F1 Race Stars Review
Codemasters has a pedigree of making some outstanding racing games. From DiRT to GRID, they know what to do when it comes to developing them. But what about kart racers? Can Codemasters succeed in that specific genre of racing?
Featuring real-life drivers on overly exaggerated courses and crazy power ups, Codemasters sure hopes so with F1 Race Stars.
Kart racers have been around for decades now with (not surprisingly) Mario Kart at the top of the mountain when it comes to great kart racers over the years. F1 Race Stars has some similarities while trying something completely different with Codemasters' use of the F1 license. Codemasters somewhat achieves their unique approach with their crazy, over the top course designs. From insane jumps to riding down an actual river, the developers know exactly who their target audience is and leave the grounded racing action at the door.
Outside of the intended target audience (children), for everyone else wanting to try out F1 Race Stars, it's extremely frustrating to play. The courses look great, however, it's almost impossible to control your car when going around corners. When playing an arcade racing game, you want to do not want to hit the brake often. In F1 Race Stars you pretty much have to at least hold it down for a second in almost every corner on every track.
Pitting will repair your car and is necessary for the 3,000cc events due to the influx of power ups headed your way. Speaking of the 3,000cc events, they are definitely the highest difficulty in the game. When racing during those power ups, the other drivers do all they can to hit you for the entire length of the race. There are also KERS zones are on each track, that once you are in, essentially fill up a nitrous meter. It's a nice use of KERS, something that most F1 fans know about and will appreciate.
It's a real shame the gameplay is simply not fun to play. There are bright spots in some areas (certain power ups and tracks), but it never felt like it was something I had to keep playing. The overbearing A.I. are a nuisance and something that makes you want to turn the game off after only a few races. When comparing this game to another newly released kart racer, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, it's not even a contest as to which game has the best all-around gameplay.
Career mode is at the core of the single player experience. There are 30 championships in total with each having two or three races in them. Each championship can be competed at 1,000CC, 2,000CC, or 3,000CC. Those are the difficulty levels with 3,000CC being almost impossible to win in the later events. Each championship contains two-to-four events, with the winner being whoever has the most points after all events are completed. The way progression is handled is something that will be familiar to fans of racing games and it will be easy to figure out for newcomers to the genre.
Monaco, Brazil, United States, Belgium, and other locations are where you will be driving throughout the game. Some of the tracks resemble some real life courses, with some loops similar to those Hot Wheels tracks most of us grew up with. Actual F1 drivers are also featured in the game; Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo, Bruno Senna, Mark Webber, and others lend their likenesses to the game.
There are other events if pure racing is not for you. Classic time trials are here if you're into beating your friends best time. Elimination, slalom, sector snatch, refuel, trophy chase, and pole position are the other race modes you can participate in. The majority of these are variations on time trial, elimination, and capture the flag game modes. Some variety in event types is definitely here, it's just a shame that it's wrapped around the monotonous gameplay.
Before delving into what online multiplayer has and doesn't have, F1 Race Stars does feature local co-op in every single mode, including the main career. That makes sense with how the game is presented, as well as the crowd Codemasters is going after.
Online play consists of single races and team races, but good luck trying to find a lobby full of players. Even at a budget price, the multiplayer is almost completely empty. We are at the point in this generation where not every game needs competitive online play, especially in games that are destined to have no online community.
Once you get into an online event, it's a smooth experience as far as connections go. The game is a just a tad more fun when playing against human players because the rubberbanding, annoying A.I. is of course not present. Still, none of the power ups stand out, even online. They are all something we have seen in past kart racers. The upside is that all of the race modes mentioned previously are available online, meaning you have a little more variety when compared to other racers in this genre. So a 1UP to F1 Race Stars on that front. If you can find a lobby in F1 Race Stars, that's where you will get the most enjoyment out of the game.
But seriously, good luck finding a lobby with other players in it.
F1 Race Stars is simply a below average kart racer. It does some unique things with some of the courses while having some frustrating gameplay trying to tie the whole package together. The rubberbanding A.I. -- and the fact that there is a power up (pace car) to deliberately slow you down to allow the A.I. to catch up -- is, to put it bluntly, ridiculous.
F1 Race Stars is meant for the younger, more casual audience; if purchasing this title for a child, it's perfect for them. The A.I. won't really bother them as much as it will the older crowd. It was hard to score a game like this when I am obviously not the person Codemasters is going for with this release. Still, a score must be handed out based on my experience with the game. There are plenty of kart racers that appeal to me and people in my age range that also appeal to the younger crowd -- F1 Race Stars does not fall into that category. Codemasters didn't necessarily revolutionize kart racers, but they made one that will appeal to kids, while still having a little bit -- and I mean a little (mainly certain courses) -- for everyone else.
Visuals: Definitely a unique visual style. The character models resemble their real-life counterparts, but also look similar to bobbleheads. When compared to most kart racers, F1 Race Stars definitely wins the cuteness award. The graphics and backgrounds are sharp and vibrant.
Audio: The sounds are really quiet in the game. Since it's a kart racer don't expect an announcer or your crew chief to be in here. The weird, annoying sounds the drivers make can get on your nerves, not to mention you can barely hear the power up noises.
Value: For a budget title, you get a lot with F1 Race Stars. Several different modes and a pretty lengthy career mode. The downside is that you might get a lot, but nothing about it is compelling enough to keep playing. For the target audience of children, this game will be enough to keep them occupied and entertained. But for everyone else, try out Codemaster's other F1 game, F1 2012.
Score: 4.5 (Below Average)