphics, authentic race conditions and handling, however, the game opts for a cartoonish look and over-the-top racing action, including a stream of power-ups, all of which are designed to slow opponents down and speed drivers up.

'F1 Race Stars' screenshot

© Codemasters

While there's nothing particularly innovative about the special items and abilities, and some feel a little out of place (such as the bubbles), there are some clever F1-themed power-ups, such as wet weather, which swaps your tyres while unleashing the heavens, and DRS, which adds a speed boost and invulnerability.

Much like Mario Kart there are a few balancing issues, but the inclusion of items generally ensures that everybody has a chance of winning, regardless of position.

The graphics - if you'll excuse the pun - are cute as a button, utilising big heads, bright colours and plenty of environmental detail. Perhaps our only gripe is that characters lose a little personality underneath those helmets.

Courses, meanwhile, are packed with cultural references and landmarks, such as traditional British telephone boxes, huge Bavarian castles and Brazilian street carnivals. One of our biggest gripes is that we'd liked to have seen more tracks - why not the full F1 quota? - but each is diverse enough and full of shortcuts to keep things interesting.

In another nod to Nintendo's mascot racer, the single-player mode is made up of a number of Grand Prix championships, each of which can be played against varying levels of opposition. Championships consist of a handful of races and introduce numerous different rules, but lack the same level of excitement and unpredictability as playing with friends.

In addition to standard races where the aim is to score points by finishing on the podium, players can also expect to participate in Elimination events, as well as Pole Position races, where the aim is to reach a points goal by staying near the front of the pack.

Slalom, meanwhile, sees players score points by passing through tight turns, earning combos for driving the most difficult routes. The constant rule changes and flipping of the courses adds diversity to what is otherwise a fairly standard single-player campaign.


Our favourite race mode, however, is Refuel. In Refuel, players must keep one eye on their diminishing fuel tanks to avoid crashing out. Fuel can be refilled by picking up tanks, but the more fuel you hold, the slower your car - much like the real thing. It's an innovative game mode, and one that promotes risk-taking.

The risk versus reward element also comes into play with pit stops, which crop up a few times within each course. Feeling the brunt of a seeker bubble, or spinning off the track, damages cars, which ultimately slows drivers down.

Pit stops fix these issues and restores speed, but at the expense of a short detour. While it might have been nice to introduce a pit stop mini-game perhaps, their inclusion is another example of the developers making smart use of the license.

'F1 Race Stars' screenshot

© Codemasters

Surprisingly, however, the handling is not quite as outrageous as its arcade counterparts. Players must learn to use their brakes, take advantage of slipstreaming and occasionally think about racing lines - particularly against more challenging opponents - but needn't worry too much about getting it wrong, as the game is fairly forgiving. We're not completely sold on the omission of over-the-top drifting mechanics, and it means that the driving isn't quite as much fun as it is in similar releases.

The real fun is to be had in multiplayer, which is where F1 Race Stars really shines. Unlike many of today's releases, the development team has added split/screen multiplayer in addition to online, something which really benefits an arcade racer such as this, giving F1 Race Stars added party appeal. Up to four players can participate in events, while the inclusion of team play adds a surprising co-operative twist to traditional racing.

The inclusion of playlists, meanwhile, which mixes up the rules and creates a sense of unpredictability, further increases F1 Race Stars' multiplayer enjoyment, although a battle mode would have been welcome, especially considering the wide variety of power-ups available.

While the game does feature an option to create banners with a slogan, there is a surprising lack of customisation, something which diminishes the game's lasting appeal.

F1 Race Stars is hindered by a lack of courses, while the omission of drifting and lack of customisation ensures that it doesn't have the same longevity and levels of excitement as the likes of its contemporaries.

It is, however, a tight racing game that's packed with charm, makes smart use of the license and features some addictive multiplayer. F1 Race Stars doesn't quite dethrone Mario Kart, but it's certainly a great game for families and younger Formula One fans.

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